Swimming Accidents: What Should You Do?
Swimming is a popular activity for all ages, indoors in the cooler months and outdoors in the warmer months. It is a great way to cool off, relax and have some fun. Unfortunately, swimming accidents including drowning happen in the pool, outside the swimming pool and in all depths of water – even mere inches. Knowing swimming safety can help prevent injuries.
Swimming Pool Drowning Deaths and Kids
Drowning is fast and silent and can happen in as little as 20 to 60 seconds.
- More children ages 1 to 4 die from drowning than any other cause of death, and for children ages 5 to 14, drowning is the second leading cause of unintentional injury death (after motor vehicle crashes).
- Every year in the U.S., there are an estimated 4,000 fatal unintentional drownings – that breaks down to an average of 11 drowning deaths per day – and 8,000 nonfatal drownings.
- For every child under 18 who dies from drowning, another seven receive emergency department care for nonfatal drowning.
- Most drownings in children ages 1 to 4, occur in swimming pools.
- 23% of child drownings happen during a family gathering near a pool.
Sources: CDC and Stop Drowning Now.
What leads to Swimming Accidents?
This is just a short list of what can lead to a swimming accident.
- Lack of swimming ability
- Lack of or improper barriers (such as fencing) around the pool
- Lack of close supervision
- Inadequately trained lifeguards
- Failure to wear a life jacket
- Alcohol consumption
- Ease of access to the pool area
- Poor maintenance of the pool and surrounding area
- Defective products (i.e., slides, ladders, diving boards)
- Chemicals used for pool water care
Swimming Accident Injuries
Non-fatal swimming injuries can be severe and result in long-term disabilities, memory problems and permanent disfigurement along with injuries such as:
- Traumatic Brain Injuries (TBIs), which occur when the brain is deprived of oxygen from being under water too long. They are also caused by blows to the head, resulting in brain swelling and loss of function.
- Spinal cord injuries (SCIs), which occur when vertebrae are cracked or shattered from diving into shallow water, hitting the side of the pool, or striking a diving board.
- Slip and fall injuries
- Broken or fractured bones
- Internal bleeding and/or damage to the organs
- Chemical burns
Think Swimming Safety
- Never drink alcohol while boating and swimming
- Always supervise children in and near water
- Require young children to wear a life jacket at all times in and near water
- Teach children water safety
- Do not allow children to swim near drains or suction outlets
- Always swim with a buddy
- Make sure pool fences completely separate the house and play area from the pool
- Use four-sided isolation fences with self-closing and self-latching gates
Enjoy your time at the pool or beach but never forget that drownings are a leading cause of injury death for young children ages one to 14. Adults can play a role in protecting children from drowning.
What Should You Do After a Swimming Accident?
As with any accident, the first priority is to obtain medical treatment for anyone who has been injured and ensure the safety of everyone else. Depending on the severity of the injuries, contact the police so that they can document the accident and take statements.
- Grab a camera and take pictures of where the accident occurred from as many different angles as possible. Pictures should include things such as warning signs, pool equipment, fences and gates and any pertinent evidence of the accident.
- Write down the names, addresses and contact information for any witnesses.
- Gather any evidence. This could include any defective products, for instance. Come to agreement on who will keep the evidence to ensure it does not accidentally get destroyed.
- Document, document, document! Memories tend to fade. Take the time to write down the details of the what happened. What do you recall? What was happening immediately prior to the accident? How did it occur? Who was involved? What do the witnesses recall about the accident?
- Keep copies of all documents related to the accident. That includes medical treatments, police reports and even any lost work time.
- Continue to seek medical treatment as advised for the recovery phase.
- Limit what you say and refrain from giving statements to anyone. Don’t post to social media. Best advice: speak with an attorney who will protect your legal rights, provide you with expert legal advice as to whether you have a personal injury case and guide you on next steps to take.
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Unfortunately, young children tend to be the victims in many swimming pool accidents, so it is important for you and your family to understand your legal options and obtain legal advice as soon as possible. Contact us for a free, no-obligation review of your case.
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Editor’s Note: This post was originally published June 20, 2019. It was reviewed on May 10, 2023 and updated for content and accuracy.