County governments in Florida face an odd choice when they decide whether or not to hire lifeguards. Although the addition of a lifeguard could potentially save lives, it could also increase the county’s liability for accidents that occur at beaches. If a county decides to hire a lifeguard, the responsibility for swimmer safety falls on the governmental body. If no lifeguard is hired to watch swimmers, the county would not have any premises liability.
In Panama City Beach, the proposal to hire two lifeguards to work at the county pier during tourist season is being discussed. The safety measure would cost the county $65,000 a year with the added possibility of having to pay out additional amounts to plaintiffs in civil lawsuits.
According to the former president for the Southeast region of the United States Lifesaving Association, lifeguard programs in surrounding areas have been successful. He went on to say that lifeguards are able to save lives not only because they rescue swimmers but also because they are trained to recognize rip currents before swimmers are caught up in them. In the areas of the Florida coast where lifeguards are on duty, the Florida Department of Health has reported that fewer people have drowned.
After someone is injured at a tourist destination, poor safety or security measures at the location may be found to have been the cause. An attorney may be able to assist the injured person in bringing a personal injury action against the parties who are determined to be responsible. Evidence may be presented in the claim that will help to identify what specific actions the liable party could have taken to prevent the injury from occurring.
Source: The News Herald, “Are lifeguards a liability?”, ChrisOlwell, July 20, 2014