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Pool Owner Liability In Florida

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Though Florida’s weather is much sunnier and warmer than points north, there is a season where the backyard pool is a constant hot spot for gatherings. However, any homeowner who has a pool on their premises needs to be aware of the responsibilities that they have when they choose to use it. If someone is injured or killed in your pool, you may wind up liable for the harm they and their family suffer.

Florida Leads U.S. In Drowning Deaths

The most commonly affected by pool accidents are young children under the age of 5, and Florida leads the country in unintentional drowning deaths for that age group. Many of these deaths do occur in residential swimming pools, and have for years, dating back to the 1990s. Because of this pattern at the time, the Florida legislature enacted the Residential Swimming Pool Safety Act in 2000, which establishes stiffer requirements for residential pools in both apartment complexes and private homes.

Prior to the Act, standard premises liability law applied in swimming pool accident laws, meaning that the burden of proof as to negligence was much higher on an injured plaintiff than it would be on the defendant owner. Under premises liability, a landowner has a duty to exercise a certain degree of reasonable care toward people who come onto that land, and the plaintiff must show that the duty was breached. Under the RSPSA, there are clear safety requirements for swimming pools, and clear directions for how to hold someone liable if those requirements are not met.

Must Meet At Least One Requirement

The Act lays out five safety features, of which a residential pool must have at least one, in order to pass inspection. They are:

  • Isolation from the home with some sort of barrier that is consistent with the law (at least 4 feet high, no gaps that a child could wiggle through, far enough from the pool’s surface to prevent someone immediately falling in);
  • Equipping your pool with an approved safety cover;
  • Equipping any entrances and exits from the home to the pool with an alarm that is at least 85 decibels at 10 feet;
  • Equipping any doors between the home and the pool with a “self-closing, self-latching” mechanism with a release at least 54 inches off the ground; and
  • Having a swimming pool alarm equipped that sounds when an unauthorized person enters the water, with the alarm meeting American Society for Testing and Materials (ASTM) standards.

If your pool does not have any of these features, you can be found guilty of a second-degree misdemeanor, and you open yourself up to civil liability on top of that. In Florida, proof of a defendant having broken a law can trigger a doctrine called negligence per se, which means that you can simply point to that broken law to establish negligence, rather than having to prove each step.

Contact A Tampa Personal Injury Lawyer Today

Having a pool in your backyard can help you and your loved ones stay cool in Florida summers, but it must be set up in a way so that safety is the first priority. If you have concerns about whether or not your pool meets the requirements, contacting an attorney well versed in pool injury law is a good idea. The Tampa personal injury lawyers at the Rinaldo Law Group can try and help answer any questions you might have about this complex area of law. Call us today for a free consultation.

Resource:

floridahealth.gov/programs-and-services/prevention/drowning-prevention/index.html

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