Diving injury compensation claims

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A guide to making a No Win No Fee diving injury claim

This article looks at both compensation claims for scuba diving-related injury or illness and also swimming pool-related diving injury compensation.

Our network of solicitors do not currently have the capacity to take on holiday-related injury and sickness claims outside the UK. It is recommended that you contact a personal injury specialist solicitor to discuss your options as soon as possible, as some jurisdictions have limitation dates of less than the three year limit that is standard in the UK.

Scuba Diving

According to figures from the British Sub-Aqua Club (BSAC) there were 226 scuba diving accidents in 2015, an increase of 10 on the previous year - although this was 60% lower than the average from the years 2006 to 2011. It is thought that the general reduction in the number of accidents is due to improvements in diver safety, especially with respect to the number of decompression incidents (DCI)

The main types of accident associated with scuba diving include:

Decompression incidents (DCI)

These occur when divers surfaces too quickly from any depth, causing air to escape into the blood vessels from the lungs (pulmonary barotrauma) or bubbles of nitrogen to form in the blood vessels (decompression illness, or "the bends").

The main causes of DCI in 2015 involved repeat diving, rapid ascents and diving deeper than 30m.

If a decompression incident occurs as the result of a health and safety breach, or is due to inadequate training, it may be possible to make a claim against the organisers of the dive or the instructor. These parties should have insurance in place to enable any damages arising from a claim to be paid.

Rapid ascents

There were 35 incidences of rapid ascent in BSAC's reporting period. All of these incidents required treatment including administering oxygen.

Causes included poor buoyancy control, equipment problems, weighting issues and divers experiencing anxiety and rushing for the surface.

Other injuries and illness

Other diving-related injuries are wide-ranging, and include ear injuries and sinus pain, asthma, fractured ribs and deep cuts and lacerations.

Such incidents may be avoidable, following principles of safe diving practice, however in some cases amateur and newer divers are injured as a result of a lack of supervision, lack of adequate gear or inexperience.

Negligence in these circumstances will likely depend on the facts of the case, and it may be possible to make a claim. A specialist injury solicitor will be able to discuss your options with you.

What are the principles of safe diving practice?

  • Equipment must be fit for purpose. For example anyone open water diving in the UK needs to have a wetsuit thicker than 5mm to give thermal protection against the cold water.
  • All breathing apparatus should be thoroughly checked before diving.
  • Buoyancy tests should be carried out before diving to ensure the correct weights are placed on the weight belt or buoyancy control device, and that they are secure. Too few weights and the diver will struggle to remain at depth; too many and he will descend rapidly and too far.

DCI risk is directly related to the depth of the dive, the amount of time under pressure, and the rate of ascent. Decompression can be conducted safely by the use of dive tables (or profiles). Modern wrist worn dive computers can calculate this information by accurately showing the depth and rates of ascent against a time scale,  but printed tables (and the ability to interpret them) should always be available as a back-up.

PADI (Professional Association of Diving Instructors) guidelines state that when conducting several dives the deepest should be first and all subsequent dives should be shallower. This helps the body to equalise pressure and reduces risk of decompression sickness.

People with certain medical conditions are advised against diving - PADI requires divers to complete a medical statement, which includes a medical questionnaire. Divers are also advised to undergo the Recreational Scuba Diver's Physical Examination which focuses on conditions that may put a diver at increased risk of injury and illness.

Anyone who sustains a scuba diving injury caused by any of the principles of safe diving being ignored by the third party organiser may be eligible to bring a claim against that individual or organisation. 

Swimming pool diving accidents

Swimming pool injury claims that relate to diving may result from poorly maintained diving boards; recklessness or carelessness of other pool users or inadequate supervision of users by lifeguards and other pool employees.

Poorly maintained diving boards with too little or too much spring can create problems for divers, causing a diver to lose control and fall awkwardly either back onto the board or into the pool.

Injuries include those caused by impact with the board or the bottom of the pool (from minor cuts and bruises to broken bones and serious head injuries and spinal damage) and those caused by collision with other pool users.

Dives from the poolside may also cause accidents. Pools may appear deeper than they are, due to the optical properties of water which affect depth perception. Without proper signage or good visibility, pool users may dive into water where the depth is insufficient - another major cause of diving accidents.

In addition, proper supervision of pool users by trained employees is often necessary to ensure that reckless or careless behaviour that may cause accidents is not permitted.

Who is liable?

Establishing who may be responsible for diving accidents may be helped by considering the following questions:

  • Was the diving board working properly?
  • Were there any warning signs present?
  • What was the water depth?
  • What was the pool width?
  • What were the lighting conditions?
  • How clear was the water?
  • What was the diving experience of the injured party?
  • What were other people at the scene doing?

Where pool attendants and lifeguards are either absent or negligent in their duties they may be found liable for any accidents caused by pool users. However, if despite being warned of the presence of other swimmers, an individual continues to dive into the pool, injuring a third party, he may be liable to pay compensation.

No Win, No Fee diving injury compensation claims

No Win, No Fee claims properly begin with an injured party signing up to, with their solicitor, a Conditional Fee Agreement, or CFA,.

The Conditional Fee Agreement is, in essence, a contract between the solicitor and you. The agreement explains the work delivered by the lawyer and, most significantly, a percentage success fee. This success fee is the percentage that will be taken from your compensation award after your injury lawyer wins your case.

By selecting a Quittance solicitor, you are able to prioritise your recovery, knowing that there will be nothing to pay if the claim is not successful.

What should you do next?

Find out more about claiming compensation

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