The scenario is far too common as warm weather starts to hit Florida—rescue units are called to a residential pool in an effort to save a child who has been pulled from the water and is unresponsive. Paramedics do their best to revive the child, but either they are unsuccessful or the child is revived only to discover that he or she has suffered severe brain injury due to the near-drowning.
Children and Swimming Pool Accidents
According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), drowning is a leading cause of death for children 1-4 years old, and the fifth leading cause of accidental death for people of all ages. Swimming pools pose a particularly great risk for young children and data shows that for every child under 15 who drowns, another 10 receive emergency treatment for near-drowning accidents.
Nationally, the highest rates of drowning incidents occur in very young children. Drowning victims are significantly more likely to be male. Other high risk groups include African Americans, American Indians, and Native Alaskans. The racial differences noted in drowning incidents are related to several factors, including access to swimming lessons, and other social and cultural issues.
The pool drowning rate in any area corresponds to the number of swimming pools in the area. Swimming pool deaths are higher in the South and West than in the Northeast and Midwest. Florida has one of the highest rates of swimming pool drowning deaths.
Frighteningly, most childhood drowning deaths happen within five minutes of the child disappearing from the care of an adult.
Swimming Pool Child Safety Tips
The Florida Department of Children and Families (DCF) recently issued a warning about swimming pool risks and offered several safety tips to protect children from the risk of drowning. DCF made recommendations about fencing, supervision, swimming lessons, and life jackets.
Section 515.19 of the Florida Statutes requires that all residential swimming pools be surrounded by a barrier that is at least 4 feet high and completely separates the pool from the house and yard. The barrier must have a self-closing and self-latching gate that opens outward, with a latch that is out of reach of children. While not required by statute, a pool alarm is recommendable.
Swimming lessons are essential for all children and they reduce the risk of childhood drowning by up to 88 percent. The American Academy of Pediatrics approves swimming lessons for children as young as 1 year old.
Because drowning can happen very quickly and very quietly, children should always be supervised when they are swimming, even if they have had swimming lessons. Adults should also avoid being distracted while they are supervising, including multi-tasking in activities such as reading, texting or talking on the phone, or mowing the lawn.
Inexperienced swimmers may benefit from wearing a properly fitting life jacket. Life jackets should be differentiated from pool toys, including water wings, noodles, inner tubes or air mattresses.
Drowning Disabilities And The Cost Of Care For Those Who Survive Drowning Accidents
The main disability caused by a near drowning is brain injury because the brain experiences hypoxemia (lack of oxygen). Other potential disabilities include lung damage or possibly spinal cord injury, depending on whether there was compression of the spinal column when the victim entered the pool.
Aside from the emotional trauma of having a child drown or nearly drown, there are very real financial costs associated with drowning-related disabilities. According to one source, typical medical costs for a near-drowning victim can range from $75,000 for initial emergency room treatment to $180,000/year for long term care. If a near drowning results in brain damage, the cost can be more than $4.5 million over a lifetime.
If someone you care for has been injured after nearly drowning, or has died in a swimming pool related accident in the Tallahassee area, please contact the Law Firm of Fasig & Brooks toll-free at (850) 222-3232. We are experienced in personal injury law and we can help you maximize any financial recovery to which you are entitled.