With the warm weather finally back in Buffalo and summer quickly approaching, property owners need to keep in mind the injury risk swimming pools pose to children.
Under the rules of premises liability, property owners in New York have a duty to those who enter their property to keep the property reasonably free from known hazards that could lead to harm. If property owners fail to keep their property safe or to warn of known dangers, they generally bear legal responsibility for resulting accidents on their property.
A swimming pool in a property owner’s backyard is considered part of their property. Therefore, a property owner may be held liable for accidents related to their swimming pool. While certain obvious hazards, like a slippery surface around the pool’s edge, will not create liability for the property owner, other less obvious conditions can. For example, if it is not obvious that the pool is too shallow for diving or if there is some sort of hidden obstruction inside the pool, then failing to warn a user of the pool of the condition could make the property owner liable.
In addition to the duty to warn of dangerous conditions, a homeowner must comply with certain safety regulations when it comes to maintaining their swimming pool. Most importantly, residential swimming pools must be:
- -Completely enclosed by a fence at least four feet high that obstructs entry to the pool
- -Equipped with an audible pool alarm capable of detecting a child entering the water (if the swimming pool was installed, constructed or substantially modified after December 14, 2006)
Property owners can also take some other basic steps to make their pool safer and reduce the chance of swimming pool liability. These include:
- -Locking any gates and doors that lead to the pool
- -Using a pool safety cover
- -Keeping a telephone near the pool in case of an emergency
- -Watching when swimmers are in the pool