Swimming Pool Injuries
Now that summer is here and the temperatures are heading north of 90 degrees, everyone is heading to the beach, pool or lake to cool off with friends and family.
For those of us without access to the ocean or lakes, swimming in local pools is an activity that most of us can enjoy. Unfortunately, swimming pools also present some significant dangers, many of which may seem obvious, others of which are less apparent.
Injuries at and in swimming pools occur in many different manners including injuries caused by negligently maintained slides, diving boards, drain/ filter covers and ladders. Other types of injuries can occur when there is a lack of adult supervision or lifeguards or when guests are served an excessive amount of alcohol. Still other types of accidents occur by the presence of bacteria in the pool, by slipping and falling on walkways or by stepping on sharp objects, such as broken glass, in areas where people are known to be walking or running without shoes.
Although many pools are built with a deep end and a shallow end, others are built without a “deep end”. As a result, diving into pools without a deep end or diving into the shallow end of a pool present significant dangers. As a result, it is imperative that “no diving” signs be placed around the perimeter of the pool in locations where it is too shallow to dive along with signs exhibiting the depth of the pool. In situations where an injury results due to the failure to properly indicate where it is unsafe to dive may result in liability on the part of the owner or manager of the pool.
Pool accidents can occur in a variety of settings including public pools, private clubs and at private homes. If an injury is caused as a result of the negligence of the owner or management of a pool, the injured party may be entitled to pursue a claim or lawsuit for the recovery of damages. These damages include medical bills, scarring, lost wages and pain and suffering. There may also be claims available to the spouse and family members of the injured party, if the injury has an impact on the lives of the family. These damages are often referred to as loss of consortium.
These causes of action exist whether the injury is minor, such as sprained ankles and lacerations, or serious, such as paralysis, traumatic brain injury or death.
One needs to be aware, however, that when swimming at public pools or other natural bodies of water, where no fees are charged, the State, City, Town or individual that owns the location may be immune from a personal injury claim under what is known as the Recreational Use Statute. M.G.L. Ch. 21, Section 17C.
Under this statute, any person having an interest in land who permits the public to use such land for recreational and other purposes, without imposing a charge or fee, shall not be liable for personal injuries sustained while on said land in the absence of wilful, wanton or reckless conduct by the owner of the property. As a result, it is imperative that one take extra care when going to a body of water that is open to the public and available for use without a fee as there may be no recourse if you sustain an injury due to the negligence of the owner.
In situations where the recreational use statute does not apply, owners and managers of swimming pools have certain obligations to ensure that reasonable measures are taken to ensure that a pool is safe to use. These steps include ensuring that the pool is clean and free from dangerous bateria, guests are not served sufficient alcohol to become excessevely intoxicated, the pool and pool deck are properly maintained, there is sufficient supervision for children and that warning signs are placed in easy to observe areas. Injuries that result from the failure to do so may give rise to a cause of action against the owner or manager of the pool.