Beach accidents and liability

Trips to the beach are common in summer -- but a bright day can easily take a dark turn when someone is injured in an accident.

Sometimes accidents at the beach are beyond anyone's control. Other times, they're the result of negligent management or a poorly trained staff.

Before you assume that a serious injury was merely the product of bad luck, take the following things into consideration:

1. What the lifeguard should have done

Lifeguards at beaches are generally employed by either the property owner or the city. Either way, they're tasked with a certain responsibility to look after the people on the beach and protect them against things like:

  • Dangerous currents and riptides that can whisk swimmers away
  • Shorebreak waves that can break bones
  • Foul weather, like lightening, that makes it dangerous to be in the water
  • Accidental drowning from various causes

If the lifeguard on duty wasn't paying attention, seemed preoccupied with a conversation or generally inept, you may have a cause of action against his or her employer.

2. What the property owner should have done

Whoever controls the beach has a certain obligation to keep the beach maintained and free of obvious hazards. If a beach is experiencing known problems, the owners should at least post a warning -- or close the beach off until the danger is past. For example, the owners of a beach should take action whenever:

  • A harmful algal bloom is forecast or already present in the area
  • The water quality is contaminated with hazardous substances
  • There are large amounts of marine debris on the beach or in the water
  • Sharks or jellyfish have been spotted offshore

If you are injured, for example, by stepping on a syringe that washed up on shore as part of a clump of marine debris, you have good reason to question whether or not the property owner was aware of the danger.

If you think that someone could have reasonably prevented your beach injury from occurring, remember that you have the right to ask for compensation for your losses. That's the best way to make sure that your ruined vacation doesn't end up affecting your life in the long run.

Source: National Ocean Service, "Ten Dangers at the Beach," accessed June 15, 2018

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Vincent J. DeSalvo, Attorney at Law
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