ILLINOIS WRONGFUL DEATH ATTORNEYS
Chicago Drowning Accident Lawyer
Tragically, thousands of Americans die every year due to drowning accidents at swimming pools, water parks, summer camps, beaches, lakes, and more. In fact, drowning is the number one cause of death of children under 4 years old according to the CDC. Sometimes drowning accidents are just that – accidents. In other words, sometimes drownings are no one’s fault. Other times, though, negligence causes fatal or non-fatal drownings. For example, it’s a property owner’s liability to ensure that their public pool is safe for swimmers and is fully staffed with lifeguards. Property owners, lifeguards, and other corporations can potentially be held liable via drowning lawsuits, if the victim (or their family members) can prove that negligence caused the accident. A Chicago drowning accident lawyer at our law firm can help you file a lawsuit against a negligent party if they contributed to the drowning.
If you have suffered major injuries due to a drowning – or you have lost a loved one due to a drowning – you may have grounds to take legal action. Chicago drowning accident lawyers at Curcio Law Offices can help you recover financial compensation for medical bills, lost wages, emotional distress, and so much more. Call 312-321-1111 to schedule a free consultation at our law firm today.
What is a Drowning Accident?
Drowning occurs when someone becomes submerged under water and experiences respiratory arrest. Without immediate help from a lifeguard, family member, or a friend, the drowning victim can lose consciousness, blood flow, and oxygen flow to the brain. As a result, the drowning victim can die.
Drowning accidents occur at public swimming pools, water parks, beaches, summer camps, lakes, rivers, and even bathtubs. Drowning incidents can also occur due to watercraft accidents, especially if there are no life jackets on board the watercraft.
How Common Are Drowning Accidents in the U.S.?
According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), drowning is the number one cause of death for children aged 1 through 4. Drowning is the second cause of death among children aged 5 through 14. The number one cause of death for this age group is car accidents.
The CDC also claims that there are approximately 4,000 drowning deaths in the U.S. every year. This breaks down to about 11 fatal drownings every day. Meanwhile, there are approximately 8,000 non-fatal drowning incidents every year, which breaks down to about 22 non-fatal drowning incidents per day.
Who is At Risk for Drowning?
Several types of people are at risk for an unintentional drowning incident, including:
- Children Ages 1 Through 4 have the highest rates of accidental drowning deaths out of every other type of person. Many of these children don’t know how to swim yet. The few that do know how to swim are usually not very strong swimmers, and therefore should not be unsupervised.
- Men: The CDC states that almost 80% of U.S. drowning victims are male. Experts believe this may be because men are more likely to get in the water at a pool or a beach, they’re more likely to engage in risky behaviors in the water, and they’re more likely to be intoxicated.
- Racial and Ethnic Groups: Fatal drowning accidents are much more common among American Indian, Alaska Native, and Black Americans compared to White Americans according to the CDC.
- People With Seizure Disorders/People Who Take Certain Medications have higher rates of both drowning injuries and drowning deaths. People who have seizures are most likely to accidentally drown in the bathtub according to the CDC. People with autism and heart conditions also have a higher risk of experiencing a drowning death. Those who take psychiatric medications for anxiety, depression, schizophrenia, and bipolar disorder also have a higher risk of unintentional death via drowning due to side effects. Psychiatric medications often create side effects like brain fog, dizziness, “brain zaps,” loss of coordination, etc.
- Not Knowing How to Swim: Most children and even some adults don’t know how to swim. This can be incredibly dangerous at public swimming pools, water parks, beaches, rivers, lakes, etc.
- Drinking Alcohol: According to the CDC, up to 70% of drowning deaths (while boating or swimming) involved alcohol consumption. 1 in 4 ER visits for drowning incidents involved alcohol consumption. And lastly, 1 in 5 boating deaths involved alcohol consumption. Intoxication affects the average person’s balance, judgment, coordination, and willingness to engage in risky behaviors.
- No Life Jackets: Children should always wear life jackets (or floaties on their arms) while on a boat or in any body of water. Recreational boats should always have a few life jackets on hand for the people who know how to swim, just in case of an emergency. Of the 658 boating-related deaths that occurred in 2021, 81% occurred via drowning and 83% of drowning victims weren’t wearing life jackets according to the U.S. Coast Guard.
- Negligent Supervision: A drowning accident can happen in just a few seconds. If a lifeguard, family member, or friend is not paying attention, they could fail to save a life.
Are Drowning Accidents Always Fatal?
No, drowning accidents are not always fatal, especially if someone comes to the rescue in time. Non-fatal accidents are called near drowning accidents. Near drowning accidents can result in little to no health complications, especially if the victim was saved very quickly.
Meanwhile, severe near drowning accidents can result in the following health complications:
- Acute Respiratory Distress Syndrome (ARDS), also known as “wet lung,” occurs when fluid collects inside the air sacs in the lungs, therefore preventing oxygen from coming into the body.
- Traumatic Brain Injury: Most people think that brain injuries occur just from acts of violence, sports accidents, or car accidents. But brain damage is one of the most common drowning injuries that victims can sustain. This health complication can occur when blood and oxygen flow to the brain has been cut off for about five minutes. Depending on how long it takes to resuscitate a drowning victim, they can certainly wake up with one or more disabilities.
- Hypoxia is a lack of oxygen in the body’s tissues which can lead to organ failure if not treated immediately.
- Hypothermia occurs when the body is in extremely cold conditions for a long time, such as cold water or snow. A healthy body temperature is around 98 degrees fahrenheit. The body goes into a hypothermic state when body temperature dips below 95 degrees fahrenheit.
