When you head to a pool for some fun in the sun, you probably never imagine anything more dangerous happening than getting a sunburn. However, drownings in the United States are all too common. The Centers of Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reports that there are more than 3,500 drownings each year—approximately 10 people per day. Children are at an especially high risk for drowning. It only takes between 30 seconds and two minutes for a child to drown, and it’s the leading cause of injury-related death in children.
If your loved one drowns in someone else’s pool, it’s important to understand how the homeowner can be found negligent and what’s involved in a wrongful death claim.
Negligence in a Drowning Wrongful Death Claim
Rhode Island law states that a property owner can be held liable for a swimming accident that occurs in their private pool. The homeowner is responsible for creating a safe environment for swimming guests, and if they don’t act with care, the homeowners can to be held responsible for the accident.
If you have lost a child or another loved one in an accidental drowning in someone else’s pool, you may be able to hold the property owners responsible in a wrongful death claim if you can prove that their negligence caused the death. There are many reasons a homeowner can be found negligent in a pool-drowning accident:
- Defective equipment, including diving boards, slides, and ladders
- Lack of supervision of the swimming activity in the pool
- Inadequate safety barriers, including fences, gates, latches, and locks
- Inadequate signage about the pool
- Inadequate life-saving equipment at the pool
- Dangerous pool drains and pool chemicals
Trespassing vs. Legal Entry: Attractive Nuisance
A homeowner has legal obligations to ensure the safety of invited guests who are swimming in their pool. But what if the person who drowned was on the property illegally? Most premises liability laws exempt homeowners of responsibility if a trespasser suffers injuries on their property. However, there’s an exception to this law when children are involved. Because children don’t often have the same understanding of property barriers and danger, property owners in Rhode Island can be liable if a child trespasses due to an “attractive nuisance.”
In general, an attractive nuisance is any dangerous object that might entice a child and draw them onto your property. This includes a swimming pool. Property owners must take steps to ensure that young children attracted to the pool don’t drown. If a child does drown and those steps weren’t taken, a wrongful death claim can be made against the homeowner. These steps include:
- talking to neighboring parents about the pool and what they’ve done to secure it from children
- building a fence around the pool that meets all state and local regulations
- ensuring that all locks on the gates and fences work properly
- installing floodlights and/or an alarm system around the pool
- making water rescue equipment readily available
Steps to Take After a Loved One Drowns
If someone you love drowns in a pool accident on someone else’s property, there is evidence you can gather that may help prove negligence on the part of the homeowner in a wrongful death claim. This evidence includes:
Photos of the accident scene.
Try to take as many pictures as possible where the accident occurred. You should capture the inside and outside of the pool, the surrounding area, any fences, gates and locks, and any signage around the pool area.
Items of evidence.
If blow-up toys, defective products, or other items were involved in the accident, take these with you when you leave. If the property owner wants to keep them, be sure to tell an attorney about this evidence.
Documentation of what happened.
It’s important to document all the injuries your loved one may have suffered as the drowning occurred. Citing details about how the drowning happened is especially important. Additionally, you should write down how you believe the homeowner was negligent. This can help if you file a wrongful death claim.
Has Your Loved One Died To The Negligence Of Others?
If your loved one died to due the negligence of others you need to speak with an experienced wrongful death attorney as soon as possible. Please contact us online or call our Warwick office directly at 401.946.3200 to schedule your free consultation. We help families in Providence, Warwick and all areas of Rhode Island.