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Legally Reviewed by:

Jonathan Rosenfeld
J.D

July 27, 2023

Over $400 Million worth of case results

Awarded The Best Lawyer in 2024 by U.S. News

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A lifeguard must keep swimmers safe by upholding the rules of the pool or beach, addressing potentially risky situations, and acting swiftly in emergencies. When an aquatic rescuer neglects their duty, swimmers are put at risk of injury and death.

Many factors contribute to lifeguard negligence, including distractions, lack of training, and inexperience.

Regardless of the cause, a lifeguard’s failure to meet their responsibilities can lead to slips, falls, drownings, and other potentially fatal injuries.

Did a lifeguard’s negligence injure you or a family member?

Our personal injury attorneys at Rosenfeld Injury Lawyers, LLC, will help you recover damages and ensure that at-fault parties are held accountable.

Contact our drowning accident lawyers at (888) 424-5757 for a free consultation.

Lifeguard Negligence

What Can You Expect From a Reasonable Lifeguard?

Swimming pools and beaches hire lifeguards to ensure the safety of individuals in the water.

A lifeguard’s job duties include:

  • Supervising: Lifeguards spend most of their time managing swimming pools or beaches, watching over swimmers and other patrons, and looking out for potential danger. 
  • Enforcing Rules: Swimming facilities hire lifeguards to ensure swimmers follow the rules and avoid hurting themselves or others. A lifeguard must ensure that everyone, especially children, doesn’t engage in activities that could cause harm (e.g., running by the pool, diving in shallow ends, etc.).
  • Responding to Emergencies: An aquatic rescuer must be able to spot a drowning swimmer and quickly respond. Rescue may involve throwing a flotation device, hauling the victim out of the water, and performing CPR.
  • Applying First Aid: Lifeguards are responsible for delivering emergency assistance to near-drowning victims and swimmers that slip or fall around the pool area.

What is Lifeguard Negligence?

Lifeguard negligence occurs when a lifeguard fails to exercise their duty of care, causing trauma or death.

Every aquatic rescuer must act as any sensible lifeguard would in the same situation, and failure to do so could lead to liability.

What Happens When a Lifeguard Fails to Act Responsibly?

Failure to provide immediate assistance to injured swimmers or prevent accidents in the first place increases the risk of trauma, such as:

  • Traumatic brain injuries
  • Neck trauma
  • Broken bones
  • Spinal cord damage
  • Bruises and lacerations
  • Sprains and strains
  • Drownings
  • Death

Lifesaver Negligence Can Lead to High Medical Expenses

Near drownings, brain injuries, and other severe trauma can lead to expensive medical bills.

An injured person may have to pay for the following:

  • Ambulance fees
  • Hospitalization
  • Medication
  • Surgery
  • Therapy
  • Disability-related costs

Causes of Lifeguard Negligence

Country clubs, recreational centers, privately-owned beaches, and other places with bodies of water must have lifeguards to ensure swimmer safety.

However, most states’ aquatic rescuer wages are low, averaging $10 an hour.

As a result, most places tend to hire younger and less experienced people, increasing the risk of lifesaver negligence.

A lifeguard’s negligence can stem from the following factors.

  • Lack of Training and Experience: All lifeguards must undergo lifeguard training to ensure they have the knowledge and skills to keep swimmers safe. Similarly, employers must hire lifeguards that are properly trained and certified. Without proper training, a lifeguard is likelier to breach their duty of care.
  • Physical Limitations: Lifeguards must meet the job’s physical demands besides training and certifications. They must have the swimming skills necessary to rescue a drowning victim and the strength to haul them to land. Otherwise, they may be unable to rescue individuals and put themselves at risk.
  • Inattention: It can take only a few seconds for someone to drown. Mere moments of distraction can mean the difference between life and death.
  • Poor Emergency Protocols: Emergency protocols for drowning accidents and other trauma must be followed at every swimming pool or beach. The lifeguard stand must always have a first aid kit and a lifesaving device (e.g., a lifebuoy). Victims are more likely to suffer serious injuries without these tools and strategies.
  • Intoxication: If a lifesaver comes to work intoxicated, they may be unable to respond immediately to an emergency. In some cases, an intoxicated lifeguard can fall asleep on the job.
  • Lack of Communication: A lifeguard-on-duty must communicate with other lifeguards when leaving their post to ensure someone is always supervising the area.

