Unintentional drowning: it’s something that no parent wants to ever consider would happen to their children. However, it happens to too many children each summer—making it vital that you learn the warning signs of aquatic distress and what to do, should the unthinkable happen.
Here is what you need to know.
Swimming Pools: An “Attractive Nuisance”
Your children might come in contact with a lake, river, or ocean this summer—but the most likely place they’ll encounter a body of water is the neighborhood swimming pool.
Under Ohio law, swimming pools are considered an “attractive nuisance.” What does this mean?
An attractive nuisance is a hazardous object or condition that is likely to attract children and that involves risk to their safety. (Other attractive nuisances can include playground equipment and construction sites.)
Children are too young to fully understand the danger of swimming pools, which is why the law requires landowners with this attractive nuisance to take steps to protect them. For example, landowners with swimming pools on their property might be required to do the following:
- Install a four-foot-tall fence around the pool
- Install a locking gate (preferably with an alarm)
- Use a safety cover
- Keep rescue items (like a life ring) near the pool
- Remove pool toys and other attractive items when not in use
These precautions reduce the likelihood that children will access the swimming pool when they’re not supposed to, thereby preventing accidents.
Swimming pool owners who do not take the precautions above may be held legally liable for any injuries or deaths that occur—even if the child was trespassing. (Because of their age, young children are not often seen as “negligent,” or responsible for their injuries.)
Unintentional drowning is still a big problem throughout the United States.
On average, about 10 people die every day from unintentional drowning, many of them children. In fact, drowning is the second-leading cause of injury and death for children between the ages of 1 and 14 (behind motor vehicle accidents).
According to the CDC, children ages 1 to 4 have the highest rate of drowning, and most of these incidents occur in home swimming pools. Older children, on the other hand, have higher rates of drowning in natural bodies of water, including lakes, rivers, and oceans.
Because unintentional drowning is so frighteningly common, it’s critical to take precautions and know the warning signs.
When they imagine drowning, most people picture what they’ve seen in movies: a person splashing about, yelling, and waving. However, this isn’t what drowning looks like. It’s actually called “aquatic distress,” but it doesn’t always come before drowning happens.
Drowning is deceptively quiet and, for some children, can occur in less than half a minute. Here are the signs to watch out for:
- Facial expressions of panic or distress
- Head low in the water, with the mouth at water level
- Head tilted back with the mouth open
- Eyes closed, or open and unable to focus
- Hair over the face and eyes
- Arms outward or pushing down
- Legs vertical and not in use
- Floating facedown
It’s important to look out for silence. When a person is truly drowning, the body prioritizes getting air. This means that they won’t be calling out for help. Since children are often loud when playing in the water, silence should be cause for concern.
In addition, it’s always a good idea to pay attention when children jump in the water. Drowning can occur when the child doesn’t know how to swim or hits/becomes stuck on an object underwater.
To stay safe this summer, we recommend taking the following steps:
- Stay in the water, within an arm’s reach of inexperienced swimmers.
- Don’t rely on water wings (they’re not life jackets) to keep non-swimmers afloat.
- Sign children up for swimming lessons.
- Have safety equipment (like life buoys) near the pool in case of an accident.
- Have someone watching children at all times, and put away phones.
- Teach children to follow swimming pool rules (like no pushing other kids in, no swimming without an adult, etc.).
- Learn CPR.
Your Legal Options after an Injury or Death
Drowning injuries and deaths can happen to the best of parents. Children can sneak out of the house into a neighbor’s unfenced backyard pool or fall into an unsecured well or water feature.
There is nothing more devastating than losing a child, and many parents are motivated to make sure that it doesn’t happen to anyone else.
If your family has experienced harm to, or the loss of, a child after an unintentional drowning, you do have legal options. You may be able to hold the negligent party responsible under attractive nuisance doctrine to get justice and prevent future accidents.
If you would like to speak to an experienced personal injury attorney in Cincinnati, Ohio, we are here for you. Please feel free to contact us to schedule a free consultation.