This page discusses California’s swimming pool liability laws. The point of this page is to help people who are not familiar with the law make the best decision for themselves after a swimming pool accident. Even after reading this page it is highly recommended that you consult with a swimming pool accident attorney as the law is more complicated than what is contained here. We provide hope for seriously injured people.
This page covers:
- Unintentional drowning statistics
- Common causes of swimming pool accidents
- Whose fault is it when a swimming pool accident occurs?
- Comparative Fault
- Types of injuries
- What should you do if you or a loved one suffer from a swimming pool accident?
- How long how do I have to file my lawsuit?
- Consulting a swimming pool accident attorney
Unintentional Drowning Statistics
In 2010, the Center for Disease Control reported that 726 children from the ages of 0 to 14 years old died from unintentional drownings. Unintentional drownings are within the top ten leading causes of injury death for everyone under the age of 55. Not surprisingly, swimming pool accidents peak from June to August. According to the CDC:
More than 50% of drowning victims treated in emergency departments (EDs) require hospitalization or transfer for further care (compared with a hospitalization rate of about 6% for all unintentional injuries). These nonfatal drowning injuries can cause severe brain damage that may result in long-term disabilities such as memory problems, learning disabilities, and permanent loss of basic functioning (e.g., permanent vegetative state).
Common Causes of Swimming Pool Accidents and Prevention
The CDC also listed the following five items as common causes for swimming pool injuries:
- Inability to swim. Taking formal lessons can reduce this risk of drowning, particularly in children ages 1 to 4.
- Lack of barriers. Proper fencing around your pool can greatly reduce the risk of children drowning.
- Lack of supervision. Drownings happen quickly even under the watchful eye of parents or lifeguards.
- Alcohol Use. Alcohol leads to poor judgment and decreased coordination in motor skills.
- Seizure Disorders. Even people who know they are prone to seizures and take medication for it need to make sure someone else is present.
Who is Responsible for Swimming Pool Accidents in California?
If you have been involved in a swimming pool accident on another’s property, it may be caused by a violation of law. Liability in swimming pool accidents does not necessarily depend on what caused the injury so much as if the owner knew of that danger and failed to take reasonable measure to prevent the injury from happening.
This duty to prevent injury is considered to be even greater due to children’s inability to appreciate risks and dangerous situations.
This kind of law is generally referred to as “premises liability” and refers to the duty of property owners to others that are on their property. In CA, premises liability follows the rules of negligence, and thus your lawyer will have to prove that:
- A condition on the property created an unreasonable risk of harm;
- The defendant knew of, or should have known about it; and
- The defendant failed to repair the condition, prevent harm from the condition, or give adequate warning of the condition.
Defective Products in Pool Accidents
Though it is rarer in swimming pool accidents, it is also possible that the manufacturer of the pool either installed it incorrectly or had defective products. In such a case, the manufacturer may also be liable. This is called “products liability.” Products liability can consist of a design defect, a manufacturing defect, or a warning defect.
Simply put, a design defect occurs if the manufacturer could have used a reasonable alternative design that would have made the product safer, but did not. An example of this could be various grate designs for the water pumps in the bottom of the pool.
A manufacturing defect would be if that grate design was safe, and is safe in almost every other pool, but yours came off the line differently making it a hazard.
Finally, a warning defect is when an adequate warning for a product is missing (i.e. a no diving sign for a shallow above-ground pool). Since products liability can be an even more complicated machine than premises liability, you should contact a swimming pool attorney if you think the pool itself lead to your injury.
In 1978, the California Supreme Court adopted the concept of “pure comparative fault.” Pure Comparative Fault means that if you are injured, but the jury decides that through your own actions you had contributed to the injury, your compensation may be reduced by that amount of contribution.
How could this possibly occur in a swimming pool accident? Let’s say you are standing at the edge of a shallow pool, bragging about your diving abilities, and laughing away any warnings that six feet is not enough. You then proceed to dive in and injure yourself. The jury may find that your bravado and blatant disregard for the warnings amounted to 50% of your injury. Thus, your $10,000 recovery will be reduced to $5,000.
Types of Injuries Occurring from Swimming Pool Accidents
Various types of injuries may occur from swimming pool accidents, with the most common being fatal drownings and nonfatal submersion hypoxia. When a fatal drowning occurs, the surviving family members may be able to file a wrongful death claim.
Nonfatal submersion hypoxia occurs when the brain and other organs are starved of necessary oxygen. The results of hypoxia vary wildly from cases to case, but some common long term effects can include amnesia, personality regression, hallucinations, muscle spasms, and paralysis. Finally, other less common injuries that may occur are spinal cord injuries, brain/head injuries from blunt force trauma, fractures, cuts, lesions, and disembowelment.
What Should I do if a Loved One Suffers From a Swimming Pool Accident? 
Your first reaction if you or a loved one suffers from a swimming pool accident is to call 911 or contact a lifeguard. If you are alone, do the following:
- Move the person out of the water
- Check to see if they person is breathing
- If they are not breathing, check for a pulse.
- If there is no pulse, start CPR (cardio pulmonary resuscitation) until help arrives.
Your Lawsuit’s Expiration Date
California’s Code of Civil Procedure § 335.1 sets the statute of limitations at two years. If personal property is damaged during the swimming pool accident, the time limit to file for that is three years, but in most cases this damage is incidental compared to any personal injury suffered.
Because the statute of limitations is so important, we recommend you contact a swimming pool accident lawyer as soon as you can following the accident. The longer you wait, the more of a gamble you take with your lawsuit, but contacting our office help provide you with a roadmap to recovery.
Swimming Pool Accident – Attorney Consultations
If you or a loved one have been injured from a swimming pool accident, and you think that the owner of the pool is at fault, you should contact a San Diego personal injury lawyer to evaluate if a lawsuit is in your best interests. Our San Diego office handles such claims and all consultations are free.
Additionally, if our attorney decides to represent you, they will be paid on a contingency fee. This means that you do not pay a single penny unless your attorney recovers compensation for you. You and your attorney will agree on a percentage before they take you on, and your attorney will front all of the costs of your trial recovering these from the settlement of verdict.