Water-related accidents are the cause of thousands of preventable deaths annually. Swimming pools, water parks, beaches, spas, lakes, or other private-owned bodies of water are all potentially hazardous by nature and require constant maintenance and regulation to preserve safety standards. If negligence or lack of care causes injury, owners and operators of these properties can be held liable for drowning injuries or fatalities on their property under the legal theory of premises liability.
Illinois Drowning Injury & Death Statistics
The dangers of drowning, especially among young children, are well documented. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention data lists drowning as the leading cause of death for children ages 1-4 and the second leading cause of unintentional injury for children ages 5-14, with an average of 4,083 unintentional drowning deaths occurring each year from 2012–2021. In Illinois alone, fifteen children died in drowning accidents in 2022 – a slight decrease from eighteen recorded drowning deaths among Illinois children in 2021.
Non-fatal drowning or dry drowning can still potentially cause serious physical and cognitive injury due to a lack of oxygen supply for a length of time. The 2022 Consumer Product Safety Commission’s Annual Drowning and Submersion Report shows a 17% increase in pool- or spa-related, hospital-department-treated, non-fatal drowning injuries involving children younger than fifteen years of age. Data spiked to 6,800 non-fatal drowning injuries reported nationally in 2021, compared to 5,800 in 2020.
Illinois Drowning Incidents
Vigilance, swimmer safety, and employee training remain key preventative measures for facilities that offer swimming or maintain bodies of water where drowning or other accidents might occur.
In 2014, a 6-year-old boy drowned while attending the Justice Park District summer camp when camp counselors took the group to swim at the Bridgeview Park District pool. He did not know how to swim and could not stand anywhere in the general pool with his head above water. The boy, who should have been in the wading pool, was found unresponsive in the main pool, and rescuers and hospital personnel were unable to revive him.
In 2018, Bradley M. Cosgrove, partner at Clifford Law Offices, led the trial before Cook County Circuit Court Judge Marguerite Quinn. Along with Tracy A. Brammeier, partner at Clifford Law Offices, and Charles R. Haskins, an associate at the firm, Mr. Cosgrove recovered a $21.5 million verdict for the family of the deceased camper in the largest drowning verdict in the history of Illinois.
Common Examples of Drowning & Swimming Pool Negligence
Each drowning and swimming pool accident occurs under unique circumstances, however, trends determine common forms of negligence that lead to injury or death in drowning cases. In these instances, victims or family members can file a claim to seek compensation for damages or losses including medical expenses, lost wages, and funeral expenses. Common examples of drowning and swimming pool negligence that causes accidents include:
- Failure to supervise or negligent supervision
- Absence of or improperly trained lifeguards
- Inadequate, broken, or lack of fencing
- Broken ladders, diving boards, slides, or other commonplace equipment
- Failure to post warning signs
- Improper warning signs
- Failure to maintain pool premises
- Overcrowded pools
Possible Negligent Parties for Drowning Incidents
It is the responsibility of the property owner to ensure their public swimming space is safe and properly equipped for all swimmers. Property owners, managers, lifeguards, and other corporations involved in the construction and maintenance of swimming pools can potentially be held liable for negligence in drowning lawsuits.
It is also possible for owners of private swimming pools or bodies of water to be held liable if their property is considered an “attractive nuisance,” or any structure or object on private property that may be too irresistible for a child to ignore. If the property owner did not take reasonable care in restricting access to their swimming pool, for example, they may absorb some of the liability.
“There are simple steps parents and caregivers can take to prevent water-related tragedies,” Illinois Department of Children and Family Services Director Marc D. Smith warned in a press release following 15 drowning deaths of children in Illinois in 2022. “The single most important thing to remember is to always actively watch children any time they are in or near water, as a child can drown in as little as one inch of water.”
While many drowning incidents or other types of accidents surrounding pools or bodies of water may fall under the umbrella of premises liability, depending on the outcome of the incident and the specifics of the case, drowning or swimming pool accidents may be filed as personal injury or wrongful death claims. Working with an experienced swimming pool accident attorney is the best way to understand the legal rights and options for your case.
The Importance of Hiring an Experienced Drowning & Swimming Pool Accident Lawyer
Drowning and swimming pool accident cases are complex in the aspect of shared liability, or the possibility of including multiple negligent parties. Accident cases involving children are especially complex and require a complete understanding of the law, its nuances, and exceptions. The record-setting drowning and swimming pool accident attorneys at Clifford Law Offices have experience handling a wide range of civil and wrongful death claims, including catastrophic drowning cases, and have helped win millions in damages in past cases.
While many cases settle before trial, there is always the possibility of facing large corporations in the courtroom. Taking a case to trial requires district trial experience and the resources to pursue just outcomes for each case regardless of opposition including large corporations such as hotels, resorts, and water parks, as well as their insurance companies. The attorneys at Clifford Law Offices have the knowledge, experience, and resources to represent you in your pursuit of justice.
If you have suffered major injuries due to drowning – or you have lost a loved one due to a drowning accident – you may have grounds to take legal action. The experienced swimming pool accident attorneys at Clifford Law Offices will gather the facts and evidence of your case to determine the viability of your claim. We will work with you to secure full and fair compensation for all possible damages, through settlement or verdict.
Contact Clifford Law Offices today to schedule a free case evaluation of your premises liability claim, and we will let you know how our firm can help.