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When Can Lifeguard Be Held Liable for Pool Drowning?

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C.L. Mike Schmidt Published by C.L. Mike Schmidt

Schmidt & Clark, LLP is not currently accepting these types of cases and has posted this content for information purposes only. We encourage you to seek a qualified attorney, if you feel you might have a case.

Swimming pools undoubtedly offer immense enjoyment and relaxation to many individuals.

When you take your kids to a swimming pool or beach for a swim, you place your confidence in lifeguards to oversee the water and protect those who may be at risk.

However, even with skilled lifeguards on duty, accidents may still occur. If someone sustains an injury or is a drowning accident victim while at the pool, can lifeguards be held accountable from a legal perspective?

As a legal attorney with over a decade of experience, I will explain in this article the situations where a lifeguard can be held liable for pool drowning.

Quick Summary

  • Lifeguards may be liable for inadequate supervision, delayed response to emergencies, ineffective training and skills, or lack of CPR knowledge.
  • Pool owners and facilities must hire qualified lifeguards with the necessary certifications and maintain a safe swimming environment.
  • Third parties can also be held liable if negligence is the cause of an incident.

When Can A Lifeguard Be Held Liable for Pool Drowning?

A lifeguard on duty at the pool area

Lifeguards, as the lifeguard's employer expects, are responsible for overseeing swimmer safety at pools and are poised to respond promptly to emergencies.

Understanding these instances can help swimmers and swimming pool owners maintain a safe swimming environment and prevent potential accidents.

These are some of the instances in which a lifeguard can be held liable for pool drowning:

1. Inadequate Supervision


Based on the cases I have worked on, inattention to the clock is the most common reason a lifeguard can be held liable for a pool drowning.

Serious swimming pool accidents, such as drownings, can arise when a lifeguard fails to pay attention.

Examples of inadequate supervision that may be considered lifeguard negligence include:

  • Lifeguards perform administrative duties while monitoring swimmers.
  • Observing from a distance or behind glass partitions
  • Falling asleep on the job

Lifeguard liability can result from a lifeguard's negligence, such as inadequate supervision, given their duty to vigilantly monitor swimmers to avert pool drownings and secure their safety [1].

2. Delayed Response to Emergencies

A drowning person seeking for help

Prompt response to emergencies by a lifeguard is key in averting serious injuries or fatalities. Suppose a lifeguard does not act expeditiously in an emergency, such as when a swimmer submerges underwater.

In that case, they may be deemed negligent if another lifeguard responded more quickly in a similar situation, thus breaching their legal duty.

A lifeguard's delayed response to an emergency can lead to dire consequences, such as:

  • Increased drowning risk
  • Lower chances of successful resuscitation
  • Extended suffering and injury
  • Potential legal implications

Lifeguards must be proficient in lifesaving techniques to prevent lifeguard failure. Failure to react quickly and effectively in emergencies may lead to a personal injury claim against the lifeguard.

3. Ineffective Use of Lifeguard Training and Skills

A lifeguard showing a thumbs down

Extensive training equips lifeguards to handle emergencies and rescue swimmers in distress effectively.

If a lifeguard is not properly trained or does not effectively utilize their training and skills, they may be liable for their inability to save swimmers.

The consequences of not effectively utilizing training and skills can include:

  • Avoidable drowning occurrences
  • Underperformance due to a lack of awareness and motivation
  • Potential liability for injuries or fatalities arising from gross negligence or willful misconduct.

4. Lack of CPR Knowledge

A lifeguard's skillset necessitates knowledge of CPR. In a drowning or other medical emergency, the ability to perform CPR can be instrumental in saving a life. However, if a lifeguard lacks the necessary life-saving techniques and CPR expertise, they may be liable for not providing adequate assistance to the victim.

In some cases, California's Good Samaritan Law may protect a lifeguard who voluntarily provides emergency assistance under California's Good Samaritan Law [2].

"While lifeguards on duty have a responsibility to rescue swimmers and not cause further harm, off-duty lifeguards can fall under good Samaritan laws."
- George T. Bochanis, Personal Injury Attorney at The George Bochanis Injury Law Offices

Pool Owner and Swimming Facility Liability

Beyond lifeguard liability, pool owners and facilities may also be responsible for failing to hire qualified lifeguards and maintain a safe swimming environment.

As the primary party responsible for ensuring the safety of swimmers, pool owners and facilities must uphold a certain standard of care when hiring lifeguards and maintaining the pool area.

Hiring Qualified Lifeguards

A qualified lifeguard on dutyPool owners and facilities must employ qualified lifeguards who possess the necessary certifications, such as the American Red Cross Lifeguard Certification or the YMCA Lifeguard Certification, as well as a valid CPR certification [3].

Lifeguards must be able to recognize and respond to emergencies and assess them quickly to take the appropriate action.

They must also be capable of performing lifesaving techniques, such as CPR, first aid, and water rescue.

Maintaining Safe Swimming Environments

Pool owners and facilities are responsible for maintaining a safe swimming environment by ensuring that the pool area is free of hazards, the pool is adequately maintained, and safety regulations are enforced.

Neglecting to maintain a safe swimming environment can lead to grave injuries or even fatalities.

Pool owners and facilities must guarantee that lifeguards are provided, safety equipment is installed, and pool rules are enforced to ensure the safety of swimmers and prevent drowning incidents.

Can a Third Party Be Held Liable for Pool Drowning?

A top view of swimming accessoriesYes, a third party can be held liable for pool drowning. Third parties, such as pool equipment manufacturers, can be held liable if their negligence or failure to provide a safe environment leads to a drowning incident.

For instance, if a product is unsafe and causes a drowning, the manufacturer could be held liable.

In these situations, understanding the legal landscape and exploring all avenues of liability is essential to hold the appropriate parties accountable and seek compensation for the victim or their family.

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What Are The Duties Of A Lifeguard At A Pool?

The duties of a lifeguard at a pool include monitoring the pool area, responding to any emergencies, providing assistance to swimmers as necessary, enforcing pool regulations, inspecting the pool for potential hazards, carrying out rescues, giving guidance on water safety, and being prepared to address emergencies.

Are Off-Duty Lifeguards Required to Help Drowning Victims?

Off-duty lifeguards are not required to help drowning victims. However, they may choose to provide emergency assistance voluntarily. In some cases, they may be safeguarded from any legal ramifications under good Samaritan laws if they opt to do so.

Pursue A Personal Injury Or Wrongful Death Claim Today

If you or a loved one has been affected by a pool drowning due to lifeguard negligence, contacting an experienced personal injury attorney is essential in seeking justice and compensation.

An attorney at Schmidt & Clark, LLP can help you navigate the complex legal landscape, develop a strategic plan for your case, and provide guidance based on their expertise and familiarity with the law.

Feel free to consult an attorney for a no-charge discussion of your case and possible legal avenues.