Child Drowning Accidents: Legal Recourse for California Parents

As leading personal injury attorneys in California, we’ve helped numerous families pursue justice and secure compensation for child injuries. Was your child injured in a preventable accident? Schedule a consultation online to explore your legal options. 

Child injuries don’t just affect accident victims — they impact their families and communities, too. In the wake of a serious child injury, parents often experience financial burdens, deteriorating mental health, and issues adjusting to their new realities. 

In California and across the United States, drowning is a major public health concern, especially among children. In fact, drowning is the leading cause of death in children one to four, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). While some child drownings result in death, others result in traumatic, life-altering injuries. 

Families of children injured or killed in drowning accidents have options for legal recourse. There are several types of personal injury lawsuits they may be able to pursue, depending on the specific circumstances surrounding the accident. However, child drowning lawsuits can be difficult to navigate, which is why many parents decide to partner with an experienced personal injury lawyer in their pursuit of justice. 

This article will explore the primary types of lawsuits for child drowning accidents, including the basis for their claims and elements that need to be proven in order to secure compensation. 

Negligence-Based Lawsuits for Child Drownings

The most common type of lawsuit in drowning accident cases is a negligence lawsuit. Although not all personal injury lawsuits involve negligence,Swimming  Pool in California many do. This type of lawsuit requires proving the defendant (such as the pool owner, babysitter, swim coach, or other party) failed to exercise reasonable care, leading to the child’s injury. 

In order to prevail in a lawsuit, the plaintiff must demonstrate that the defendant had a duty of care to the child and breached that duty, which resulted in the child’s drowning and subsequent damages. It’s important to note that drowning accidents do not have to be fatal in order to qualify for a negligence lawsuit but can also be brought when the child suffers injuries and other losses. 

Premises Liability Lawsuits for Child Drownings

When a child has a drowning accident on someone else’s property, the parents may be able to bring a premises liability lawsuit against the property owner or manager. In order to do so, they must demonstrate that the condition of the property or the property owner’s actions contributed to the accident. To prevail in a premises liability lawsuit for a child drowning accident, the parents must prove the following: 

  • The defendant owned, controlled, occupied, or leased the property where the drowning occurred.
  • The defendant was negligent in their use or maintenance of the property, leading to a dangerous condition that they knew about or should have known about, failed to repair, or failed to warn visitors about. 
  • The hazardous condition or owner’s negligence played a significant role in causing the child to drown. 
  • The child suffered actual damages as a result of the drowning. 

Some premises liability lawsuits for child drownings are based on a legal principle called the attractive nuisance doctrine. It applies when a child is attracted to and injured by an appealing yet hazardous condition on someone’s property, such as an unsecured swimming pool. In these cases, a property owner can be held liable if the defendant can prove they should have anticipated the attraction and potential danger to children yet still failed to take reasonable steps to prevent children from accessing the pool. 

Product Liability Lawsuits for Child Drownings

Sometimes, a child drowning accident is caused or worsened by a defective product, such as a faulty or malfunctioning pool gate, pool drain, or flotation device. If parents determine that a product is partially responsible for their child’s drowning, they can file a product liability lawsuit to hold the seller or manufacturer responsible. Here are the elements they’ll need to prove: 

  • Defectiveness. Plaintiffs must demonstrate that the product was in some way defective, typically in its design, manufacturing, or warnings/labels.
  • Causation. Plaintiffs must establish a clear link between the product’s defects and the child’s injury and demonstrate that the defective product either directly caused the child’s drowning or contributed significantly to the accident’s severity. 
  • Reasonable Usage. The parents will also need to show that the product was used as the manufacturer intended or in a reasonably expected manner. If it was being used in a completely unforeseen or irresponsible manner, the claim may not hold up. 
  • Damages. As with other personal injury lawsuits, product liability lawsuits require the plaintiff to prove that the accident resulted in real damages. These could include medical expenses, the child’s injuries, and pain and suffering. 

It’s important to note that not all personal injury attorneys are equally adept at handling product liability cases. The best attorney for you is one with experience in trying and winning cases like yours. 

Wrongful Death Lawsuits for Child Drownings

In the most tragic cases, child drowning accidents result in death. When a child dies by drowning, their parents may be able to file a wrongful death lawsuit against the party or parties they deem responsible. These lawsuits can provide compensation for losses like funeral and burial expenses, the parents’ lost wages, and other damages. 

The outcome of a wrongful death lawsuit hinges on a plaintiff’s ability to prove that their loved one died as a result of the defendant’s negligent or intentional actions (or inaction). Like other negligence-based claims, these lawsuits require plaintiffs to establish four critical elements — 1) duty of care, 2) breach of duty, 3) causation, and 4) damages — in order to secure compensation. 

Recoverable Compensation in Child Drowning Lawsuits

As a type of personal injury case, a child drowning lawsuit can typically result in two types of damages for plaintiffs: economic and non-economic damages. Both are types of compensatory damages, meaning that they are designed to compensate the plaintiffs for their losses. Here are a few examples of each: 

  • Economic damages. As the name suggests, economic damages are based on calculable financial losses. They can include compensation for medical expenses and treatments, lost wages related to the accident, burial expenses (in the event that the child dies), etc. 
  • Non-economic damages. Non-economic damages are awarded for losses that evade a dollar amount, such as for pain and suffering, loss of companionship, emotional distress, etc. 

In rare cases, the court will also award punitive damages to the victims. Whereas compensatory damages are designed to compensate plaintiffs for losses, punitive damages exist to punish the defendant for especially wanton or malicious actions. It’s important to note that plaintiffs cannot sue for punitive damages, as this compensation is left entirely to the court’s discretion. 

Case Barnett Law: Child Injury Attorneys in Orange County, California

Child drowning accidents are always tragic, regardless of who is at fault. However, child drowning cases that result from someone’s negligence, a hazardous property, or a defective product may warrant a lawsuit. If you’re ready to hold the at-fault party in your child’s drowning accountable, we can help. Schedule a free consultation with Case Barnett Law to speak with a compassionate child injury lawyer today. 

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