With focus on spending quality time outside, few people consider the inherent risk that is associated with owning a pool or using one on a regular basis. This post contains things you need to know as a homeowner about personal liability for a pool, spa, and even natural landscape elements such as a pond or lakeside property
Summer is a time for fun, friends, and outdoor recreation. Nothing brings more joy than owning a pool, where you can invite family to spend quality time together. In fact, from 2008 to 2015, 22.93 million Americans surveyed owned a hot tub, spa, or pool, or were living in a home or residence that had a public pool.
With focus on spending quality time outside, few people consider the inherent risk that is associated with owning a pool or using one on a regular basis. Expert attorneys at JFSW law see cases of long-term disability and injuries associated with slip-and-fall, diving, and other pool-related activities.
What do you need to know as a homeowner about personal liability for a pool, spa, and even natural landscape elements such as a pond or lakeside property?
We will discuss the risks involved and the steps homeowners can take to reduce the prevalence of water-recreation accidents and legal liability issues, as a result of personal injury claims.
A Look at the Risk Factors
The World Health Organization (WHO) states that drowning is the leading cause of unintentional deaths in the world, accounting for an average of 372,000 deaths globally every year. When you consider the other aspects of accidental death, it is startling to realize that drowning is so prevalent, particularly since most drowning cases occur at home.
Did you know?
The number one cause of death of children between one and four years is drowning.
Seventy-six percent of American drowning deaths annually involve children under the age of five years.
Home swimming pools account for 75 percent of drowning deaths of children under the age of fifteen years. This includes the pool within the residence of the victim, a neighbor, or a family member’s residential property.
Portable pools (inflatable or plastic toddler pools) account for nine percent of drowning deaths. Toddler pools are typically shorter than 12” in height and less than six feet in overall width, placing children within arm’s reach for rescue.
Between 2011 and 2013, 4,900 Americans required emergency care for personal injuries that occurred in spas, hot tubs, and swimming pools.
An average of 10 Americans die every day from drowning.
When you begin to review the statistics, it changes the perspective on swimming pools as a leisure opportunity and paints the presence of a spa or pool as a very real threat. Part of the culture of owning a pool and entertaining is the consumption of alcohol, which can dramatically increase the risks associated with personal injury and drowning deaths. Alcohol and distraction are the top two contributing factors that place children at risk around any water source, including natural swimming areas, ornamental ponds, toddler pools, and bathtubs.
Reducing the Risk for Water Recreation at Your Residence
If you own a pool, what guidelines do you need to follow to not only protect your family and friends from injury, but also yourself from civil liability?
It is important to understand that most pool-related injuries actually occur when the home is vacant or the pool is empty. Family members or friends may access the pool (by permission of the owner) when no one is around or in off hours (early morning or evening swims). Swimming alone is never a good idea; and in addition to posting ‘At Own Risk’ signage on the pool and property, other warnings can be posted (and family members can be informed) that prohibit swimming with less than two people in the pool. While merely posting a sign does not absolve you from legal liability, it can help educate your guests on safe use.
Other steps that improve the safety of your pool, spa, or natural water features include:
The purchase of gap insurance to add additional coverage for accidents that occur on your property. A minimum of
million dollars in coverage is recommended.
Fencing pool and spa enclosures to reduce access. Locks should also be placed on gates and entranceways.
Ensure that life-saving equipment is present and accessible at all times.
Remove toys and floats from the pool when it is not in use to deter young children from reaching to retrieve them and falling in.
Never allow intoxicated individuals to swim in your pool or sit within your spa.
Lock boat houses and docks and restrict access if watercraft is present at the residence or vacation home.
Owning a pool is one of life’s great pleasures, but the liability associated for homeowners is absolute. Despite taking preventative steps, you and your family can be held responsible for the safety of guests and occupants occupying your deck, boat, pool, or spa. Responsible ownership can mean hiring a consultant to review the safety features of your pool to provide recommendations. It also means educating family and guests about safe pool practices to help reduce both accidents and legal liability.
Enjoy the special moments with your friends and family, but if you own a pool, remember your job is to always operate it with safety in mind.