When people purchase a home with a swimming pool or have one installed, they are typically thinking about all the fun they and their families will have playing outside in the sun. They may also consider the expenses and hassle of maintaining a pool. Most homeowners probably don’t spend much time wondering what their legal liabilities will be if a child wanders into their yard and drowns. The law protects children and will hold property owners liable in many cases for a child’s preventable injuries.
Each year, about 390 children under the age of 15 drown in swimming pools in the United States. Most of these deaths involve in-ground pools, but even inflatable pools can be dangerous. Almost 5,000 pool-related injuries involve a trip to the emergency room each year.
Negligent and careless homeowners are sometimes responsible for the injuries that children suffer in swimming pools. When the owner fails to maintain the pool and that lack of maintenance causes a guest to be injured, the guest or their family may have cause to bring a negligence claim. Similarly, when an adult knows children are using their pool and fails to adequately supervise those children, they may be responsible for the dangerous consequences of their neglect.
A homeowner can be held strictly liable for a child’s swimming pool injuries even when the homeowner didn’t give the child permission to use the pool. This is possible under a legal doctrine called “attractive nuisance.” The law recognizes that children are drawn to certain dangerous temptations, such as playgrounds and pools. The law expects that children might trespass in order to access those tempting things. In certain cases, when these dangers cause injury, their owners may be liable, whether they were negligent or not.
In order to be found liable under the attractive nuisance, the owner must have had an awareness that children were likely to trespass and use the attraction. They must have also failed to have taken steps to prevent danger. With regard to pools, adding a fence around a pool and covering the pool when not in use are steps that could potentially reduce danger and liability.
Homeowners do have a defense to the attractive nuisance doctrine. When children are old enough to know better, the law may determine that they assumed the risk of using the pool. This can limit or prevent economic recovery.
Seigel Law represents families of pool injury victims in the Bergen County area. If your child has been injured in a swimming pool accident or a drowning, contact our experienced and compassionate attorneys for a free consultation. We encourage you to call now at 201-444-4000 or contact us online.