Water Safety Over the Holiday Weekend

water safety holiday

The last Monday in May is usually one of the biggest holiday on the calendar.

But it will feel a bit different this year.

So, if the surf beckons on Memorial Day 2020, leave early and be flexible.


Coney Island, Rockaway Beach, and other New York City beaches are closed.

Fire Island, Sandy Hook, and other New York State beaches are open at 50 percent capacity.

Many beaches, particularly those on Long Island, are only open to New York residents. Boardwalks, beaches, and other such places are generally open in New Jersey and Connecticut.

Officials in both states said they might close some areas if visitors do not practice social distancing and observe other safe practices.

Water Safety

Most of us know water safety basics.

But sometimes when you hear things over and over, they go in one ear and out the other. The big three are wear sunscreen, swim with a buddy, and for this year, respect social distancing laws.

Clouds or no clouds and shade or no shade, sunburn occurs in fifteen minutes or less.

That’s roughly the amount of time required to get from the parking lot to the water’s edge.

UV radiation, as opposed to direct sunlight, causes sunburn.

No matter how experienced you are and no matter how deep the water is, never swim alone. More on this point below.

Social distancing laws vary by jurisdiction. They also change rapidly. So, the restrictions in effect today will probably be different from the ones in effect on Monday.

Even pandemic naysayers agree that social distancing is by far the best way to slow the spread of coronavirus.

COVID-19 is so contagious that if you have any symptoms whatsoever, staying home is essential.

Hidden Water Dangers

Overactive pool drains often cause dangerous undercurrents which suck even experienced swimmers under the water.

Beach riptides often have the same effect. That’s why it’s so important to swim with a buddy.

Nature usually causes riptides, and negligence usually causes pool undercurrents. Swimming pool owners have a legal duty to keep swimmers safe.

That duty is not limited to a fence around the pool. If poor maintenance caused a drain malfunction, the owner is usually liable for damages.

Malfunctioning pumps could be a problem as well. If the pump does not provide enough clean water, the pool’s chlorine content gets too high.

The result could be a cloud of poison gas. These gaseous clouds could cause serious chemical burns and other injuries, especially if the swimmer has a pre-existing condition.

Liability Issues

In New York and elsewhere, legal responsibility for swimming pool injuries usually hinges on duty and knowledge.

Like most other jurisdictions, to determine legal responsibility, the Empire State divides victims into three categories, as follows:

  • Invitee: Most victims are invitees. These people have permission to be on the property and their presence benefits the owner, either economically or noneconomically. Owners have a duty of reasonable care, one of the law’s highest responsibilities, in these cases.
  • Licensee: These individuals have permission to be on the land, but there is no benefit to the owner. The guest of a hotel guest is probably a licensee. Since the relationship is more distant, the duty is lower. Owners usually have a duty to warn licensees about latent (hidden) defects.
  • Trespasser: If the owner did not directly or indirectly give the visitor permission to be on the property, there is no duty. Some exceptions, like the attractive nuisance rule, might apply to child trespassers.

The extent of the owner’s duty, or the lack thereof, is a question of law for the judge. The owner’s knowledge of the hazard, however, is a question of fact for the jury. There are two ways victim/plaintiffs can prove knowledge:

  • Actual knowledge could be a pool maintenance report or a prior injury in the pool.
  • Constructive knowledge (should have known) usually attaches if the hazard had existed for a long time.

Victim/plaintiffs must prove knowledge by a preponderance of the evidence (more likely than not).

Be safe this Memorial Day and reach out to us if you need legal help. For a free consultation with an experienced personal injury attorney in New York, contact Napoli Shkolnik PLLC. We handle injury claims on a nationwide basis.