Questions About Drownings in Public Swimming Areas


When is a public pool or park drowning "accident" not an accident?
Many people wrongly believe that because no one but the victim was involved in a drowning "accident" in a public swimming area, the victim is solely responsible for what happened. The Parks Department may be liable if signs warning of undertows, rip currents, sharp drop-offs, bacteria contamination, or other hazards were not posted. Similarly, a public swimming pool that is not properly maintained or lacks lifeguards or reasonable security measures may invite a personal injury or wrongful death claim after a drowning.

What if a lifeguard was on duty but didn't follow proper procedures?
Lifeguard certification and training varies greatly, and forged certificates are not unheard of. In some cases, lifeguards are very young and have little or no experience, or they may not be in ideal physical condition. These are but a few of the factors that can determine a lifeguard's ability to save a drowning swimmer's life. An inappropriate response to a drowning accident by an improperly trained or certified lifeguard can significantly affect the outcome of an ensuing personal injury or wrongful death claim.

What is the difference between an undertow, backwash, and a rip current?
After a wave breaks, the water that is thrust onto the beach reverses its flow back to the lake or ocean. This is referred to as backwash.

When several waves break unremittingly, the water that would otherwise wash back may be pushed sideways, accumulating along the shoreline until it finds an exit and forms a stream flowing back into the ocean. This is known as a rip current. Rather than swimming against a rip current, a better option is to swim out of it by swimming parallel to shore.

When waves break over a riptide, the force of the water pushes the riptide downward, creating an undertow. The key to surviving riptides and undertows is not to panic.

What are some of the dangers of man-made lakes?
Apart from rarely having lifeguards on duty, many man-made lakes have steep drop-offs without posted warnings or rope barriers. Even the most skillful swimmers can become surprised and disoriented by a sudden drop-off. After suddenly and unexpectedly failing to reach the bottom, the swimmer may reflexively panic and drown within seconds. While many jurisdictions regulate such hazards, enforcement is often nonexistent or inadequate at best.

Do I need a lawyer if I suspect that a loved one needlessly drowned due to the negligence of a public or private entity or individual?
The loss of life of a loved one is a traumatic experience, especially if the negligent acts of another may have contributed to it. At such a time, it is usually advisable to seek the dedicated and compassionate legal guidance only a qualified and experienced attorney can provide.