FLORIDA POOL DROWNINGS SKYROCKET SENDING ALARMS STATEWIDE
While pools are often the focal point of backyard Florida family fun, devastating pool injuries can occur without much notice to parents or homeowners. Florida law allows individuals (or their family) who have been injured in a recreational pool to pursue compensation from all at-fault parties if dangerous conditions contribute to the injury or death. In short, Florida law allows economic recovery for a victim if someone is to blame.
If your child suffers a serious injury in such a tragic event, contact an experienced Florida pool accident and drowning child injury lawyer at www.matassinilaw.com. A qualified child injury lawyer can help you understand Florida’s complex liability laws, uncover evidence that can support your claim, and negotiate with insurance lawyers for just compensation.
2021 – WORST YEAR IN HISTORY FOR POOL DROWNINGS?
What we know is that over the course of two weeks in July 2021, eight children drowned in the Tampa Bay region, the Department of Children and Families said — four in Polk County and one each in Hillsborough, Pinellas, Hernando, and Pasco counties. One child is too many.
More children drowned in Florida in 2021 than during any year on record, sending health authorities and parent advocates scrambling for new solutions to an old challenge in the Sunshine State.
Ninety-eight people 18 and under drowned during the year, the Florida Department of Children and Families reported — reversing a general trend of declining numbers that dates to the previous record of 92 deaths in 2010. Florida’s online records go back to 2009. The state did not respond to a request for numbers during previous years.
The year-over-year increase for 2021 was 42 percent. The state reported 69 child drowning deaths in 2020 and 65 in 2019.
Factoring in its status as the third-most-populous state, Florida ranks No. 4 nationwide in the rate of unintentional drownings among children ages 4 and under, as it has since 2017, according to the Florida Department of Health. The drowning rate for children 5-12 in Florida has also increased significantly during the past decade.
“It’s always swim season in Florida, so we always have to make sure that we never let our guard down,” said Casey McGovern, the former drowning prevention program manager for the Florida Department of Health in Broward County. McGovern recently left that position to start her own nonprofit advocacy group, called the McGovern Foundation, in memory of her 19-month-old daughter Edna Mae, who drowned in the family’s backyard pool in August 2009.
As numbers continued to rise across the state, McGovern and other members of Florida’s Child Abuse Death Review Committee held a conference near the end of 2021 to identify trends and possible explanations behind the spike.
The reasons were many, the committee said.
Nearly two years into the coronavirus pandemic, school closures forced more children to spend their days at home. Then came the summer months, when a brief lull in COVID-19 transmissions allowed for long-awaited pool parties and trips to Florida’s coastlines, rivers, and natural springs.
WHAT COMPENSATION CAN A FAMILY RECEIVE?
It is vital for the parent of an injured child to understand the kinds of damages for which they can be compensated. Standard personal injury claims, like those associated with pool accidents and drowning child injuries, typically deal with two categories of recoverable damages: economic and non-economic harms.
Possible examples of financial harm in pool catastrophes involving children include medical bills, the cost of medical equipment that must be added to the injured person’s home, and sometimes the estimated value lost as a result of the child missing future work opportunities. On the other hand, non-economic damages do not directly affect the family’s financial status and are much more subjective and harder to quantify. These damages may include the child’s physical pain and the mental trauma that follows.
In Florida, there is no limit to the amount someone can recover for these kinds of damages. To better understand their potential avenues for compensation, parents whose children were injured under these circumstances are advised to contact a local Florida lawyer with experience in pool drowning and injury cases.
WHAT LAW HOLDS PEOPLE AND BUSINESSES RESPONSIBLE?
Chapter 768 of Florida Statutes governs the law regarding negligence (holding someone at fault accountable). The definition of negligence is failing to exercise the degree of reasonable care expected of someone in order to minimize the risk of harm to another person. It serves as the legal basis for many personal injury cases, including car crashes, slip and falls, and pool injury cases.
According to Florida Statutes §768.81, the percentage of negligence attributed to an injured person directly affects the amount of compensation they can receive. Unlike some states, however, Florida still allows injured people to recover compensation for their damages if they are partially—or even primarily—responsible for a pool accident.
Whatever percentage of fault is assigned to the injured child or their parents by the court, that same percentage would be taken out of their potential compensation. For example, if a pool accident results in a significant drowning child injury and the family are found to be 20 percent liable for the accident, any compensation they received would be reduced by 20 percent as well. A pool accident and drowning child injury attorney in Florida can discuss how comparative fault may impact an individual plaintiff’s case.
WHAT MEASURES CAN BE TAKEN TO PREVENT A DROWNING?
Pool Fencing: Pool owners can install fences with a lock and self-closing gate to keep children away from the pool when an adult is not present.
Door Alarms: Installing door alarms can alert a parent or caregiver that an exterior door has been opened, especially if the door has access to any body of water like retention ponds, canals or even fountains.
Drain Containers: Young children can drown in as little as one inch of water. Ensure bathtubs, mop buckets and inflatable pools are drained after each use.
Adult Supervision: Always provide adult supervision for children in or around water. Children drown silently and in as little as 20 seconds. Designating a “water watcher” is a simple measure that ensures an adult is supervising children at all times when they are in or around water.
Swim Lessons: Enrolling children in formal swimming lessons reduces their lifetime chances of drowning by 88 percent.
Learn CPR: A drowning victim has a significantly increased chance of a positive outcome if CPR is started immediately versus waiting for first responders to arrive.
HIRE AN EXPERIENCED CHILD INJURY LAWYER TODAY
Since 1976, Matassini Law has been fighting for victims of Florida injuries to receive the just compensation they deserve. Let our family protect yours during this difficult time.
Nicholas M. Matassini and Nicholas G. Matassini are experienced child injury lawyers, and both are AV Rated by Martindale-Hubbell. Visit us www.matassinlaw.com.