- Hypoventilation occurs when someone’s breathing is too shallow or slow to give enough oxygen to the body’s tissues. This type of breathing can make carbon dioxide levels rise in the body, which can be life-threatening.
- CPR Injuries such as chest bruising and rib fractures are extremely common after a drowning incident. Contrary to popular opinion, CPR is very violent on the body. It takes a lot of force to manually pump the heart in the event of an emergency. In 70% of CPR cases, people experience broken ribs. In fact, most CPR victims experience an average of 7.6 broken ribs.
Can You Sue for a Drowning Accident?
Yes, you can definitely sue for a fatal drowning or near drowning accident. The type of lawsuit you file heavily depends on the cause and the outcome of the drowning incident. If you drowned as a result of gross negligence and suffered major injuries, you could potentially file a personal injury claim. If your loved one suffered a fatal drowning as a result of negligence, you could potentially file a wrongful death lawsuit. Lastly, if dangerous conditions caused you or a loved one to drown, you could file a premises liability lawsuit. Below, we explain what type of drowning accident lawsuit you could file.
Personal Injury Lawsuit
A drowning injury victim can potentially file a personal injury lawsuit in order to recover damages like medical bills, lost wages, and more. Drowning accident cases are strongest when negligence is clearly at play.
All public swimming pools and waterparks must have one or more lifeguards on duty. If the lifeguards need to take a break, they must tell everyone to get out of the pool until they get back. Most importantly, if they see anyone drowning, they must rescue the victim immediately and perform CPR if necessary. Failing to do one or more of these things is considered negligence. Here is an example of drowning caused by lifeguard negligence:
Maybe a young child is at a public swimming pool and they start to drown. The lifeguard on duty is not paying attention because they’re playing on their phone, so they don’t see the drowning child right away. By the time they rescue the child, they are unconscious. The lifeguard then performs successful CPR on the child, and they regain consciousness. However, the child later suffers some sort of disability due to brain damage. This brain damage and disability could have been avoided if the lifeguard on duty had paid attention to their job. The child’s parents – with the help of an experienced personal injury lawyer – could easily prove the four elements of negligence in a personal injury lawsuit and therefore recover a fair settlement on behalf of their child.
Wrongful Death Lawsuit
If a drowning incident results in death, Illinois law allows the executor of the victim’s estate (usually surviving family members) to file a wrongful death lawsuit. Negligence also plays a huge role in wrongful death cases.
We will use the same example as above, except let’s say the life guard’s inattentiveness and late rescue resulted in the death of the child. Again, the parents could easily prove negligence in this situation. If the lifeguard had been attentive, the child would have survived.
Premises Liability Lawsuit
Lastly, you could potentially file a premises liability lawsuit if victims nearly drown due to a dangerous condition. Here is an example:
Let’s say that a teen at a public swimming pool is running around the perimeter of the pool in order to cannon-ball into the water. There is naturally lots of water around the perimeter of the pool, which causes them to slip, hit their head, and fall into the water unconscious. The teen begins to drown because they are unconscious. Luckily, the lifeguard sees this happen and jumps to the rescue immediately. They are able to revive the teen and send them to the hospital. The teen is alive, but they suffered a traumatic brain injury from the accident.
Most swimming pools have several warning signs posted around the premises which instruct people not to run for this very reason. Lifeguards are also supposed to tell swimmers to stop running around the pool. Let’s say that this pool has no signs, and the lifeguards provided no warnings about running. Had the drowning injury victim seen and heard this warning, maybe the accident wouldn’t have happened. In this case, the parents could file a premises liability lawsuit, claiming “failure to warn.”
It’s crucial to hire Chicago drowning accident lawyers at Curcio Law Offices in order to know which type of lawsuit to file. We have the skill and experience necessary to successfully handle personal injury, wrongful death, and premises liability cases. We are the best advocate for drowning injury victims because we make sure they recover the compensation they deserve for their suffering.
Possible Liable Parties for a Drowning Accident
After something as traumatizing as a fatal drowning or near drowning accident, it can be difficult to figure out who is to blame. There are several parties that could be responsible for a drowning, usually depending on the location of the accident. Possible liable parties can include:
- Property owners such as pool owners, waterpark owners, summer camp owners, etc.
- Summer camp workers/lifeguards
Chicago drowning accident attorneys at Curcio Law Offices can listen to your story, analyze the details of your case, and help you determine who the at fault party is. From there, we can seek compensation on your behalf.
Damages for a Drowning Accident
An experienced drowning lawyer at Curcio Law Offices can pursue financial compensation for the following types of damages:
- Past and future medical bills
- Past and future rehabilitative bills
- Lost wages (on behalf of the victim or the victim’s parents)
- Loss of earning capacity if the victim’s injuries/disabilities prevent them from completing all of their normal job duties
- Permanent scarring, disfigurement, and/or disability
- Loss of consortium
- Emotional distress
- Mental health counseling bills
- Loss of enjoyment of life
- Funeral and burial expenses if the drowning incident resulted in wrongful death
Illinois Statute of Limitations for a Drowning Accident
Injured victims have 2 years from the date of the drowning to file a personal injury lawsuit in the state of Illinois. Surviving family members also have 2 years from the date of the drowning to file a wrongful death lawsuit. If you wait longer than 2 years to file either type of lawsuit, it will be dismissed.
The Illinois statute of limitations for both types of cases is tight. That’s why it’s crucial to contact our Chicago personal injury attorneys as soon as possible to get started on your drowning accident case. We want to make sure that every single wrongfully killed and injured person receives justice for their trauma.