With school ending and warmer weather here, more people in Billings will be spending their summer at the swimming pool. Children especially enjoy splashing in the pool on a hot day. However, tragically, summer sees far too many fatal drowning incidents.

Sometimes a fatal drowning accident is truly that — an accident. However, if the drowning was caused by the negligent or reckless act of another person, specifically the pool owner, then it may be possible to pursue a wrongful death claim. A wrongful death occurs when a person is killed due to the negligent acts of another person, and the victim’s survivors suffered financial damages as a result. While we often think of wrongful death claims in the context of car accidents or medical malpractice, sometimes a drowning falls under the realm of a wrongful death.

For example, public pools are often overseen by lifeguards. If a lifeguard was negligent or reckless, and those actions led to someone drowning, the operator of the public pool could face liability. Similarly, if the pool was improperly maintained to the point of constituting negligence or recklessness on the part of the pool owner, and someone drowns as a result, the pool owner could face liability.

There are also federal and state laws regarding certain requirements that owners of public pools must follow. For example, under federal law public pools must have drain covers installed in them to stop drain suction. Prior to the enactment of such requirements, swimmers would become trapped in pool drains due to the suction and recirculation of water. This often led to drowning deaths. If a public pool operator does not have the federally-required drain covers installed, and a person drowns because of it, they may face liability through a wrongful death claim.

Ultimately, while time spent at the pool is generally one of the highlights of the summer, swimming is dangerous and if pool owners do not take care of their facilities, people may drown. Losing someone in a drowning incident is tragic emotionally, and it is often financially damaging as well. People who lose loved ones to drowning incidents at a pool may want to seek the legal advice needed to determine if they have grounds to pursue a wrongful death claim.