Unfortunately, South Florida's sunny climate is accompanied by a number of natural and man-made bodies of water that claim lives every day. Making matters worse--the victims are normally our most prized and precious possessions--our children. Just this week, five individuals drowned in a canal, pool or lake. Four of the five individuals were children under the age of ten years old.
One of the children, Jac'Quez Osborne, 9, drowned at a pool party in Southwest Ranches. According to Capt. Engle of the Davie Police Department, Jac'Quez "didn't know how to swim and somehow ended up in the pool." Sadly, there was no one within reach that could administer CPR in time.
Another child, Leila Fleming, 4, left with her grandmother, Laura Zulema Fleming, 59, to go feed ducks by a lake in their Silver Shores gated community. They did not return. Both of their bodies were eventually found and recovered from the lake. Autopsies revealed that both Leila and her grandmother drowned. Unfortunately, neither of them knew how to swim.
The most recent drowning incident involved Louidline Louima, 4, and her sister Louidjiena, 2, who both drowned in a canal located behind their Margate home. Again, authorities reported the all-too familiar and tragic news that neither victim knew how to swim.
A Miami-Dade County Health Department report states that between 2010 and 2012, there were 413 drowning incidents in Miami-Dade County alone. Of this number, 144 cases involved Miami-Dade residents that were hospitalized as a result of a near-drowning. Another 177 consisted of residents that were treated at an emergency department as a result of a near-drowning. Furthermore, the remaining 92 accidents resulted in drowning deaths.
Perhaps even more alarming are the unintentional drowning statistics concerning individuals who are between ages 0-17. This age group accounted for 220 of the total 413 reported drowning incidents between 2010 and 2012 (accounting for more than 50% of the accidents). Specifically, in regards to hospitalization, 92 children were hospitalized as a result of a near-drowning. Another 109 children were treated in an emergency department due to a near-drowning. Insofar as deaths, 19 children died as a result of drowning. In addition to these statistics, the Miami-Dade County Health Department also noted in its report that "[t]he most common location for both fatal and nonfatal drowning incidents occurred in a swimming pool."
Moreover, this drowning epidemic is not limited to Miami-Dade County. Similar statistics have been reported by both Broward and Palm Beach County. From 2009 to the present, Broward County and Palm Beach County have reported 329 and 252 unintentional drownings, respectively. Broward County's Health Department site also includes some alarming statements concerning the severity of this problem:
- A child is 100 times more likely to drown in a pool than be killed by a gun.
- 90% of drownings occur when the child walks out the door without anyone noticing.
- The majority of children who drowned walked out of their home through a sliding glass door.
- Children between 1 and 3 years old are the most likely to drown.
In the unfortunate event that you or a loved one loses someone as a result of one of these terrible accidents, the Miami and Ft. Lauderdale drowning accident attorneys at Brais, Brais & Rusak may be able to help you obtain some form of legal relief. While our drowning accident lawyers realize that no monetary sum can replace the void left after losing a loved one, we also recognize that a successful civil action can provide families with economic support that will help members cope with the costs, pain, and suffering that are attributable to this tragic event. Furthermore, a civil action can be a form of accountability, holding certain parties responsible for the action or inaction, while making sure the accident does not happen again.
Liability may arise under a number of legal theories when dealing with a drowning accident. Most commonly, a party can be found liable under the theory of negligence. Under this legal theory, the party filing suit (plaintiff) must allege that: (1) the defendant had a duty of care to the plaintiff; (2) said defendant breached this duty; (3) the defendant's breach of the duty caused the plaintiff harm; and (4) plaintiff suffered injuries.
In the context of a drowning accident, a defendant could be found liable under a negligence theory if he or she failed to adequately warn or supervise a party that he or she owed a duty of care to, i.e., child drowning in a pool. This circumstance is not limited to a person who fails to appropriately watch children in his or her care. Similar to negligence, a person can be found liable under the theory of premises liability.
Under the "attractive nuisance" doctrine, an individual has a duty to exercise ordinary care to avoid a reasonably foreseeable risk of harm to children caused by artificial conditions on his or her property. Accordingly, a backyard pool can usually be characterized as an attractive nuisance because it is an "artificial condition" on the person's property than can reasonably and foreseeably pose a risk of harm to children. These dangers can be reduced by taking the appropriate measures, such as erecting a fence that complies with safety guidelines.
In any event, if you or a loved one has lost someone as the result of a drowning, you should contact a skilled attorney that will help determine which legal theory best applies to your case. The drowning lawyers at Brais, Brais & Rusak are here to help you.