Fairfax Injury Lawyer Brien Roche Addresses Drowning Cases

Brien Roche

Drowning is a reality that owners and operators of swimming facilities must be fully cognizant of. Owners and operators of Virginia area swimming pools and other swimming facilities, to the extent that they have safety personnel on site, need to be fully informed of what is sometimes called the Instinctive Drowning Response. Many people have the misperception that a drowning swimmer is necessarily going to be thrashing in the water attempting to stay afloat. That is frequently not the case.

Typical Behavior of Drowning Victims

  • Drowning people are generally physiologically unable to call out for help simply because their respiratory system is too busy trying to ingest air.
  • To the extent that the drowning person’s mouth is above the surface of the water, they are exhaling and inhaling as quickly as possible before their mouth sinks below the surface of the water.
  • A drowning person instinctively extends the arms to the side and presses down on the water’s surface in order to try to stay afloat.  That would prevent someone from waving for aid.
  • Most drowning people remain upright in the water and are unable to kick.

These very subtle signs of drowning are things that lifeguards and other attendants need to be aware of in order to properly serve patrons.

Factors To Consider In Drowning Cases

In analyzing swimming facility injuries there are a number of factors to be considered.State and local codes must be analyzed carefully to determine any and all requirements that may exist as far as:

  1. Fencing.
  2. The nature and characteristics of any gates.
  3. Any required life saving devices.
  4. The need for and qualifications of life guards.
  5. Pool maintenance requirements as far as water level, water clarity, condition of deck, etc.
  6. Design requirements for the pool such as depth markers, presence of protruding objects, use and location of diving boards or slides.

To the extent that either state or local codes do not cover these issues then there may be a need for expert testimony to establish the standard of care.

Diving Accidents

Diving accidents in swimming pools and other facilities have decreased dramatically over the years principally due to the enhanced awareness of the dangers associated with diving and the fact that many pools have removed their diving boards.

The general theories of liability may be premised on lack of appropriate depth markings, failure to construct or install the pool according to plans, improper matching of a diving board with a pool of suitable depth, the absence of proper signs, lack of lifeguards, inadequate lighting, and negligent rescue.

Some states have passed legislation that requires minimum diving depth in a variety of different pools.

Some standards that exist in the field are published by the National Spa and Pool Institute. In addition the NCAA and the Federation of International Amateur Swimming (FINA) has established certain standards for pools that accommodate diving.

Your typical backyard pool is no more than 20 feet by 40 feet . With a diving board in the deep end a tall person can easily strike bottom if not wary of the danger. Add to that the presence of alcohol and backyard pools become dangerous places.

Drowning From Rip Tides

Drowning from rip tides is a significant problem in many beaches across the United States.  The rip tide effect is essentially caused by a break in sandbars that are offshore allowing water that is washed on the shore side of the sandbar to then funnel through that break between two adjacent sandbars creating a suction effect drawing the swimmer out away from the shore.

Some indices of rip tides are an area of water in the surf that has a different color from the surrounding water, an irregularity in the incoming pattern of waves, or the existence of seaweed or debris that is moving out through the surf .

If caught in a rip tide, which is different from an undertow, the best defense is to swim slowly parallel to the shore or in the alternative to simply allow the rip tide to carry you out until it loses its momentum.  It will indeed lose its momentum and once it does you can swim back to the shore away from the rip tide area.

An undertow is generated by a drop off in depth of the water thereby resulting in receding waves falling into the canyon created by the changing depth.

See also the pages within this site dealing with premises liability.
For more information on drowning see the pages on Wikipedia.

Contact Us For A Free Consultation


Contact Us For A Free Consultation

Contact Us For A Free Consultation