Who is Liable for Negligence of an Aquatic Rescuer?

The negligent lifeguard is typically the primary defendant in a claim or lawsuit.

However, the lifeguard’s employer may also be held liable for their employee’s actions (or inaction). 

Lifesavers usually do not have enough property to provide fair compensation.

Hence, most claims go to their employer’s liability insurance provider.

You can pursue compensation by filing a claim with the insurance company, which will likely settle out of court.

However, the insurance company may minimize your settlement or deny your claim without a justifiable reason.

If this happens, your lawyer can help you seek damages through a civil lawsuit.

Lifeguard Negligence: How to File a Lawsuit

Victims can file lifeguard negligence lawsuits for physical trauma or deaths caused by a lifeguard’s failure to perform their job responsibilities.

To take legal action against an aquatic rescuer and their employer, you must prove that:

  • The defendant (facility or lifeguard) owed a duty of care to you
  • The defendant breached this duty of care 
  • You suffered injuries because of this breach
  • Your injuries were a substantial factor in your economic and non-economic losses

If the injury victim cannot take legal action independently, family members can file a negligence claim or lawsuit.

If the victim has died, immediate family or the person’s executor can hold the lifesaver and their employer liable for wrongful death.

Common Reasons for Liability Lawsuits

Legal action against aquatic rescuers typically stems from recklessness or carelessness.

Most victims hold lifeguards and their employers liable in personal injury claims due to the following reasons:

  • The employer failed to hire a trained, certified, and competent lifeguard
  • The property owner failed to secure the pool or beach and provide lifesaving equipment
  • The lifeguard failed to perform CPR on time to save a near-drowned person
  • The lifeguard failed to save a drowning person within a reasonable amount of time

What Damages Can You Recover?

If the defendant is found negligent, they could be liable for the following losses:

  • Medical expenses
  • Disability
  • Lost earnings
  • Pain and suffering
  • Loss of quality of life
  • Wrongful death

An attorney can help determine the extent of your losses and calculate how much financial compensation you deserve.

Settlement values vary depending on factors such as the degree of negligence involved. 

How to Stay Safe at a Beach or Swimming Pool

Even if a lifeguard is present, it’s vital to protect you and your family’s safety by taking the following swimming precautions:

  • Follow the rules and read the signs
  • Learn how to swim
  • Avoid deep waters; stay within your abilities
  • Use life vests and other flotation devices, if necessary
  • Supervise children at all times
  • Never run on the pool deck
  • Look before you dive into the water
  • Never swim alone
  • Stretch before getting in the water to avoid cramps
  • Exercise caution when getting in and out of the pool
  • Avoid alcohol 
  • Know what drowning looks like
  • Do not attempt to save someone drowning if you are not confident in your abilities; call someone else to help

Seek Help From Our Experienced Attorneys Today

Lifeguards are responsible for keeping every swimmer safe.

When negligence is at play, people – especially children – are at a higher risk of drownings, falls, and other accidents. 

You deserve compensation if someone else’s negligence injured you or your loved one.

Our personal injury attorneys at Rosenfeld Injury Lawyers, LLC, will ensure that at-fault parties are responsible for their actions and help you and your family recover compensation.

Contact our law firm at (888) 424-5757 for a free consultation.

All confidential or sensitive information you share with our legal team will remain private under an attorney-client relationship. 

Our lawyers handle all accepted cases on a contingency fee basis.

This agreement ensures you don’t have to pay our legal fees unless we win your case.

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