If you have a private swimming pool in your backyard, you can really enjoy entertaining friends and neighbors. Throwing epic birthday parties and enjoying family reunions with the pool as a source of endless hours of entertainment may make you forget the "dark" side of letting others swim in your pool: personal liability. If someone becomes injured or even dies in your pool, you could be legally responsible to pay damages should the injured party choose to sue for personal-injury compensation. To prevent this situation from ever becoming reality, you can take steps to reduce or even eliminate your liability.
1. Take basic safety precautions seriously.
Installing and filling your pool is just one step of many to developing a backyard oasis for entertaining. You should also consider the following features to really reduce your liability.
Put railings on stairs the lead down into the pool. This provides accessibility and reduces slip and fall accidents.
Build a fence around the pool deck. This reduces your liability in many ways. First, a fence helps to prevent children from falling into the pool accidentally. Also, fencing the pool area reduces the chance of "attractive nuisance" injury claims from neighbors should a child access the pool without your knowledge.
Use a sturdy cover to completely block off the pool when not in use. Some pools have a "bubble cover" that just floats on top. These are fine when paired with a secure fence, but the safest option is a pool cover that acts a dry, complete barrier that will catch any person who might fall.
2. Post rules and warnings.
Another easy way to reduce your personal liability is to clearly mark and list dangers for visitors to see. Posting the following signs could help your protect your property:
"Swim at your own risk." These five words are the primary method for swimmers taking responsibility for their own safety. The sign acts a community waiver to cover injuries that people might sustain when swimming in your pool. To make sure the sign holds up in court, be sure it easy to see and is written in a language that most people speak in your community.
Basic pool rules. You can establish some rules to prevent injuries. For example, you can require that children have at least one adult with them when swimming. You could ban toddlers from the pool deck entirely as a safety measure. You could also not allow drinking near the pool. Be sure the rules are clearly visible to your guests, and take the time to regularly enforce them. Having posted rules will only help your court case if you were consistent about following them. If witnesses can testify that you allowed hazardous behavior to continue, a sign stating rules to contrary will not be as effective.
Depth and hazard warnings. Some swimmers may not know the exact hazards, so you can reinforce "swim at your own risk" signs by listing some of the dangers. For example, if your pool is shallow, posting a clear sign that says "shallow water" should help people to know that diving or other deep-water activities are unsafe.
3. Stay on top of product maintenance, recalls, and warnings.
Use your pool equipment as directed. If pumps, liners, life jackets, or any other equipment that you regularly use is recalled, act on the recall immediately. This way, if injury occurs because of a product malfunction, you know you've done your due diligence in making sure your equipment is maintained, up to date, and functional. Lawsuits could then be directed away from you and to other guilty parties, like manufacturers or inspectors.
Contact an attorney like Roberts Miceli LLP for more tips.