Who is liable for swimming pool accidents?

Rising summer temperatures have a lot of families strategizing and struggling to "beat the heat." Is it any wonder, then, that a lot of people turn toward local swimming pools -- whether they're in the neighbor's backyard or open to the community -- as a source of relief?

Hopefully, you won't actually need this information any time soon, but it's smart to have a basic working knowledge about pool injuries and legal liabilities before you head out. Here's what you should know:

1. Pool owners have a responsibility to keep the area reasonably safe

Yes, everyone knows that pools can be a little bit dangerous. That's why pool owners and operators are expected to minimize the risks people face. For example, it's not unreasonable to expect:

  • A clean, well-maintained area
  • Rules that prohibit running, pushing, shoving and rough-housing by the pool
  • Rules that prohibit diving in the water when other people are in the pool
  • Signs alerting patrons or public pools about the availability of lifeguards
  • Secured access to pools to keep out children and other intruders when the pool is unsupervised

Accidents are more likely to happen when a pool's owner doesn't take precautions -- and that can confer legal responsibility on that owner for a victim's losses.

2. Slips, falls and drownings aren't the only potential risks swimmers face

There are numerous other possible injuries you could face when you're in a pool. For example:

  • Chemical injuries can occur when a pool owner misuses the chloride and other products designed to keep the water clean.
  • Slides are fun -- but they can also lead to serious injuries, including broken bones.
  • Infections are possible when the water in a pool is allowed to stagnate or become otherwise contaminated by overuse.

If you have an accident at a pool or a loved one suffers a serious injury, the owner cannot simply disavow responsibility for the accident. The liability in these situations can be complicated, and you're best advised to discuss the situation with an attorney.

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Vincent J. DeSalvo, Attorney at Law
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