With this weekend representing the unofficial kickoff to summer, many children are growing anxious for the end of school and the beginning of days by the beach or the pool. We want this summer to be filled with fun and laughter for the members of our Northwest Florida community, both the young and the young-at-heart. Making summer 2014 a happy one depends in large measure on making it a safe season. As the season kicks off, our Panama City child injury law firm looks at one critical aspect of summer safety – preventing accidental drownings.
While drowning can occur anytime of the year, vigilance is especially important in the hot summer months. According to a Consumer Products Safety Commission ("CPSC") news release, the United States saw at least 202 children aged 1 to 14 years drown between Memorial Day and Labor Day 2013. 143 of those victims were under the age of 5, a figure consistent with the fact that drowning is the top cause of accidental death for the 1-4 year age group (it moves to second for the 5-14 year range). Media reports placed Florida second only to Texas with 24 summer-season drownings involving children younger than 15, although the CPSC suggests the number may not include all of the actual fatalities.
The CPSC's Pool Safety campaign seeks to reduce the number of child drownings through education and information. Close supervision is key, meaning having someone specifically designated to supervise children in pool or spa areas. This person's sole duty should be supervision and the individual should not be texting, reading, listening to headphones, or otherwise distracted. Learning to perform CPR, including specific techniques for children, is also a wise move. Pools and spas should be in compliance with federal safety standards, including rules for drain covers. Fences and other child barriers are also critical, with Florida law requiring a four-foot high barrier around residential pools.
While it is not a substitute for supervision, children should be taught to swim. Notably, African-American children aged 5 to 19 years are 6 times more likely to drown in pool settings than white or Hispanic children of the same age. The CPSC cites additional other data showing that 70% of African American children cannot swim compared to 60% of Hispanic children and 40% of white children.
We would be remiss if we didn't note that unintentional drownings can occur at any time of year, impact people of all ages, and can happen in a wide-range of locations from pools to bathtubs, and even buckets. The Centers for Disease Control report that an average of 3,533 non-boating related fatal accidental drownings occurred annually in the 2005 through 2009 time frame. That works out to 10 people dying in unintentional drownings every day. Alcohol is a major factor in adolescent and adult water fatalities.
When drowning is the result of individual or company negligence, civil liability can be appropriate. Most civil drowning cases involve premises liability concepts, legal duties that are rooted in the responsibility of property owners to protect others (especially children) from known dangers. In other cases, negligence (ex. a pool club hiring untrained lifeguards) and product liability (ex. a defective drain trapping a child underwater) concepts can also apply.
If a person or organization contributed to the accidental drowning of your child or other loved one, call our office to arrange a free consultation. Our Panama City drowning injury lawyer represents injured people and grieving families, helping them to recover crucial money damages and reinforce important safety lessons that can prevent future tragedies.
Before we conclude today's post, we want to note that Memorial Day is much more than the kick-off to summer. It is also a day to remember and give thanks to the many brave people who gave their lives in service to our country. Our thanks go out to everyone who has served and to their families. Our freedoms are the product of your bravery.