Do you love to swim? You’re not alone. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) ranks swimming as the fourth most popular recreational activity in the nation, with about 10.4 million pools in the U.S. alone. But swimming has its risks, especially for children. It’s the leading cause of unintentional injury death among children aged 1–4 years, with 60% of those occurring in swimming pools. For every child that dies from drowning, another five receive emergency care for submersion injuries. With numbers like these, it’s important for homeowners to understand the risks of owning a swimming pool, and to plan ahead.
Who’s Liable for a Swimming Pool Injury or Death?
As part of the residential homeowner’s property, swimming pool injuries and lawsuits hinge on premises liability rules. These rules typically recognize three types of property visitors—trespassers, licensees and invitees. The degree of care the homeowner must take with their pool can vary depending on the type of visitor. But in all cases, they’re expected to keep the pool reasonably safe for use.
Invitees are those patrons using public pools. Social guests who use pools at a private residence are considered licensees, and must be warned of any dangers that the average person wouldn’t notice.
In most cases, homeowners don’t owe a duty of care to trespassers, except in the case of children. Under the doctrine of attractive nuisance, a landowner may be held liable for injuries to trespassing children if the pool is likely to attract children, who do not yet understand the dangers of drowning.
To establish that the landowner was at fault for a swimming pool injury, the injured must prove that:
- The pool owner breached the duty owed
- This breach caused the harm; and
- The injured party was indeed harmed
Long story short, if you own a pool, it’s your responsibility to keep it protected and maintained for safety.
The Swimming Pool Laws in Massachusetts
The Commonwealth further mandates that homeowners must enclose their residential pools within a fence that is at least four feet tall. The fence must also have a self-closing lock that opens outward from the pool. Also, if the home’s backdoor opens onto a pool deck, a pool alarm is required.
Diving boards are regulated closely, with a water depth of nine feet required in the diving area, and shallow areas marked to prevent injuries from a diving board. Because diving boards are so risky, many insurance providers will require their removal from the pool.
Safety Tips for Swimming Pool Owners
Aside from fencing and diving board considerations, pool owners should make sure the pool drains, filters and any slides are in good working order, broken glass is cleaned up quickly and children are under constant and close supervision.
If you’ve been injured in a swimming pool accident caused by someone else’s negligence, we can help you understand your rights. We’re experts in personal injury law and can help you navigate the complicated legal terrain. Contact us to learn more.