Unintentional drowning poses a serious threat to national public health, ranking fifth as one of the leading causes of unintentional death in the United States.
Drowning-related deaths most often occur on residential properties in home pools. This is especially true with child victims, who make up about 25 percent of drowning victims.
Drowning incidents can have life-changing consequences for victims and their families. Nonfatal drowning survivors face a high risk of serious, long-term health problems, while fatal drowning injuries can have devastating emotional and financial consequences for surviving loved ones.
Depending on the nature of the incident, families of fatal drowning victims may have the grounds to file a wrongful death lawsuit against the owner of the property where the drowning occurred.
In St. Louis, for example, one family successfully sued their 12-year old son’s middle school in 2015 after the young boy drowned in the school’s swimming pool during gym class.
If you’ve lost a loved one to a preventable drowning incident due to the negligence of another party, the lawyers of Florin|Roebig can assess the details of your case and determine if you qualify to sue the negligent party for wrongful death compensation.
How Does Drowning Occur?
Drowning is a process of suffocation that occurs when a liquid has covered a person’s mouth and nose, cutting off their oxygen supply. Drowning will often occur silently, as few people are able to wave their hands or call for help.
While drowning can occur very suddenly, people can also pass away from drowning injuries after the initial incident if complications of the drowning are left untreated. Symptoms that can arise after a drowning rescue may include anxiety, wheezing, vomiting, and loss of consciousness.
In some cases, individuals may die of drowning-related complications hours after the initial incident, with common complications including hypothermia, acute respiratory distress syndrome, hypoxia, head and spinal cord injury, and aspiration of vomit.
Common sites of drowning deaths include:
- home pools
- hot tubs
- sinks (infant drowning)
- water parks
- flood disasters
- boating accidents
Who Is Most At Risk For Drowning?
Drowning most commonly happens in people who have convenient access to water sources, such as pools or natural waters like ponds and rivers.
About 90 percent of global drowning deaths occur in low- and middle-income countries. However, areas in the U.S. such as Florida that have an abundance of water parks, swimming pools, and beaches, have also been identified as risky areas for drowning injuries and deaths.
According to the CDC, risk factors for drowning include:
- lack of swimming ability
- young age
- access to swimming pools
- lack of supervision
- lack of barriers (e.g. fencing around home pools)
- failing to wear a life jacket
- having a seizure disorder
- swimming while under the influence of alcohol
Environmental factors—such as access to pools and location—can carry just as much weight as the personal factors that may influence drowning risk, such as being unable to swim. However, being able to swim, or even being rescued from a drowning incident, may not fully protect a person from drowning-related death.
If a person has been rescued after a near-fatal drowning incident, it’s important to seek medical attention right away to have them properly assessed for medical complications. Neglecting treatment after a near-fatal drowning may result in life-threatening consequences such as cardiac arrest and respiratory arrest.
Child Drowning Victims
Drowning is the second-leading cause of preventable death among children and adolescents under the age of 15, with children aged one to four at the highest risk for fatal drowning.
The majority of child drowning incidents occur on residential properties—in home pools, baths, hot tubs, or sinks. Children who have underlying medical conditions such as epilepsy may be at a higher risk of suffering serious and potentially fatal drowning complications.
Tips for preventing fatal drowning injuries include:
- teaching children basic swimming skills
- supervising children who are in or around water
- using the buddy system
- learning cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR)
- wearing a lifejacket when swimming in an open water source
Seeking Justice For Drowning Wrongful Death
Family members of loved ones who have died due to drowning complications may have the legal grounds to file a lawsuit for damages if the drowning occurred on another party’s property.
Legal claims for drowning lawsuits include:
Surviving loved ones of drowning victims may sue another party on the grounds of negligence if the defendant is determined to have breached their legal obligations to the drowning victim.
Examples of this may include failing to have a lifeguard on duty at a public pool or lack of supervision at a daycare or grade school.
These legal obligations owed to drowning victims—also known as duty of care—may depend on where the drowning occurs, who owns the property, and other contextual factors.
