Visitors to our website are aware that, according to the
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, drowning accidents are responsible for an average of 10 deaths
per day, with many of those deaths occurring in the childhood to young adult age
groups. However, there is relatively little data available regarding those who
survive such accidents and make up a subgroup that we call
victims of near-drowning accidents.
In today's post, the drowning accident lawyer at
The Doan Law Firm will discuss a medical condition that is encountered almost exclusively
in near-drowning victims: "secondary" drowning. He will then
discuss the legal avenues that may be available to those who have been
injured by this condition.
Before proceeding, it will be helpful to understand what happens to the
physiology (normal body function) in a drowning accident.
What is "drowning," from a medical perspective?
drowning process is best described in "physical" terms of cause, effect, consequence,
cause of drowning is the presence of a liquid in the upper airway (nose, mouth,
and trachea / "windpipe") which interferes with the body's
ability to "move" air from the atmosphere to the lungs or from
the lungs to the atmosphere. This is sometimes (incorrectly) called "gas
exchange," as explained in the next paragraph.
effect of the presence of this liquid is the loss of the body's ability to
bring the "gas" oxygen (in the inhaled air) into the body via
the lungs, allowing the cells that make up the lungs to "exchange"
carbon dioxide produced by the body for the oxygen the body needs to function normally.
consequence of loss of normal gas exchange in the lungs is that the body quickly uses
up its "available" oxygen in the blood, a condition known as
hypoxia. This causes the two body organs that require a constant supply of oxygen,
the brain and the heart, to begin to malfunction. In the case of the brain,
the victim loses consciousness (and the ability of the rest of the body
to "save itself") and the heart will cease to effectively function
shortly afterward. If these conditions are quickly corrected, the victim
will die within minutes.
Although drowning accidents are frequently fatal, their
outcome can be influenced by 1) how quickly the victim is removed (rescued) from
danger and 2) how quickly
effective emergency medical measures (e.g. CPR) begin.
What is "secondary drowning?"
In the professional medical literature, a "secondary drowning"
is usually defined as
respiratory distress ("trouble breathing") that develops within 24 to 48 hours
after a near drowning accident. In addition to a medical history of a near drowning
incident in the previous 24 to 48 hours, the following "signs and
symptoms" are suggestive of secondary drowning:
- a new cough
- difficulty breathing similar to that seen in asthma
- chest pain that is related to inspiration, becoming worse with deeper breaths
- the appearance of a "bluish" tint in the lips, mouth, and nailbeds
- in children, a decrease in normal physical activity ("lethargy")
Although secondary drowning is uncommon, with most authorities estimating
it occurs in less than 2% of near-drownings, the appearance of
any of the above symptoms in a recent near-drowning victim
must be evaluated by a health care practitioner.
Can secondary drowning be prevented?
Each drowning accident and each drowning accident victim are, of course,
unique. With that said, we must also note that the great majority of drowning
accidents do have a single factor in common: they were
preventable! This observation also applies to those rare cases of secondary drowning.
The key to preventing a secondary drowning episode is education of the
victim, and the victim's family, in the recognition of the signs and
symptoms that indicate this condition may be developing. If the near-drowning
victim is treated at an Emergency Room or as a hospital inpatient, this
education will be provided by the medical and/or nursing staff and
documented in the victim's
discharge instructions. Failure to provide the near-drowning victim and/or the victim's family
with discharge instructions or to make arrangements for follow-up medical care
could be taken as evidence of negligence or of medical malpractice.
What to do after a Secondary Drowning
Although secondary drowning is relatively rare, if it happens to a family
member it has occurred in
100% of the near-drowning victims known to you!
If you suspect that you or a family member were the victim of medical malpractice
related to a secondary drowning incident, we invite you to contact the
drowning accident injury lawyer at
The Doan Law Firm, a national personal injury law practice with offices located throughout
contact our office, your case review and your first consultation to discuss the legal options
that may be available to you are always free and do not obligate you to
hire our firm. Should you decide to file a lawsuit and that you would
like for us to represent you in court, we are willing to work with you
through all stages of your lawsuit in exchange for an agreed-upon percentage
of the settlement that we will win for you.