Back to the Basics: Swimming Pool Safety in Texas
September 12th, 2017
Never Leave A Child Unsupervised Around Water
Drowning statistics are eye-opening. According to the Texas Department of Family and Protective Services:
- Drowning is the leading cause of accidental death for children under five.
- Drowning can happen in almost any amount of water – this year children have drowned in septic tanks, lakes, bathtubs, ponds, bays, pools (apartment, backyard, community, hotel/motel), marina, beach, stock tank and culvert.
Texas Premises Owner Obligations
In Texas, a premises owner owes a social guest the duty to exercise ordinary care that is the degree of care that would be used by an owner of ordinary prudence under the same or similar circumstances. If someone drowns because the premises owner failed to exercise ordinary care, he or she may be found liable for damages – under premises liability and negligence theories.
Some premises owners and operators maintain swimming pools without monitoring them with personnel such as lifeguards or staff. Common facilities with unguarded pools are apartment complexes and hotels. These aquatic facilities are subject to additional laws and regulations surrounding their obligations to their social guests. For example:
The Texas Health and Safety Code subjects apartment complexes and property owners association to detailed requirements for surrounding enclosures – fences and enclosures around pools – including gates, doors and methods of access.
- The Texas Administrative Code further regulates standards for water clarity, placement of float lines, depth markers, “no diving” warnings, “no lifeguard” signs, telephone requirements and placement, and alternate signs in foreign languages requirement. Lastly, local municipal ordinances also may apply.
- Facilities with lifeguards on duty, such as amusement parks, summer camps, schools and community associations, are subjected to additional regulations and have the responsibility to prevent potentially hazardous situations, watching people and responding to emergencies.
Failure to follow state or local safety ordinances regulating public and semi-public pools can constitute negligence per se. Violations of standards set forth in the Texas Health and Safety Code or state regulations could be considered negligence per se in the event of a drowning death. The injured party recovers actual damages, punitive damages and attorney’s fees.
Some common examples of negligent supervision at aquatic facilities with lifeguards on duty are:
- Failure to properly supervise lifeguards;
- Failure of lifeguard to properly monitor the swimmers;
- Failure to prevent excessive or dangerous horseplay resulting in injury to another child;
- Failure of the premises owner to properly train lifeguard as to specific facility; and
- Failure to properly respond in a timely fashion and administer the appropriate life saving techniques.
Get Legal Advice
If your child has suffered an injury at a swimming pool, the owner of the pool may be liable for any injuries that occur as the result of either lifeguard inattention or defects in or around the pool. But navigating the legal waters can be difficult unless you know the applicable statutes and codes to your specific jurisdiction and situation. Many personal injury attorneys, like our office, offer a free no obligation consultation. Don’t be afraid to seek help.
Paul Cannon has practiced personal injury trial law since 1995. He is Board Certified in Personal Injury Trial Law (2005). He has earned recognition as a Super Lawyer by Thompson Reuters in 2017 & 2018, and as a Top 100 Trial Lawyer by the National Trial Lawyers Association in 2017. He is a Shareholder, trial lawyer and online marketing manager at Simmons and Fletcher, P.C. His legal writings have been published by the Texas Bar Journal, Business.com, Lawyer.com HG Legal Resources, Lawfirms.com, and others. He has been asked to give education talks and media interviews on dog bite law.