Massachusetts Academy of Trial Attorneys
Massachusetts Bar Association 1911
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Swimming Pool – Drowning Accidents

Swimming Pool and Drowning Accidents

On a hot summer day a swimming pool can bring great relief and loads of fun especially for children. However, they can also be a source of tragedy and heartache as a result of a swimming pool accident or drowning. According to the Center for Disease Control (CDC), approximately 3,500 people die in drowning accidents each year, many of which occur in swimming pool accidents where a child or adult falls, dives, or jumps improperly, or becomes entrapped or entangled in suction drains or other defective pool materials. Approximately a third of all children ages one to four who die accidentally each year are victims of drowning. Many of the deaths occur in swimming pools and, according to the Center for Disease Control, a major factor is “lack of barriers”.

According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, everyday about ten people die from unintentional drowning. Of these two are children age fourteen and younger. Drowning ranks fifth among the leading causes of unintentional injury death in the United States. From 2005 to 2009 there are an average of 3,533 fatal unintentional drownings (non-boating related) annually in the United States. About one in five people who die from drowning are children fourteen and younger. For every child who dies from drowning, another five receive emergency department care for non-fatal submersion injuries.

According to the CDC, those at most risk are males who make up 80% of the people who die from drowning. Children ages one to four have the highest drowning rates.

The main factors that affect drowning risks are lack of swimming ability, lack of barriers to prevent unsupervised water accidents, lack of close supervision while swimming, location, failure to wear life jackets, alcohol use, and seizure disorders.

In Massachusetts there are laws, regulations and local ordinances that provide numerous requirements regarding barriers, fences, gates, locks and alarms. Public and semi-public outdoor in-ground swimming pools must be enclosed by a fence six feet in height firmly secured at ground level provided that any board or stockade fence or structure shall be at least five feet in height, but if over five feet in height, the fence shall be chain link. The gate shall be self latching with latches placed four feet above the ground and inaccessible from the outside for children up to eight years of age. The pool shall be equipped with at least one life ring and a rescue hook.

Similar requirements apply to non-public in-ground swimming pools. In-ground swimming pools constructed after October 2, 1975, must be surrounded by a secure fence that is a minimum height of six feet tall. The gate latches must be self-closing and self-latching and be placed at least four feet above ground level. The latches must be mounted on the inside of the gate so that they are inaccessible to children who are younger than eight years old. In addition, there can be no gaps in the fencing or gate area that are wider than three inches.

Above-ground pools also must meet certain state and local requirements. Above-ground pools must have a barrier that is at least four feet above the ground.

In addition to the general laws there are numerous regulations contained in the Code of Massachusetts Regulations and local town and city ordinances that apply to above-ground swimming pools, in-ground swimming pools and even inflatable pools. A permit or inspection by the building inspection department may be required.

Swimming pool accidents and drownings can be caused by many things. The most common cause of swimming pool accidents and drownings is negligence and a defective pool or pool parts. The following are many causes of pool accidents:

  • Failure to properly secure a pool area with an appropriate fence/barrier;
  • Failure to have a self-closing and self-latching gate that opens outward and which is out of the reach of children;
  • Failure to have automatic door locks or alarms that can prevent access to the pool area from the home or backyard;
  • Failure to properly supervise children while swimming;
  • Improper ladder size and/or improperly installed ladders;
  • Defective, improperly covered, broken or poorly maintained suction drains that can trap people at the bottom of the pool and entangle their hair;
  • Failure to install a proper pool cover or improperly installed pool cover;
  • Inadequate and improper lighting;
  • Improperly designed diving board in conjunction with improperly designed pool bottom;
  • Inadequate warnings and markings of water depth;
  • Failure to have a life ring and pole;
  • Electrocution as a result of faulty and negligent electrical work;
  • Missing safety lines separating the shallow end from the deep end;
  • Unclear or murky water;
  • Over-crowded pool;
  • Failure to remove all ladders and steps from an above-ground pool when not in use.

If you or a loved one has been injured as a result of a swimming pool accident or has suffered a wrongful death, the swimming pool accident lawyers at Sousa & Sousa can help you recover the compensation you deserve. We have a wealth of experience dealing with complex swimming pool accident cases and have helped numerous victims throughout Massachusetts. Our firm practices only personal injury law and is committed to defending the rights of parties injured or the negligence of others. We know swimming pool accidents and drownings are traumatic and we are here to provide you with the highest quality legal representation. For a free consultation, call our Brockton/Easton office at 508-230-5300 contact us online. We handle these cases on a contingent fee basis, which means you do not pay us a fee unless we are successful. Home and hospital appointments are available.