Hotel pool accidents: Could the hotel be liable?

It's not too early to start thinking about vacation plans for spring break—and that usually means staying some place warm, like a nice hotel with a pool. But could that be putting your family at risk?

Hotel and motel pools are usually unattended, meaning that they're open around-the-clock with no lifeguard on duty the majority of the time, if at all. It's all too easy for somebody to slip and fall on the wet tiles surrounding a pool, get bumped during play with another child, and end up unconscious and underwater.

Nationally, there are about 10 deaths a day from drowning, and about 1 in 5 of those deaths involve a child 14-years-old or younger.

But death isn't the only hazard associated with drowning. For every child that dies from drowning, another five end up in the emergency room with potentially devastating injuries. The oxygen deprivation that these children suffer can lead to severe brain damage with life-long disabilities.

A lot of hotels have little more than a sign up that warn guests that they are swimming at their own risk. If the sign isn't prominently displayed, that isn't much of a notice and it might not be enforceable.

Even if the sign is prominently displayed, it may still not be enforceable. Some courts refuse to enforce blanket waivers that seek to indemnify hotel owners from all liability in all cases, considering them overly broad.

In addition, there are times when the conditions of the pool are so poorly maintained that the hotel or motel can be considered grossly negligent—which means that many courts won't enforce a waiver in any case. Cracked or missing tiles around the edge of the pool, missing safety bars and broken ladders are signs of a lack of concern toward the safety of guests.

If you or a family member are injured in a pool accident while on vacation, it's wise to seek the advice of an attorney.

Source: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, "Unintentional Drowning: Get the Facts," accessed Jan. 13, 2017

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