Premises liability laws dictate the legal obligations of property owners and operators owe to lawful visitors. These laws, which include protecting visitors from unreasonable and preventable harm, may not apply to trespassers unless the trespasser is a child. Exceptions to premises liability vary by state.
Wrongful death lawsuits apply specifically to drowning incidents that lead to fatal consequences.
To file a wrongful death lawsuit for drowning, surviving family members of the victim must be able to prove that:
- the drowning victim died
- the victim died as a result of the defendant’s negligence or intent to harm
- the family members are suffering consequences due to their loved one’s death (e.g. financial burden, pain and suffering)
Who Can Be Held Liable For Preventable Drowning Deaths?
Liable, or legally responsible, parties for a drowning incident can depend on where the drowning occurs, as well as where you live in the United States. Some states may have certain laws regulating liability for deaths that occur on residential, commercial, and government properties.
Drowning On Private Property
If your loved one has drowned on private property, the owner of that property may be held liable for wrongful death and related damages. However, a property owner’s liability for fatal drowning may also be influenced by whether the drowning victim was trespassing and whether there were barriers (e.g. fencing) in place.
In Florida, for instance, residential pools must meet certain barrier and enclosure requirements. Failing to follow state requirements may be punishable by law.
Drowning In Public Pools
Public pools can refer to community pools, fitness center pools, pools on school premises, and waterpark pools. Individuals who may be held liable for drowning deaths that occur on these properties are most often the owners or operators. Staff members on these properties—such as lifeguards—may also be held liable for drowning incidents.
Boating/Watercraft Accident Drowning
About 332 people die each year from drowning in boating-related incidents. Drownings in boating and other watercraft accidents are most likely to occur in popular coastal states such as Florida and California.
Liable parties in these incidents may depend on the cause of the accident. For instance, if a person suffers fatal drowning injuries after falling overboard, the owner or operator of the watercraft may be held liable for the resulting death.
Owners and operators of watercraft may also be held liable if the operator was under the influence of alcohol at the time of the accident, or if they failed to have life jackets onboard.
Who Can File A Wrongful Death Lawsuit?
Family members of the drowning victim may be eligible to file a wrongful death lawsuit against the liable party on behalf of their deceased loved one.
Family members that can sue for drowning wrongful death include:
Laws governing who’s eligible to file a lawsuit for wrongful death may vary by state. If you are not a close relative or next of kin to the drowning victim, consult a wrongful death lawyer to determine whether you qualify to file a lawsuit on your deceased loved one’s behalf.
Benefits Of Hiring Wrongful Death Lawyers
If you’re a family member of a loved one who died due to drowning-related complications, it’s highly recommended that you hire an experienced wrongful death lawyer to represent you.
The process of filing a lawsuit for wrongful death can be time-consuming, emotionally exhausting, and complex. Having legal representation to explain and defend your rights to legal damages can offer significant advantages and lessen your own emotional and financial burden as you navigate the process with a knowledgeable professional.
At Florin|Roebig, our award-winning team of wrongful death lawyers can:
- provide legal services driven by integrity and compassion for grieving loved ones
- offer a free initial case evaluation to discuss your case
- investigate the drowning incident to determine the party responsible
- use our legal resources and connections to collect evidence to support your case
- determine an estimated settlement value
- fight for the best possible settlement to compensate for your losses
Our committed team of lawyers are capable of serving clients across the U.S. out of our offices in Florida, Minnesota, Texas, and Colorado. With decades of combined experience in handling personal injury and wrongful death cases, you can rest assured that by choosing our law firm, your case is in good hands.
Find Help Filing A Wrongful Death Lawsuit For Drowning Today
Losing a loved one to a drowning incident can be a life-changing experience. If you’ve lost a child, parent, sibling, or partner in a drowning incident due to another party’s negligence, our lawyers can determine your eligibility to file a wrongful death lawsuit for compensation.
Don’t wait to learn what we may be able to do for you. Contact Florin|Roebig today to schedule a free case evaluation with one of our top-rated wrongful death lawyers.