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Accidental Drowning: Leading Cause of Death Among Infants and Toddlers

Earlier this month, a two-year-old girl was found face down in her family’s swimming pool. The Miami Herald reports that the little girl was taken immediately to St. Petersburg hospital where she died two days later. Cause of death: Accidental drowning.

Just last week, another two-year-old was found face-down in the pool located behind the home where he attended day care. Despite the efforts of a neighbor, who performed CPR on the child, was pronounced dead when he arrived at the hospital. Cause of death: Accidental drowning.

The Statistics
If you think you picked up on a pattern, it’s because there is one. The leading cause of death in Florida for children aged 1-4 is drowning. A tragic twenty-six percent of deaths among that age range are caused by drowning. Across the nation, there are an estimated 5,000 children hospitalized annually due to accidental-drowning related injuries. Fifteen percent of these children hospitalized will not survive. Twenty percent will suffer permanent neurological disability as a result.

Lawmakers Doing Their Part
While many accidental drowning deaths occur at lakes and in the ocean, a substantial number occur in privately owned swimming pools. This is what prompted the Florida Legislature to enact what is known as the Residential Swimming Pool Safety Act back in 2000.

The Act was designed to make newly constructed pools safer for young children. To accomplish this goal, the Act requires that any pool constructed after the year 2000 have at least one of the four following safety features:

– An approved pool cover;
– A fence around the pool (at least four feet tall);
– Exit alarms equipped on all exterior doors and windows; or – Installation of self-closing, self-latching doors at all exits
The Act goes on to explain that any pool owner who does not implement one of the listed safety measures is guilty of a second-degree misdemeanor if they fail to install a safety-device within 45 days of being cited. The pool owner will also be required to take a drowning prevention education program.

The Legal Effect
Potentially more interesting than the state-imposed penalty for non-compliance is the effect the Act has on civil lawsuits arising out of drowning deaths occurring in private pools. When someone seeks recovery for the drowning death of a loved one, the law generally requires that person prove that the pool owner negligently maintained the premises, and that such negligence resulted in the death of their family member. The fact that a pool does not have one of the required safety features means that the pool does not comply with the requirements of the law. This might be some evidence of negligence, making recovery easier for the victim’s family.

If your family has suffered through the devastation of an accidental-drowning incident, and you believe that it may have been due to someone else’s negligence give one of our experienced accident attorneys a call
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