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Wrongful Death Claims and Drowning Accidents

Casey Woodruff

undefinedWho is responsible when a child dies in a drowning accident? And can families file wrongful death claims in the aftermath of such a tragedy? In some instances, children drown at public pools or in shallow ocean water while a lifeguard is nearby. In other cases, kids can suffer fatal injuries at the homes of family members or friends in private pools or even in the bathtub. While each case has its own facts and complications, a recent article in Slate reported that, “in 10 percent of drownings, adults are nearby but have no idea the victim is dying.”

Given that summer is in full swing, and many Chicago residents will be taking weekend trips for lake vacations, it is important to understand how to identifying a drowning victim. Do you know the signs and symptoms of a child that is drowning?

Understanding What Drowning Actually Looks Like

In short, as the article explains, “drowning is not violent.” Many people believe that someone is only at risk of drowning when that person is flailing and visually having difficulty in the water. However, “drowning is almost always a deceptively quiet event.” To be sure, “the waving, splashing, and yelling that dramatic conditioning . . . prepares us to look for is rarely seen in real life.”

When you are monitoring kids around a pool or at the lakeside, you should understand what the “Instinctive Drowning Response” actually looks like. This term refers to the type of behavior that people exhibit when they are suffocating and are struggling to breathe in the water. From the surface or from the shore, this behavior looks “quiet and undramatic.” Some of the following behaviors are associated with the Instinctive Drowning Response:

  • A person’s mouth sinking below the surface and then reappearing, with no calling out for help. When someone is drowning, they cannot call out for help, and each time the mouth rises above the water, that person is not making any noise but rather is “exhale[ing] and inhal[ing] quickly as their mouths start to sink below the surface of the water.”
  • No waving for assistance. As the article explains, if a child is struggling in the water and is suffocating, “nature instinctively forces them to extend their arms laterally and press down on the water’s surface . . . so they can lift their mouths out of the water to breath.”
  • Remaining “upright in the water” without any evidence of kicking to support movement or stability in the water.

Identifying Signs and Symptoms of Drowning 

If drowning does not look the way in which it is often dramatized, what should we look for? The following are key signs that someone may be drowning, according to the article:

  • Mouth only at water level;
  • Person’s head lower in the water;
  • Head tilted backward and mouth open;
  • Glassy or empty eyes;
  • Closed eyes;
  • Hair hanging over eyes;
  • Body positioned vertically without using legs for kicking;
  • Gasping;
  • Attempting to swim in a direction but being unable to do so; and
  • Attempting to roll onto back but being unable to do so.

Swimming can be very dangerous, particularly for children who do not have proper swimming skills. When another person’s negligence in or around the water results in fatal injuries, it is important to speak with an Aurora wrongful death lawyer about filing a claim for compensation. Contact Woodruff Johnson & Evans today.

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