Children and adults alike consider swimming a source of fun, recreation, and exercise. It is a great way to cool off in the summer and throughout the year can be a great way to stay in shape. However, water also carries the potential for deadly accidents. Every year, thousands of people in the U.S. drown in pools, the ocean, and other bodies of water. In some cases, these deaths are due to someone else's negligence. If you have a loved one that has died in a drowning accident, contact experienced Philadelphia personal injury attorneys who can help you seek compensation for your loss.
Drowning Accidents Background
Philadelphia has a number of locations where locals can recreate during the summer heat, send their kids to swim during school breaks or go fishing or paddling in lakes or rivers. Along with public and private pools, there are recreational activities along the Schuylkill, further up the Delaware has tubing and rafting opportunities, and the beaches of New Jersey, Delaware, and Maryland are not far away.
While most people don't think of swimming pools, rivers, lakes, or the ocean as a source of danger, the reality is that it only takes a small amount of water to get into a person's lungs before they can fall victim to a drowning accident. If water gets into the airway, the body may seize up the airway to prevent any additional water from getting into the lungs. The victim may go unconscious from the lack of oxygen and they can die within minutes.
Drowning can happen anywhere and to anyone. Drowning deaths occur when a single swimmer is floating around in the ocean or in a crowded public pool. Even the most experienced swimmers can have a moment of panic due to a cramp, large waves, sudden surge of current, or be pulled under by wet clothing. However, inexperienced swimmers and children may be much more susceptible to drowning accidents.
Most people think they could recognize a drowning child in time to act; however, drowning can look surprisingly like typical swimming behavior. Someone who is struggling to get above water may not be able to splash or wave for help, instead, they may look like someone calmly bobbing above and below the water. They may not have the ability to call out for help before slipping below the surface.
According to statistics from the Pennsylvania Department of Health, Philadelphians account for almost 20% of all drowning deaths in Pennsylvania. The highest rates of death by drowning involve children under 5 and those older than 75-years-old. In the U.S., there are almost 3,500 drowning deaths per year, amounting to almost ten deaths per day. One in five deaths involve children under the age of 14. However, not all drowning accidents result in death.
Many young people are hospitalized for nonfatal submersion injuries. More than 50% of drowning victims that go to the emergency department require hospitalization or transfer for further care. Nonfatal drowning accidents can lead to brain damage and lead to long-term disabilities including memory problems, loss of basic functioning, and learning disabilities.
Swimming Pool Accidents
Every summer, kids all over Philadelphia flock to swimming pools. Swimming pools provide a great way for kids to expel energy while escaping the summer heat. They help kids stay active and provide a place for them to interact with their peers and meet new friends. However, they are also responsible for a number of drowning accidents and swimming pool deaths.
According to statistics, the majority of childhood drowning accidents occur in swimming pools and spas. Most of these accidents occur during the warm weather of the summer months when pool use is at its peak. This includes private home pools, swimming pools at hotels and private resorts, and public swimming pools.
Factors which can increase the risk of pool accidents include the lack of adult supervision, lack of swimming experience, and lack of barriers to prevent young children from accessing swimming pools. Based on these factors, home swimming pools are among the most dangerous. Even if a homeowner is not using the pool or is not at home, neighborhood kids may try and get into the backyard to access the pool, which could result in a drowning accident.
Public pools usually have a lifeguard in place to help protect young swimmers from drowning. Additionally, public pools also offer separate swimming areas for smaller children and offer swimming lessons to improve swimming ability for new swimmers. While these may reduce the risk of drowning, public pools still have a number of drowning accidents every year. Especially when pools are crowded, a lifeguard may not be able to notice a swimmer struggling to stay above water.
Ocean, Lake, and River Drowning Accidents
Adults, teenagers, and children alike enjoy recreating at the beach or along area rivers and lakes. While most public beaches have lifeguards on duty, not all stretches of the shore are covered by guarded locations. Even where a lifeguard is on duty, busy beach days can make it difficult to notice struggling swimmers. On the summer weekends, Labor Day, Memorial Day, or on the 4th of July, beach attendance can swell. In addition to busy beaches, alcohol may also be a factor on these busy beach days.
Unlike swimming pools, beaches have additional hazards which may make them more dangerous, even for experienced swimmers. Many beach drownings involve rip currents, strong waves, and underwater hazards. A strong wave can knock down a large adult and a rip current can drag an excellent swimmer out to sea. Activities like surfing can result in a rider falling off and landing on their head or neck, causing them to go unconscious and drown underwater.
Tubing, kayaking, canoeing, and rafting are popular across much of Pennsylvania. Many people who engage in these activities are inexperienced swimming in water with strong currents. The water may look calm and slow; however, once away from the safety of a floatation device, a swimmer may be unable to return to shore.
Underwater hazards are also a problem in rivers and lakes, with sunken trees, rocks, and even submerged cars causing swimmers to get stuck, unable to free themselves. A cheap pool float or inflatable tube does not provide much protection against rocks, trees, and pieces of sharp metal. Without a floatation device, many swimmers struggle to stay afloat, especially with the large number of people who fail to wear floatation devices.
Boating and Drowning Accidents
Even on a boat, individuals may still fall victim to drowning accidents. Boating is a popular activity for many who enjoy fishing, water skiing, or just cruising up and down the water. According to the U.S. Coast Guard, over 600 people were killed in recreational boating activities in 2015. The vast majority of those deaths were by drowning, and 85% of those killed were not wearing personal floatation devices.
Alcohol and Drowning
A factor involved in many adult and teenager drowning deaths is alcohol. Like driving, drinking and swimming can increase the risk of drowning and other accidental injuries. Additionally, many people enjoy recreating near the water while drinking alcohol, especially on the weekends, during the summer, and over long holiday weekends. In some cases, parents, older siblings, or other adults provide alcohol to underage individuals, who have little experience in how much alcohol they can safely consume.
Alcohol can impact the central nervous system, cognitive thought process, and impairs physiological responses. Additionally, alcohol can lead to increased risk-taking behavior, leading individuals to do things they may not otherwise do. This may involve jumping into the water of unknown depth, swimming alone in areas without any supervision, or boating at dangerous speeds.
Drowning Accident Lawyers in Philadelphia
Drowning accidents are tragic and often result in death or permanent brain damage. Unfortunately, many drowning accidents can be prevented. Instead, the negligence of homeowners, pool owners, caregivers, or others may have contributed to the accident, leaving a family grieving the loss of a young child. When another person negligently caused a drowning accident, they should be held accountable for their actions.
While nothing can bring back a lost loved one, holding those accountable can help make sure these tragic accidents do not happen again. It can help to ensure businesses and property owners take safety seriously, by creating a safe environment for people to swim and play. A personal injury lawsuit or wrongful death claim can help recover medical expenses, lost support, and pain and suffering for the victims and their families.
If a loved one has died as a result of drowning in Philadelphia, the law firm of Gilman & Bedigian may be able to help. Our experienced personal injury attorneys have helped our clients navigate the complex legal process to fight for compensation for their families. We can help you through the difficult process and advocate on your behalf. Our attorneys have years of experience dealing with drowning accident cases throughout Philadelphia and the surrounding area. Contact us today for a free consultation.