Residential Pools Safety
Florida is one of the hottest states in the U.S., so it isn’t surprising that we have the most swimming pools. Residential pool safety practices are paramount for those who have a pool at their home. Drowning in residential pools is a significant problem in Florida, particularly among children. Although natural and human-made bodies of water are abundant in Florida – and both pose drowning risks – single family residential pools are account for more than 55 percent of all drownings in the state, according to the Florida Department of Health.
Fort Myers injury lawyers at Associates and Bruce L. Scheiner, Attorneys for the Injured, know that in addition to drowning, other residential pool risk include:
- Slip-and-fall hazards;
- Defective pool parts, such as pumps, wiring, drains and lights, which can cause entrapment and/ or electrocution hazards;
- Risk of spinal cord injuries if there are defects on the diving board or inaccurate or nonexistent depth markers;
- Chemical hazards, such as chlorine gas exposure;
- Bio-hazards, such as Legionnaire’s disease in pools that are not properly cleaned.
Residential pool owners have a legal responsibility to guests – and sometimes even to child trespassers – to ensure their pool is safe, secure, clean and adequately supervised. Failure to do so may be grounds to assert liability for compensation to cover resulting injuries or wrongful death.Florida Residential Pool Drowning Risks
More people drown in Florida than in any other state except California, which has twice as many residents.
In one two-year analysis by the state health department of 245 accidental pool drowning deaths of children over five and adults:
- 55.5 percent drowned in a single-family residential swimming pool;
- 10.2 percent drowned in a public or private community pool;
- 8.6 percent drowned in a pool at a hotel or motel;
- 7.8 percent drowned in a pool at a condominium;
- 6.5 percent drowned in a pool at an apartment complex;
- 0.8 percent drowned in an above-ground pool at home;
- 0.4 drowned in a pool at a duplex residence;
- 10.2 percent drowned in a swimming pool where the address was not confirmed.
In looking just at drowning deaths among children between the ages of 1 and 4, nearly 60 percent drowned in residential swimming pools.
In Lee County, where more than 62,000 pools were appraised, there were nine unintentional drowning deaths over the two-year period. In Collier County, where there were 35,000 pools, there were five deaths recorded and in Charlotte, where there were 25,000 pools appraised, there were 8 drowning deaths.Residential Swimming Pool Act
Florida Statute Chapter 515 is Florida’s Residential Swimming Pool Safety Act. The law requires that residential swimming pools, to pass final inspection and receive a certificate of completion, must meet at least one of the following requirements as it relates to residential pool safety features:
The pool must be isolated from access to the family home by an enclosure that meets pool barrier requirements, as spelled out in F.S. 515.29 (i.e., at least 4 feet high on the outside; not have any gaps, openings or other components that would allow a young child to crawl under, squeeze through or climb over; sufficiently away from the water’s edge so that a child or medically frail person who accidentally got through wouldn’t immediately be in the water; gates that open outward; not located in a way that allows a permanent structure or other object to be used for climbing over).
Pool must be equipped with an approved safety pool cover;
All doors and windows that provide direct access to the pool must be equipped with an exit alarm;
All doors with direct access from the home to the pool must have a self-closing, self-latching device at least 54 inches off the ground;
A swimming pool alarm that sounds upon detection of an accidental or unauthorized entrance into the water.
None of these are a guarantee that a residential swimming pool accident won’t occur, but failure to equip a new residential swimming pool with at least one of these features commits a second-degree misdemeanor crime. This fact may also be used in a civil case alleging pool owner negligence.
The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission also sets forth specific industry standards for barriers and other residential pool protections.Liability for Florida Swimming Pool Accidents
Owners of swimming pools – regardless of whether they are public or private – can be held responsible when a visitor or swimmer is hurt on site. Typically, these are premises liability lawsuits. In cases where a private homeowner is the defendant, claims will typically be handled and paid by the homeowners’ insurance company. Many condo associations and apartment complexes carry their own insurance as well.
Owners of private pools have a duty to warn social guests or licensees of any dangers that might not be open or obvious. An example might be if a pool ladder is broken. In that case, the owner would have a duty to either repair it or warn of the danger. However, this duty is less substantial than what is owed to invitees at a public pool, particularly if the owner accepts payment for entry.
Private pool owners are also responsible to adequately supervise children who are invited to the pool or to prevent children from getting into the pool without supervision.
Although property owners generally don’t owe a duty of care to trespassers, per F.S. 768.075, that could change in cases involving children when there is an attractive nuisance. This is an item/ feature that is dangerous, but may be attractive to children who don’t fully appreciate the risk. Swimming pools are considered an attractive nuisance. Property owners may be responsible for injuries to child trespassers if:
- Owner has reason to know the place where danger exists is one where a child might trespass;
- Condition is known or should be known to cause an unreasonable potential for harm;
- Child, because their youth, doesn’t realize the risk involved in the dangerous condition;
- The burden/ cost of eliminating the danger is less than the risk posed to the child;
- Property owner does not act with reasonable care to remove the danger or shield the child from that risk.
If there was some defect in the pool or its components, that could be grounds for a product liability claim against the manufacturer, distributor or repair company.
If you, your child or another loved one has been injured in a residential swimming pool, our personal injury attorneys in Fort Myers will work to help you obtain damages.
1-800-283-2900 – Associates and Bruce L. Scheiner – Focused on Justice