It's normal for young children and even teenagers to see swimming pools as exciting and fun-packed environments where they can spend their summer days. However, as parents to these same children and teenagers, adults understand that pools can also be quite dangerous if not outright deadly to their loved ones.
We often find comfort in knowing that a professionally-trained lifeguard will be present to supervise our children while they're at the pool. But what happens when these hired supervisors are negligent in their job duties and a loved one drowns while under their watch? Our drowning accident lawyers discuss below.
Prior to being hired, lifeguards are required to achieve specific certifications that ensure they have the mental and physical aptitude necessary to respond to water emergencies in an effective manner. Moreover, this training is also supposed to teach lifeguards how to prevent said emergencies in the first place by mitigating hazards, whatever they may be.
Regrettably, lifeguards aren't paid very well. In fact, the average hourly wage for a lifeguard in the US hovers right around $10/hour. This means that lifeguard positions are often filled with younger candidates - the average age of a lifeguard in the US is 23 years old.
These two factors add up to lifeguards who may not be too enthusiastic about their duties, maybe because they're not making a ton of money or possibly because they're not experienced enough to comprehend how important their supervision is in preserving the lives of swimmers under their care.
Nevertheless, these circumstances do not relieve lifeguards from the established duty of care that they owe to the pool and beach-goers that they look over. So, what does lifeguard negligence actually look like when it happens?
As discussed above, lifeguards may carry out their duties poorly for a variety of reasons, none of which excuse the fact that when a lifeguard doesn't perform adequately, lives are changed in tragic ways. Next, we've expanded on some clear examples of lifeguard negligence.
Swimming pools and beaches can become significantly crowded during the peak of the season. For the lifeguard tasked with ensuring that each and every one of those swimmers is safe, it can seem like an overwhelming responsibility. However, it is their job to do so.
Making this job duty even more difficult are the countless distractions that can take the lifeguard's attention away from the swimmers. Whether the lifeguard is distracted by a phone, or if they had to take a bathroom break and were not replaced by a colleague, or if a swimmer struck up a conversation, all of these circumstances are truly irrelevant. Any time the attention of a lifeguard is directed at anything other than keeping swimmers safe from drowning, it can be said that they are acting negligently.
If someone drowns at the beach or in a swimming pool because the lifeguard was distracted, no matter the source of the distraction, the victim's surviving family members can fight to hold the lifeguard and their employer liable for the wrongful death.
A lifeguard's training will teach them to react swiftly to emergency situations. Indeed, fractions of a second can make the difference between life and death for a drowning victim.
However, the speed at which a lifeguard responds is irrelevant if they are not able to implement the proper life-saving measures that they were taught. If a lifeguard is delayed in responding to an emergency because they 'froze up' when under pressure or because they forgot their training in the most crucial time, then they could be found negligent.
During certification courses, lifeguards are explicitly trained to respond effectively in high-stress situations such as drownings and other water emergencies that they can expect to encounter in their line of work. As a result, most lifeguards are able to adequately implement their skills to save lives and minimize injury. However, when they are unable to do so, it can lead to a permanent disability of the victim in the best case or death in the worst.
When a lifeguard's negligence results in death and a victim's family choose to take legal action by filing a drowning lawsuit, there are no winners. However, it is this kind of aggressive and stern legal action that can help those most affected by these preventable losses to find closure and, perhaps more importantly, it can ensure that such calamities are avoided in the future.