It’s difficult to imagine a Florida home without a swimming pool. Since many houses have pools, the likelihood of water accidents rises dramatically. Having a pool unfortunately means additional responsibilities for homeowners, and there are laws by which they must abide.
Drowning is still a leading cause of death for children aged 1-4 years old, varying among the top 5 depending on where you are in the world. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention find that three children lose their lives every day, and even if deaths don’t occur, near-drowning incidents can result in life-altering injuries. Florida is among the top-5 states for drowning deaths.
Florida Injury Statutes of Limitations
If you are considering bringing a swimming pool liability case in Florida, understand you must do so within a set limit of time—the “statute of limitations.”
Victims sustaining an injury in a swimming pool accident have four years from the date of the accident to file suit. If a victim dies during the accident, relatives have only two years to bring a wrongful death suit.
Any lawsuits outside of these statutes of limitations will be dismissed.
Further, waiting too long before filing a suit brings the severity of your injuries under question. It is important to act as soon as possible if you determine it’s appropriate to seek damages.
Determining Liability for Florida Swimming Pool Accidents
The owners of both public and private swimming pools carry a heavy legal burden. They are not automatically liable for injuries sustained on their premises but have to adhere to much stricter rules than other types of property owners.
Because a pool is considered part of a person’s property, premises liability rules apply to swimming pool injuries. Under premises liability, there are three types of entrants, with varying duties of care:
An invitee is a patron of a public pool, and pool owners owe the greatest duty of care to invitees. Owners are required by law to maintain and repair the pool to prevent injuries to invitees. In public pools, the owners are also obligated to do the following:
- Provide supervision
- Provide adequate emergency equipment
- Maintain the pool and surrounding areas
- Post adequate signage for the pool
- Post warnings regarding pool hazards
A licensee is a guest on private property that was invited by the homeowner. The homeowner is obligated to warn licensees of any hazards that are not obvious to a reasonable individual, but their level of liability isn’t as high as that of a public pool owner.
A trespasser does not have permission to be on the property or in the pool. Therefore, a pool owner does not owe a duty of care to this type of entrant—unless the trespasser is a child, as we cover below.
To establish liability in a private pool, the victim must prove that the risk that caused the injury was not an obvious hazard and that the injuries were not a result of the victim’s own negligent behavior.
RSPSA and Florida’s Attractive Nuisance Doctrine
Florida has a law called the Residential Swimming Pool Safety Act (RSPSA), under which a property owner can be held negligent for failing to protect frail adults and children with at least one pool safety feature.
Injured plaintiffs will only have to prove negligence per se, meaning that the homeowner’s negligence caused injuries—not that he or she had a duty and breached it. The plaintiff just has to show the results.
Some of these results can be included under the doctrine of “attractive nuisance.” Circling back to children trespassing, the law considers children too young to understand the risk of drowning. Therefore, Florida law holds property owners liable for maintaining an “attractive nuisance”—an object on a property that makes children curious and drawn to the property, including swimming pools.
Property owners are obligated to take extra precautions to keep children away from swimming pools. Ideally, it is fenced on all four sides with a child-proof gate. Otherwise, the pool must be properly covered when not in use, or alarms for all doors and windows directly accessing the pool must be installed.
Under RSPSA, pool owners need to take active steps to cordon off their pools. This means that at the very least, all residential pools, spas, and hot tubs must have one or more of the following:
- Pool cover
- Four-foot barrier around the entire pool
- Pool entrance with self-closing and self-locking mechanism
- Alarm for all doors and windows with direct access to the pool area
Ultimately, both homeowners and public pool operators have an obligation to provide a reasonably safe environment and to protect pool users from unreasonable hazards.
If you or a loved one has suffered a pool injury, and feel it was due to a breach of duty, you may have grounds to seek damages under the guidance of a Florida personal injury attorney. Please call Miller Trial Law today at (305) 697-8312 for a free, no-risk consultation. We look forward to serving you!