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California Swimming Pool Accidents

Round, yellow pool float near the edge of pool that has tan tiles and gray pool chair

Types of Swimming Pool Accidents

In California, a leading cause of injury-related deaths for children under 5 is drowning, and according to the CDC, an average of 11 people are involved in a fatal drowning each day in the United States (in swimming pool-related and boating-related accidents). While swimming pools and spas may be the site for fun, relaxation, therapy, or exercise, they can also be the site for dangerous accidents, such as:

  • Slip and fall incidents, caused by leaks or water splashed onto nearby walkways
  • Pool toy accidents, caused by faulty toys or being trapped by a toy that flips or pops in the water
  • Pool drains suction incidents, caused by a poorly maintained or broken suction system
  • Electrocutions, caused by defective electrical equipment housed near the pool or spa
  • Drownings (or near-drownings), caused by being submerged in the water for a prolonged time after being trapped, getting injured, or failing to swim (because of a lack of experience)
  • Diving board, slide, or pool attachment accidents, caused by faulty equipment or shallow water

Injuries You May Sustain in a Swimming Pool Accident

If you or a loved one are involved in a swimming pool accident, you may suffer from:

  • Lacerations or cuts.
  • Disembowelments.
  • Spinal cord injuries
  • Catastrophic injuries, especially traumatic brain injuries.
  • Brain damage.
  • Broken bones or torn ligaments.

In some cases, a victim of a swimming pool accident may suffer life-threatening injuries and die. Surviving families can file a wrongful death claim on their behalf.

Swimming Pool & Spa Laws in California

Under California Health and Safety Code § 115922, residential homes with a swimming pool or spa much have at least 2 of the following drowning prevention safety measures in place.

  1. A fate with a self-closing or self-latching feature that has a key lockable device along with removable mesh fencing that adheres to the American Society for Testing and Materials (ASTM) Specifications F2286 standards.
  2. An enclosure that adheres to the requirements outlined in § 115923 and isolates the pool or spa from the home.
  3. An approved safety pool cover, which includes any manually or power-operated pool cover that complies with ASTM Standard F1346-191.
  4. Alarms placed on the home’s exits (that lead to the swimming pool or spa) that make an alarm noise or verbal warning.
  5. A self-closing, self-latching device with a release mechanism placed no lower than 54 inches above the floor on the door that allows people access to the spa or pool.
  6. An alarm that is triggered and makes a sound when someone enters accidentally or unauthorizedly the pool or spa. The alarm should comply with ASTM Standard F2208, such as surface motion, pressure, sonar, laser, and infrared type alarms. It is important to note that alarms that you attach to a child or person are not qualifying alarms.
  7. Any other swimming pool or spa measure that meets or exceeds the standards of the features established by ASTM or the American Society of Mechanical Engineers (ASME).

Public swimming pools must also adhere to certain laws concerning safety standards (see California Building Code Chapter 31B and Title 22, Division 4, Chapter 20 of the California Code of Regulations). In addition to being required to install handrails, warning signs, and enclosures in certain areas, public pools have inspection requirements, pool water quality standards, incident response requirements, and other legal requirements to which they must adhere.

Who Is Liable for a Swimming Pool Accident?

The liable party for the accident will be determined based on the circumstances of the incident. To determine liability, you will need to determine whether this is a premises liability or product liability claim. In either instance, the guilty party should have acted negligently.

In premises liability claims, your accident and injury should have been the result of negligent actions of a property owner; these claims can be made against residential property owners, commercial property owners, and even government properties. If the property owner knew about or should have had reasonable knowledge of the inadequate safety measures, they owe those on their property (legally) a duty of care and must take action to protect them.

In product liability claims, your damages will be caused by the manufacturer of the pool, spa, defective equipment, or faulty pool toy that is responsible for your accident. A defect could have been made during the manufacturing process or design stage, or the equipment may not have come with adequate safety warnings or user instructions.

Pure Comparative Fault in California

In California, claimants can have their award (damage) reduced if they are deemed to be partially at fault for an accident. Here’s an example: Anna and her family go to their local pool for a day of fun. Anna and her sisters decide to play Marco Polo, and to avoid detection, Anna gets out of the pool and runs to the other end. While running, she slips, falls, and sustains spinal and head injuries.

Because she was running, the court says that Anna is 25% at fault for the accident even though the community pool did not have slip-resistant material around the pool. Therefore, in a claim for $200,000, she will only receive $150,000.

How to Avoid a Swimming Pool Accident

Common causes of swimming pool accidents (defective drains, a lack of supervision, untrained lifeguards, etc.) are preventable or fixable. Here are some ways that you can ensure you and others are safe when you are in or around a swimming pool.

  • Regularly check the pool equipment in or around your pool.
  • Ensure the pool depths are marked on the shallow and deep ends of the pool.
  • Avoid pushing others into the pool or playing around the pool, especially near the shallow end.
  • Arrange for there to be constant supervision for children.
  • Do not consume alcohol or drugs in or around the pool.
  • Stay hydrated, especially if you are exposed to the sun.
  • Ensure someone knows CPR (if you are at a private resident).
  • Get out of the pool if there is inclement weather.
  • Weak swimmers should stick to the shallow end or have a buddy rather than relying on foam or blowup toys.

What to Do After a Swimming Pool Accident

While swimming pool accidents can be scary and overwhelming, after an accident, if possible, you should take the following steps.

  1. Call 911 to report the accident, especially if any requires medical attention.
  2. Document the scene by taking photos of the conditions around and/or in the pool (specifically the defective pool equipment or the lack of safety measures that may have contributed to the accident).
  3. Take additional photos of the injuries sustained by the victim before they are treated.
  4. Get the personal information (i.e. name, contact information, address) of any witnesses to the accident or its aftermath.
  5. Keep detailed notes of any conversations you have with the police, emergency medical personnel, or others at the scene.
  6. Ask for a copy of the hospital records and police report.
  7. Contact our experienced attorneys, so we can

If you have been injured or have suffered the loss of a loved one in a swimming pool accident, contact Eliot Reiner, APLC today. Our premises liability attorneys have over three decades of collective experience, and we have recovered millions of dollars for our clients.

To schedule an initial case consultation, telephone (916) 778-3228 or complete this online form.

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