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On guard: Swimming safe at public pools

As is the case in many other states, summer and swimming go hand in hand here in Florida. Unfortunately, swimming accidents are all too common occurrences.

According to the Centers for Disease Control's most recent data, more than 3,500 people die each year in the United States as a result of non-boating related drownings. This equates to roughly 10 deaths per day. Serious injuries are also possible, including head, brain and spinal cord injuries from slip-and-fall and diving accidents.

Even though swimming-related accidents at public pools and water parks can be avoided, lifeguards who fail to respond appropriately to a danger and pool owners who are negligent in their duty of care often create dangerous situations for patrons. It's in these cases that we need to be aware of the law and our rights to compensation in the event of an accident.

A look at Florida law

As outlined by the Florida Department of Health, lifeguards are required during all operating hours at water theme parks and other public swimming pool facilities. The job of a lifeguard, as you can imagine, is to ensure the safety of those using the public pool, meaning enforcing pool rules and providing first aid, among other things.

When a pool owner fails to abide by this rule or a lifeguard is negligent in their duties, accidents can happen resulting in injury or even death. In Florida, negligence is grounds for a personal injury claim and the recovery of damages.

It's important to point out that while a claim for punitive damages may be filed by a victim or a victim's love one, evidence showing "reasonable basis for recovery of such damages" must be presented (§768.72 (1)) The burden of proof is also on the person filing the personal injury claim, which is why, in addition to the complex laws at play in these cases, that seeking legal counsel is highly advised.

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