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Summer Camp Drowning Accident

summer camp drowning

Summer camps can be a great opportunity for children to make new friends, reduce separation anxiety from home, and learn new skills. Camps have been around since the late 1800s, making them an institution for families with kids. While all summer camps take stringent safety precautions, both for counselors and kids in their care, accidents still happen. One of the more common summer camp accidents are drownings. But – can you sue for a summer camp drowning accident? The answer is yes, and a Chicago drowning accident lawyer at Curcio Law Offices can help you do so. Call 312-321-1111 to schedule a free consultation at our law firm today.

Common Types of Summer Camp Injuries

Injuries during physical activities can be common, especially outdoors, as there are more tripping hazards and the environment isn’t regulated like it is in an indoor gym. This is why all summer camps require waivers, signed by the parents of the camper, to ensure that they are not held liable for every injury. These waivers typically cover injuries like:

And any other injury that your child might reasonably acquire during summer camp activities. However, these waivers do not protect camps from wrongful death suits, such as fatal drowning accidents.

The wrongful death of a child is a tragic accident, which is why so many summer camps go to great lengths to try and prevent this, such as requiring CPR training for every camp counselor, ensuring that dedicated staff members monitor the pools and lakes at all times, and ensuring that all children wear safety equipment, like floaties and life vests.

While the likelihood that your child will become seriously injured at summer camp is small, it’s still important to be aware of the risks that come with all fun summer camps.

summer camp lawsuit

How Many Drownings Happen in the U.S. Every Year?

According to the Center for Disease Control (CDC) drowning is the leading cause of death in children. Approximately 4,000 fatal drownings occur each year. The victims include both children and adults. For children ages 5 to 14, drowning is the second highest leading cause of death, after motor vehicle accidents.
These accidents tend to happen because of a variety of factors:

  • Inadequate supervision;
  • Broken fences or gating around bodies of water;
  • Not being able to swim;
  • Alcohol use.


Infants are most likely to drown in the bathtub, which is why it’s incredibly important to supervise your child around all forms of water, until they have participated in formal swimming lessons. Even then, if you are not going to supervise your child, make sure that there are lifeguards before leaving the premises.

Can You Sue a Summer Camp Over a Drowning Accident?

The only prerequisite to suing anyone is proof of tort, or action taken against you, your property, or your family. An incident like drowning would absolutely qualify in these conditions, even if it did not result in death. Drownings can result in serious brain damage that can cause lifelong disabilities.

Once you’ve filed a lawsuit, it is then up to the state courts to determine whether it is legitimate. From there, it will either be settled out of court, or proceed to trial. Because this can be a lengthy and complex process, it’s always smart to hire an experienced personal injury or wrongful death lawyer at Curcio Law Offices. Our team can help you navigate the legal complexities of your child’s tragic accident.

Summer Camp Accident Case in Illinois

The 2004 fatal drowning of Barnabe Lucas at the Christian Youth Center summer camp in Joliet, IL is an example of a drowning case that was ultimately ruled the fault of the camp. Lucas, a nine-year-old special needs boy, drowned in a lake that did not have supervision. While CPR was administered once Lucas was discovered unconscious, it was not enough to save his life. The jury ruled in the families favor for a settlement of nearly $2 million.

The deciding factor in this case seemed to be that the camp did not administer any test, accounting, or verbal confirmation of swimming abilities of any of the campers prior to leaving them in an unsupervised body of water. This is a clear example of negligence on behalf of Christian Youth Center Ministries.

Proving Negligence in a Summer Camp Drowning Accident

Negligence is the most common charge brought in summer camp drowning cases. The victim and their legal team must prove the 4 elements of negligence in order to recover a fair settlement:

  • Duty of Care: The summer camp owes all children and parents a duty of care to promote safety.
  • Breached Duty of Care: The summer camp breached this duty of care in some capacity. For example, maybe they failed to have trained lifeguards, a sufficient number of lifejackets, or lack of warning signs around a pool area.
  • Causation: The child suffered a drowning accident as a direct result of the breached duty of care.
  • Damages: The child and their family suffered a wide variety of damages for which they deserve fair compensation.


The Christian Youth Ministries case is a tragic example of negligence. It was the duty of the camp to ask if any of the campers in their care had special needs. Additionally, the camp had a duty of care to employ attentive and experienced lifeguards at the pool area. The camp failed to do both of these things, which resulted in a fatal drowning accident.

Damages for a Drowning Accident

Chicago personal injury and wrongful death lawyers can help victims recover financial compensation for the following types of damages after a drowning accident:

  • Past and future medical bills
  • Past and future rehabilitative bills
  • Lost wages (on behalf of the parents)
  • Loss of earning capacity (on behalf of the child, if they suffer a traumatic brain injury which prevents them from working in the future)
  • Permanent disability
  • Physical pain and suffering
  • Emotional distress
  • Mental health counseling bills
  • Loss of enjoyment of life
  • Funeral and burial expenses if the drowning accident results in wrongful death

How to Make Sure Your Kids are Safe at Camp

Despite possible risks, most children are perfectly safe and happy at a summer kids camp. There are steps that you can take as parents in order to ensure that your children are safer at camp. These steps can include:

  • Teaching waterside safety;
  • Teaching basic first aid;
  • Enrolling your child in swimming lessons;
  • Teaching your children “see something, say something;”
  • Ensuring that the summer camp is aware of your child’s swimming abilities;
  • And ensuring that the summer camp hires CPR trained lifeguards.


All of the potential risks and safety hazards that you have to consider as a parent are very overwhelming. That’s why it’s important to work with organizations that you know you can trust with your children, including summer camps.

Parents can look online to find reviews from other parents about various camps before enrolling, and may even be able to schedule a tour of the camp, in order to feel more comfortable.

summer camp accident

If Your Child Suffered a Summer Camp Drowning Accident, Call Curcio Law Offices Today

If your child has suffered a drowning accident – or any other type of accident – at their summer camp, you may have grounds to take legal action. Many summer camps may require parents to sign a liability waiver prior to sending their child to camp. Depending on the specific wording of the waiver, the camp can be absolved from certain accidents and injuries. Still, it never hurts to reach out to an experienced personal injury law firm. Chicago personal injury and wrongful death lawyers at Curcio Law Offices can help you determine the best course of action after your child’s accident. Call 312-321-1111 to schedule a free consultation today.

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