Beach Injuries: Who can be held liable?

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It’s that time of year. The temperature’s rising, and the sun is beaming, so what better way to cool off than a trip to the beach? But before you head off to those glistening ocean waves, you should know of the various types of injuries you can encounter, as well as who you could potentially hold liable for those same injuries.

Types of injuries

The beach is rife with many hazards that could harm you or your loved ones. But just what types of injuries could happen to you?

  • Sunburn. The American Academy of Dermatology recommends beachgoers to wear sunscreen with an SPF of at least 30 to avoid sunburn. Sunburn not only is painful, leaving you with blistering skin, but it can lead to skin damage such as dry skin, wrinkles, dark spots, and skin cancer, including melanoma.
  • Wildlife injuries. Beach animals aren’t creatures to be messed with. There are creatures who may cause problems for you if you’re not too careful. Jellyfish may sting you if you swim past one or accidentally step on one. Sea urchins are also one such invertebrate who you’ll regret stepping on, as their spines often penetrate the skin. Other creatures to avoid are stingray, lionfish, and even sharks (albeit rare).
  • Riptides, undertow, and rip currents. Never, ever swim in ocean water without a lifeguard present, no matter how confident you are in your ability to swim. Swimming can be, unfortunately, dangerous, especially at night, due to rip currents, rip tides, and undertow.
  • Spinal cord injuries. Shorebreak, or surf zone, happens when waves break directly on the shore. They also happen to be quite powerful. If you dive into a shorebreak, you put yourself at risk for blunt trauma injuries, including injuries to the spinal cord. Most swimming injuries at the beach occur in less than two feet of water, according to a study by the Delaware Sea Grant College Program and Beebe Medical Center and reported by the University of Delaware.
  • Cuts. Cuts may occur when you step on any exposed shells, shell fragments, litter, sharp rocks, driftwood, or sea glass. If you happen to cut yourself on any of the debris, you should avoid swimming (due to the risk of saltwater entering the wound) and apply first aid.
  • Slip and fall injuries. Wet sand may be difficult to traverse, leading to some nasty slip and fall injuries.
  • Assault injuries. You may be attacked by another beach attendee or even beach security, both of which can be held liable for any injuries they’ve caused you.

Causes of beach injuries

Beach injuries can be caused by a variety of issues, including but not limited to:

  • Reckless or negligent actions caused by the lifeguard on duty
  • Tides and currents
  • Glass and trash
  • Beach events
  • Beach security

Who can be held liable for injuries taking place on the beach?

  • Glass and litter. If you cut yourself on glass, litter, or even discarded needles that have been strewn about the public beach, then Parks Department or a similar government organization would be responsible for the maintenance.
  • Beach security. Beach security may exist at the beach you’re attending in order to maintain the peace and safety of all beach attendees. However, the officers may negligently, recklessly, or intentionally cause injuries, making them liable for any damage you may sustain.
  • Swimming in the ocean. On a public beach, lifeguards should be present unless the beach is closed. If you follow the rules of the beach and avoid any areas where there is risk of riptide or undertow, but sustain injuries from swimming in a safe area (drowning, for example), then the lifeguard may be held liable for your injuries. If there are no lifeguards present but the beach is open, then the owner of the beach may be held liable.
  • Beach events. Accidents from events, such as concerts and festivals, are often caused by negligence and may be the responsibility of either the event hosts or the beach’s owner(s). The only exception may be if an assault occurs during the event. In that case, liability may instead fall on the aggressor.

What about private beaches?

Whether a private beach owner can be held liable for any injuries of beachgoers depends on state laws. In Florida, a private property owner who allows the public to use their land for recreational purposes, then liability is limited, so long as the owner doesn’t charge for the access.

If injured at the beach, consult a personal injury attorney

If you’ve recently been injured while at the beach, you may be entitled to compensation for lost wages, emotional damages, medical treatment (both short- and long-term), pain and suffering, or loss of enjoyment. In that case, you should consult a personal injury attorney to explore your options. A personal injury attorney will help fight to win your case so that you can focus on resting and recovery.