Summer Swimming Danger: Attorney Jin Lew of Michels & Lew Cautions Parents and Guardians to be Extremely Cautious as Tragedy Awaits Vulnerable Swimmers

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Summer-swimming season is here and Attorney Jin Lew of the Los Angeles-based catastrophic injury law firm Michels & Lew reminds parents and guardians to be especially vigilant when the most vulnerable swimmers are in the water.

we hope to effectively spread the word about safety and put an end to these devastating tragedies

Every year throughout the United States, hundreds of people die as a result of drowning. The risk is especially high for children and other novice swimmers. According to the United States Consumer Product Safety Commission's (CPSC) "Pool Safely" initiative, drowning is the number one cause of unintentional death for children one to four years old. According to the CPSC, 390 people under the age of 14 died in pools or spas between 2008 and 2010. Many others survived but suffered catastrophic brain injuries.

"When the brain is deprived of oxygen for even a short amount of time, it can be irrevocably damaged," says Jin Lew of Michels & Lew. "Someone who survives a near-drowning incident may need life-long medical attention, may need to be in a wheelchair for the rest of their lives and may never regain their cognitive abilities. At Michels & Lew, we have represented several families who have lost a loved one to drowning or whose lives have been forever changed as the result of near-drowning. We have the resources and experience to help after such a tragedy but we want to remind the public to prioritize safety this summer so such tragedies can be avoided altogether."

Many drowning incidents occur in privately-owned residential pools, but apartment and condominium pools are also sites of drowning accidents each year. Hotel pools and water parks are also areas of concern even when staff are on duty. Public pools can also be dangerous though they are typically observed by lifeguards.

Lew says, "Even a well-trained lifeguard may be overwhelmed by the number of children in a public pool on a warm summer day. Many times, summer day-camps will go on field trips to public pools and chaperones will lose track of swimmers. In other cases, chaperones and pool staff may not be properly trained or supervised. In most drowning cases, negligence and irresponsible supervision play a large part. Holding responsible parties accountable may help reduce the number of preventable drowning accidents by forcing those responsible for injury or death to put more emphasis on safety."

Lew concedes, every year, public safety advocates, fire departments, hospitals and a variety of concerned community leaders spread the word about the dangers of drowning. "And yet every year we face tragedy. Until there are zero drowning incidents, we will continue to remind the public of the precautions they should take to protect young and vulnerable swimmers," the attorney says.

Lew adds that young swimmers are not the only vulnerable population requiring attention around water. He mentions a recent incident that occurred at a public pool in Los Angeles. "A 16-year-old autistic boy was found at the bottom of the Atlantic Park Pool earlier this year. The pool was crowded with teenagers from his school and neither the lifeguards nor school chaperones noticed he was in distress. For swimmers with special needs, extra care may be necessary." Details about the story Lew references can be found in the Los Angeles FOX News affiliate's story "Sheriffs, LAUSD Investigate Drowning Of Autistic Teen In Pool" published and updated by Tony Valdez on June 5, 2014.

"Information is still emerging in regard to that case. But it is a reminder that lifeguards, chaperones, and guardians can never be too cautious when it comes to protecting vulnerable swimmers," Lew says. "The swimmer should be under direct supervision at all times when they are in or near the water. If such supervision is not possible, they should be kept out of the water. To take a child or a person with special needs to a pool may be a rewarding activity but it is a serious responsibility to ensure safety. If a guardian fails in that responsibility they may be liable for any injuries the victim suffers. If a staff member or lifeguard was on-duty, their employer may also bear some responsibility."

Lew recommends reviewing the basics of swimming safety with young and vulnerable swimmers. Though multiple organizations share safety tips and "many of them are excellent" Lew suggests the safety tips provided by the National Drowning Prevention Alliance (NDPA). He also says "children and other swimmers who may need extra attention should be reminded of the dangers pools and spas pose. While we do not want to scare and discourage them from swimming, they must have a healthy respect for the water. However, guardians are ultimately responsible for guaranteeing safety."    

Michels & Lew offer the following brief overview of swimming safety tips for the public to consider:

  • Always watch children and other at-risk swimmers around water.
  • If you have a pool at your residence, it should be surrounded by a fence with a self-closing, self-latching gate that cannot be opened except by a responsible adult. All such gates, whether at homes, apartments, hotels or other locations should be checked regularly to ensure they are working properly and are free of manufacturer defects.
  • If lifeguards are on duty, observe the ratio of guards to swimmers.
  • Provide swimming lessons to young children.
  • If a swimmer cannot be accounted for, check the pool and nearby pools first rather than looking in the house or elsewhere. Removing a drowning victim from a pool as soon as possible can make a tremendous amount of difference for their chances of survival and recovery. Every second of oxygen deprivation increases the risk of severe brain injury or death.

If a member of your family has suffered a wrongful death or serious injury from drowning, the catastrophic injury attorneys of Michels & Lew have the resources and experience in this area of the law to pursue justice. However, Lew says "we hope to effectively spread the word about safety and put an end to these devastating tragedies."

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Jin Lew
since: 03/2013
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Law Offices of Michels & Lew
since: 02/2014
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