In the United States, drowning accidents are the fifth most common form of accidental death in all age groups but account for up to 50% of all accidental deaths in children under the age of 14. According to data gathered by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and various state agencies, drownings and drowning-related injuries are more common in the infant to 4 years-old age group.
Thanks to greater public awareness of water and boating safety issues as well as advances in medical science, there now exists a growing population of those who have survived a drowning accident. Unfortunately, these survivors are also known to suffer from long-term health and social issues that are directly related to these accidents. In today’s post, our drowning accident and personal injury lawyer will review both the immediate and long-term consequences that may be expected to develop following a non-fatal drowning accident injury.
How the body reacts to non-fatal drowning injuries
Under normal conditions the human body is said to be self-regulating. This simply means that the body will automatically respond to changes in its external environment as well as to the body’s internal state. Drowning accidents are always associated with a disturbance in the body’s ability to deliver an adequate amount of oxygen to its vital organs, condition known as “hypoxia.”
In drowning accidents, water or some other liquid enters the upper respiratory system. Since the body interprets these substances as “foreign,” it responds by causing the muscles that surround the airways to go into spasm. These spasms prevent further damage to the respiratory system but, at the same time, also prevents oxygen from entering the lungs and the lungs’ ability to expel carbon dioxide and other substances from the body. It is the combination of lack of oxygen and a buildup of carbon dioxide which leads to injury to the brain.
Long-term prognosis of hypoxic brain injury in near-drowning accident survivors
Although hypoxic brain injury is the result of an acute (“sudden”) situation, the impact on such an injury on the victim’s quality of life is often not fully apparent until the weeks or even months following their discharge from the hospital. In no particular order, the following medical conditions have been reported as a potential consequences of non-fatal downing accidents:
- Brain injury that is sufficient to cause interference with normal activities of daily living;
- Epilepsy to include both grand and petit mal seizure activity;
- Reduced intellectual ability when compared with the victim’s pre-injury status, and movement and balance difficulties.
In addition to brain injury, non-fatal drowning is also known to cause chronic lung disease that makes the survivor more susceptible to conditions such as pneumonia, chronic bronchitis, emphysema, and restrictive air way disease.
Unfortunately, many young brain injury victims will never recover to the extent that they will be able to care for themselves, even if their families are supportive. In more than a few cases, the victim will never regain full consciousness and will require a lifetime of specialized nursing care in a skilled nursing facility or rehabilitation center. Since practically all surviving victims’ families to not have the financial resources to meet such expenses, the long-term survival of non-fatal drowning accident victims is frequently limited to only a few years.
The need for legal representation following hypoxic brain injury
The long-term consequences of many non-fatal drowning accident injuries may not be diagnosed until months and years after the accident. There is always a risk that the significance and effects of an injury may not be fully apparent at the time a settlement is reached. Therefore, there is the very real possibility that the responsible party may be able to avoid paying a fair settlement to victim. Since a drowning accident attorney will be familiar with both the medical and legal issues that may come into play following non-fatal drowning accidents, it is essential that such legal representation be retained s soon as possible after such injuries occur. Furthermore, a drowning accident lawyer will be able to insure that any legal actions that must be undertaken will be filed in accordance with the time frames established by the local civil law codes and regulations.
In summary, non-fatal drowning accidents are frequently accompanied by substantial costs is areas such as medical expenses and the costs associated with dramatic changes in lifestyles. Consulting with an experienced drowning accident attorney should be considered as the first step on the victim’s road to recovery.