One of the biggest concerns about owning a pool, whether it belongs to an individual at a private residence or is located at a club, apartment complex, or any other setting, will be the chance of liability. The moment someone owns a pool, they are taking on that possibility of liability. This doesn’t mean that every single injury around a pool automatically makes the owner liable. However, if you have been injured at someone else’s swimming pool, then you will need to learn more about premises liability and what it could mean for you.
What Is Premises Liability?
Premises liability refers specifically to a set of laws that govern certain types of personal injury cases. These laws determine if there is someone responsible for an injury on properties and who that responsible party is. Every state does have different laws about premises liability, so hiring an attorney who is local to you will ensure you have the best chance of collecting damages for your injury.
The first thing that premises liability will define is the type of entrant you are to the land or property. There are essentially three different types:
If you are a licensee or invitee, then there is a certain degree of care expected. For example, if you go to a public pool, then you are an invitee and if you go to someone’s pool and they asked you to come, then you are a licensee. In these cases, the owner of the pool is expected to maintain a certain level of safety on the property through proper upkeep and pool maintenance. The owner also has a “duty to warn” that there could be dangerous conditions in a swimming pool.
If you were a trespasser, meaning you were not invited and were not supposed to be there, then the owner of the pool is not liable for your injury. However, there is one big exception to this rule. It does not apply if the trespasser is a child.
Cases with children trespassers are different because of the Attractive Nuisance Doctrine. This means that pool owners always have the obligation to make sure pools are safe from a child who may not understand that there is danger in drowning. This includes fencing off the pool or otherwise making it inaccessible to children. The Attractive Nuisance Doctrine has not been adopted by all states, so, you will need to learn more about the law in your own state if your child is injured in someone else’s swimming pool.
How Swimming Pool Liability Works
Premises liability when it comes to swimming pools does have some limitations. Certain possible hazards are considered obvious and would not make the pool owner responsible. This includes a person diving off an inappropriate place at the pool. Another would be slippery surfaces around the pool itself due to water being splashed. You likely will not be able to sue for damages if you slip and fall while walking right next to the pool itself.
However, there are plenty of situations where premises liability would apply for personal injury cases, including the following:
• If it is not obvious that a pool is shallow and not suitable for diving and you are injured because of this, then the owner is liable.
• If there are hidden obstructions in or around the pool and you are injured, then the owner is liable.
• If emergency safety equipment is not provided (in the case of public pools), then the owner is liable.
• Also in the instance of public pools, lack of adequate supervision could make the owner liable.
• If the pool is left in disrepair, or the ladders, diving boards or drains are, then this could hold the owner liable.
There is also one exception to this. If the public pool belongs to a government entity, then it will be protected from lawsuits. That is due to the Doctrine of Government Immunity, which applies in most states.
People who own a swimming pool will not always be responsible for injuries. For example, if you did something intentionally to hurt yourself, then you won’t have a case. This is why it is so important to prove fault and ensure that someone else’s negligence or intentional act led to your injury and subsequent need for damages.
On the other side of this topic, if the owner of the pool actually committed an intentional act that hurt you (they weren’t negligent; they did something specific to injure you), then this may not fall under premises liability, but even possibly under criminal law. For example, if the owner of the pool holds you down underwater and you are hurt, then you could actually have an assault charge against them.
Personal responsibility and intentional acts will play a big part in how cases are handled, specifically when it comes to swimming pools and premises liability. In those intentional cases, premises liability no longer matters, but standard intentional tort and negligence laws will come into play. Again, this is why it is so important to have an experienced attorney on your side. The laws can be confusing to navigate.
Swimming pool injuries are unique in that they can fall under different laws. Sometimes, you could be injured and you will not have a case against the pool owner at all. Remember, if you do have a case, it may be handled in different ways. Most of the time, the situation will fall under premises liability. However, in some situations, intentional torts or negligence laws will come into play.
As long as you didn’t trespass and the cause of your injury was not obvious to you beforehand, then you could bring a civil suit against the owner of the pool. And, the results of the civil suit could include damages for medical bills, lost wages, and pain and suffering as well. The actual amount of the damages will depend on the extent of the injury, the possibility of settlement, whether or not the case goes before a jury, and many other factors.