“Water Wings” Are NOT Life Preservers!

Every parent wants their child to enjoy swimming with other children but, at the same time, are concerned for the child’s safety when the child is learning to swim. In many cases parents will turn to “inflatables” such as “water wings” and “floaties” in the mistaken belief that such devices will prevent a drowning accident.

In today’s post the drowning accident injury lawyer at The Doan Law Firm will discuss why parents should not entrust a child’s safety to these devices. He will then discuss the legal options that may be available to those who have lost a child to a drowning accident that was, in part, caused by mistaking one of these toys for a safety device.

What are “water wings?”

“Water wings,” along with “floaties” and “puddle jumpers,” are inflatable plastic devices that are attached to the upper arms (and, in the case of “puddle jumpers,” the upper chests) of children who are either non-swimmers, learning to swim, or weak swimmers. In theory, these lightweight items allow children who have yet to learn swimming skills to participate in water recreation alongside more experienced swimmers. Unfortunately, “theory” does not always mean “work as intended.”

According to agencies such as the Centers for Disease Control and the Consumer Product Safety Commission, parents should never entrust a child’s safety to any mechanical device, even if such devices were used by the child’s siblings or by other children. This is because some “water wings” and “floaties” can be dangerous unless they are functioning perfectly.

The problem with inflatable “swimming aids” is that they do not keep the wearer’s head above water. Even “puddle jumpers,” unless inflated and worn exactly as the manufacturer recommends, can allow a child to slip from the device. Unless someone is close by and observes the device’s malfunction, a child can drown within minutes.

In the United States, only personal flotation devices (life jackets) whose designs have been tested and approved by the U.S. Coast Guard are acceptable for use in preventing accidental drowning deaths in children. If a product has met the Coast Guard’s standards, that product is then entitled to display an emblem on its packaging indicating that it is a “Coast Guard Approved” personal flotation device. As of 2019, no “water wings” or floaties” have earned such approval and must therefore be used only with the supervision of a qualified adult swimmer. The only “puddle jumpers” approved by the Coast Guard carry a “when worn on boats” only restriction and are intended for use in an emergency rather than routinely.

Liability issues

In law, a consumer product is said to be defective if it 1) does not routinely perform its intended purpose, 2) it is marketed as suitable for use in circumstances other than those for which it was designed,  or 3) if it causes an injury, even when it is used properly and according to its manufacturer’s instructions. If an injury occurs when a product is in use, and that injury can be linked to the product, its manufacturer may be found liable (responsible) for that injury. In the case of water wings, the product’s manufacturer could be liable if:

1) The product did not perform its intended purpose.

Obviously, the purpose of water wings would be to help a child develop swimming skills. If the device malfunctions in some way (such as an air leak) and fails to protect the child by keeping his or her head above water, the manufacturer could be held liable for the child’s injury.

2) The product is marketed as suitable for use in circumstances other than those for which it was designed.

Even though water wings are not designed to function as a life preserver, some manufacturers do not clearly label their products as not intended for such use. By failing to provide a clear warning as to proper use, or by not clearly mentioning a potential danger in their product’s advertising, a manufacturer could be found liable in case an injury occurs.

3) The product caused an injury, even it was used according to its manufacturer’s instructions.

A well-known problem with mass-produced, inflatable, products such as water wings is that they are prone to slow leakage of air. Thus, a parent could exactly follow the manufacturer’s instructions and the product could still deflate and lead to a drowning accident. In such cases a manufacturer could be held liable for an injury.

Contacting a drowning accident injury lawyer

In this post we have discussed only generalities rather than specific cases. This is because each drowning accident case is unique and must be evaluated based on its own circumstances. Since there are many more factors that must be considered, any parent whose child was the victim of a drowning or near-drowning accident should speak with an experienced drowning accident lawyer, such as the drowning and aquatic accident injury lawyer at The Doan Law Firm, a national personal injury law practice with offices located throughout the country.

When you contact our firm, your case review and first consultation with our drowning and aquatic accident injury lawyer is always free and does not obligate you hiring us to act as your legal counsel. Should you decide to file a lawsuit against those responsible for your injuries or other losses,  and that you would like to have us represent you in court, we are willing to assume full responsibility for all aspects of preparing your case for trial in exchange for an agreed-upon percentage of the final settlement that we will win for you.