Drowning Accident Attorneys in New York

a life preserver floating in the pool

Drowning accidents can occur in natural bodies of water, swimming pools, hot tubs, or even in the bath. A drowning victim can die within five minutes of submersion and a small child may drown in less than two inches of water. In addition to drownings, a near drowning can cause permanent brain damage and disability.

In many cases, drownings and near-drowning accidents are caused by the negligence of another or involve strict liability on another’s behalf. This may involve an individual homeowner, amusement park, resort, country club, hotel or motel, county, municipal or state park, or other organization. In cases of severe injury or death caused by a property owner’s negligence, the injured person or their family members can obtain compensation for their losses.

Pursuing a lawsuit will depend on the causes and circumstances of the accident, and a New York City personal injury lawyer can help you determine what will be best for your case. If you have suffered from the aftermath of a drowning or near-drowning accident, Hecht Kleeger & Damashek, P.C. can advise you of your options for pursuing a legal claim.

Where and How New York Residents Drown in Accidents

There are over 7,400 public swimming pools and 1,300 public bathing beaches operated in New York State. Millions of patrons visit these swimming facilities each year. In addition, there are thousands more pools and hot tubs at private residences and private clubs across the state.

The New York Department of Health reports 171 drownings at swimming pools and beaches regulated by local governments from 1987 to 2010. Thirty-five of these drowning deaths occurred in New York City. Drownings averaged about seven a year and were evenly split between pools and beaches. The figures do not include intentional drownings and those related to motor vehicle accidents.

Drownings occurred at many places, including:

  • Aquatic amusement parks
  • Municipal pools
  • Apartment complexes
  • Health clubs
  • YMCAs
  • Schools
  • Spas
  • Mobile home parks
  • Homeowner association pools
  • Pools operated by NYS Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation, and Department of Environmental Conservation
  • Children’s camps (day and overnight)
  • Hotels
  • Motels
  • Campgrounds
  • Bungalow colonies.

There are more drownings in pools, but beaches have a much higher average drowning rate than pools, the NYS Department of Health says. Possible factors include a greater number of bathers, water clarity, currents, depths and bottom conditions. As expected, more drownings occur during summer months when outdoor swimming facilities are open.

Most drowning victims are male and between the ages of 11 and 25 years old. Boys and young men are more likely to take risks and overestimate their swimming ability.

In 52 percent of drownings at regulated facilities, supervision of the injured swimmer was seen as a contributing factor in the accident.

Many drowning incidents (133 of the 171) occurred at facilities that had lifeguards. In such cases, swimmers and bathers drowned because of:

  • Inadequate number of qualified lifeguards
  • Improper positioning of lifeguards
  • Lifeguards were distracted/did not recognize occurrence of accident
  • Insufficient adult supervision of swimmers (parent/guardian, counselor, etc.)
  • Lack of or improper buddy system.

Drowning is the fifth-leading cause of unintentional injury death in the United States, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. About 10 people, including two children age 14 or younger, die every day in an unintentional drowning.

In addition to the contributing factors cited by the NYS Department of Health, the CDC says the lack of barriers around pools leads to accidental deaths, particularly among young victims. Pool fencing should be in place around any pool to prevent young children from gaining access. A lack of fencing or enclosure around a pool may make the property owner legally liable after a drowning accident or near drowning.

Swimming pool drains are another swimming pool hazard that are of particular risk to children. Defective or improperly installed drains can create a suction force that entrap small or lightweight swimmers. Swimmers who manage to escape or are rescued may suffer bowel and other soft tissue injury.

Negligence At Pools, Oceans and Lakes

Swimming pools and beaches of all kinds in New York State are highly regulated as to their installation and operation, including requirements for safety features and adequate supervision of bathers. Homeowners and owners of hotels, motels, waterparks and camps may be liable for injuries that occur in swimming pools on their property if they have neglected their duty to safeguard or supervise a pool.

Pools and other water features at private homes are sometimes referred to as attractive nuisances because of their appeal to curious children who cannot recognize their danger. Even when a homeowner has secured their swimming pool and told children to stay away, they can be held accountable in some cases if a child has been injured in their pool.

Negligence in a drowning accident case may take the form of:

  • Improperly enclosed (safeguarded) swimming areas
  • Inadequate warning signs
  • Negligent or inadequate lifeguards
  • Inadequate or defective lifesaving equipment
  • Uncovered hot tubs
  • Defective or unmaintained pool drains resulting in entrapment
  • Defective products such as pool toys or floatation devices.

To be successful, a claim against a swimming pool owner or the operator of a swimming beach must prove that the property owner failed to meet their responsibility for keeping their pool, swimming area and/or its users safe, and that someone drowned or suffered a near-drowning accident as a direct result of that negligence. The personal injury attorneys at Hecht Kleeger & Damashek can help you compile evidence to support such a claim.

It is important to understand that compensation obtained in a drowning or near-drowning lawsuit almost always comes from liability insurance, including homeowners’ insurance in cases involving residential pools. An aggrieved family should not be reluctant to seek money they are due and need from the insurance of a friend, neighbor or family member.

Contact Our New York City Injury Attorneys after a Drowning Accident

At Hecht Kleeger & Damashek, P.C., we are sensitive to the fact that the time following a drowning accident is very difficult, and that taking legal action may be the last thing on your mind. It is, however, important to act as soon as possible. The more time that passes, the more important evidence may be lost, memories of witnesses may fade and your ability to obtain damages may otherwise be impaired.

Contact Hecht Kleeger & Damashek today for a free legal consultation about your potential drowning accident claim. We are dedicated to helping you and your family, and can take on your legal fight for you while you spend your time and energy on recovering.