Seattle Drowning Accident Attorney
Drowning & Near Drowning Injury Lawsuits
Drowning and near drowning accidents can occur anywhere a few inches of water have accumulated. They can happen in obviously dangerous environments like rivers or oceans, and in more innocuous places like a bathtub, Jacuzzi, backyard swimming pool, or even a koi pond. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), approximately 3,500 Americans drown every year (about 10 per day), many of them children.
In fact, drowning is the leading cause of accidental death in children four and under, and the second leading cause of accidental death for children 14 and under. The CDC also states that, for every child that drowns, another five are treated at emergency rooms for near drowning injuries. The incidence of drowning and near drowning accidents is expected to increase as more American homes are having pools and/or hot tubs installed.
If a loved one has drowned or suffered near drowning injuries, there's a good chance that a certain degree of negligence was involved. In such a case, you and your family may have grounds for filing a civil suit against the liable party or parties. To find out if you have a viable claim and how much compensation you can seek, it is important that you consult a skilled Seattle personal injury attorney. The legal team at the Washington State offices of Hardwick & Pendergast, P.S. has been successfully representing injury victims and their families for over four decades. Let them put their considerable knowledge and experience behind your claim, so that you can get the settlement you deserve. Call (888) 228-3860 today for a free consultation.
Liability in a Drowning or Near Drowning Accident in Seattle
Who can be held liable in a drowning or near drowning accident depends on the circumstances surrounding the accident, and can include any of the following parties:
- Manufacturers of recreational equipment around a body of water (docks, diving boards, boats, etc.)
- Manufacturers of swimming pools and pool components (drains, covers, etc.)
- Retailers, distributors, and installers of swimming pools
- Property owners
- Hotel, apartment, and resort owners
- Private companies (fishing and rafting guide companies, scuba diving schools, etc.)
- School districts
- Supervisory personnel
- Private club employees
- Caretakers of infants, youths, and the elderly
Examples of Liability in Various Situations
A homeowners' association owns a beach with a long dock. A young man dives off the end of the dock into water that is only three feet deep. He hits his head, is knocked unconscious, and drowns. The property owners, dock manufacturer, and dock installer could be held partially liable if there were no gates, warning signs, or depth markers.
A homeowner has contracted a pool maintenance person to service his pool on a weekly basis. On one occasion, the pool maintenance person leaves a gate to the backyard open when he leaves. A 12-year-old neighbor child finds the gate open, falls in the pool, and nearly drowns before he's rescued. As a result, he suffers brain damage that will affect him for the rest of his life. The homeowner, the pool maintenance person, and the company that employed them could be held partially responsible for the accident.
This instance would fall under the "attractive nuisance" doctrine of premises liability law. Under this law, a property owner can be held responsible if there is an attractive nuisance on their property - such as a swimming pool - that could reasonably attract children onto the property.
When there is no fence or gate surrounding the pool to prevent children from entering the swimming pool, the property owner could be held responsible, even if the child was trespassing at the time.
In this instance, even though there was a gate, it would be the property owner’s responsibility to make sure it was closed at all times, but the pool maintenance company would also have a responsibility to leave the property in the condition they found it, which could mean closing the gate behind them, if the gate had been closed when they arrived.
A three-year-old child is playing in his backyard, under his mother's supervision. The doorbell rings and his mother goes to answer the door. In the minute or so his mother is gone, the boy falls into the family swimming pool and drowns. A jury may decide that the pool manufacturer was partially responsible for the death, because it had not adequately informed the pool owner of precautions and safety features that could have prevented the drowning. This is a legal principle known as "superior knowledge." Had the family known what the pool manufacturer knew, the accident could have been prevented.
The role of lifeguards comes into play often in drowning and near-drowning incidents. In Seattle, lifeguards are required to have certain certifications in place before they can perform lifeguard duties. Those certifications must come from a recognized lifeguard certifying agency such as the American Red Cross, the YMCA, or the Lifesaving Society.
When lifeguards are on duty and make mistakes or fail to properly protect swimmers in the area, and a swimmer ends up injured due to those mistakes, the lifeguard can be held personally liable. However, this does not mean that everything that happens to swimmers under a lifeguard’s care is necessarily the lifeguard’s fault.
For example, if a swimmer is walking on the pool deck, slips, and hits their head on the concrete, the lifeguard is likely not to blame for this and would not be found liable. If, however, the lifeguard did not examine the swimmer after their fall and treat them if necessary, the lifeguard could then be found negligent because they have a duty to protect those in their care, and that negligent act would be breaching that duty.
In this instance, the injured swimmer or their loved ones may file a personal injury lawsuit directly against the lifeguard and hold them liable.
If it can be proven that the owner of the swimming pool, water park, summer camp, or other facility knew that the lifeguard on duty was unfit to properly do their job, that owner can also be held responsible. When the owner has failed to properly train the lifeguard, or to provide them with the proper equipment to do their job, that owner can also be held responsible and therefore, liable for paying compensation to the injured parties.
There are many gorgeous lakes in and around Seattle, and most of them have outlets right on their shores, allowing tourists and residents to rent boats for hours at a time. Most of the time, these boats are used responsibly, but when the driver has been drinking and becomes intoxicated, or acts negligently, this can cause serious boat accidents.
Boats driven irresponsibly can crash into other boats, or even people, in the area. When this happens, drowning and near-drowning accidents can occur. Very aggressive driving or steering of the boat, like jumping large waves or going too fast, can make the passengers on the boat fall into the water, causing a drowning or near-drowning accident.
Compensation for Damages in a Near Drowning Accident
Near drowning accidents can be devastating and life altering for a victim and their extended family. The extent of near drowning accident injuries depends on how long the victim was under water, what the temperature of the water was, and how much water was aspirated. Near drowning accidents can result in lung complications like pneumonia and acute respiratory stress syndrome, and brain damage from lack of oxygen. If a loved one has suffered near drowning injuries, you and your family may be entitled to compensation for any of the following damages:
- Current medical bills
- Future medical bills related to the initial injury
- Pain and suffering
- Costs of hiring in home care
- Household and vehicle modifications and equipment needed for in home care
- Mental anguish and emotional trauma
- Permanent injury or disability
- Costs of special schooling for the victim if needed
- Costs of institutionalization of the victim if necessary
- Lost wages if a family member has to quit work or work less hours to care for the victim
- Loss of joy of life of the victim if their injury prevents them from partaking in activities they previously enjoyed
What Compensation Is Available for Wrongful Death Damages in Washington?
In the tragic event that you lost a loved one in a drowning accident, you and your family may be entitled to compensation for the following wrongful death damages:
- Funeral and burial expenses
- Medical bills
- Pain and suffering of the deceased before they died
- Loss of future income
- Loss of future benefits, such as medical benefits and retirement benefits
- Loss of love, affection, companionship, guidance, consortium, etc.
- Loss of household services the deceased performed, such as childcare, bookkeeping, chores, vehicle and property maintenance, etc.
Our Seattle Drowning Accident Lawyers Represent the Injured
If a family member of yours has drowned or suffered near drowning injuries, you and your family's lives will never be the same. This is why you should be compensated by any parties who share responsibility for your loved one's accident. To get a settlement worthy of their injury and your losses, contact the Seattle wrongful death attorneys at Hardwick & Pendergast, P.S. Call (888) 228-3860 for a free case evaluation.