Electric shock causes injuries, but electrocutions are fatal. An electric shock injury might lead to a personal injury lawsuit, while an electrocution may lead to a wrongful death lawsuit filed by the family of the deceased.
According to the Electrical Safety Foundation International, 30,000 people in the U.S. experience electric shock every year. About 60 electrocutions occur annually as a result of consumer product use, usually from power tools, lights, or small appliances. Emedicinehealth.net reports that about 1,000 electrocution deaths occur in the U.S. each year. While electric shock and electrocution can happen in the home, the majority of these injuries happen on the job, usually among electricians and construction workers, who must work with and around exposed electrical lines on a regular basis.
Electricity-related injuries can happen for a number of reasons, such as faulty wiring, improper maintenance of electrical equipment, not abiding by safety regulations, failure to insulate an electrical line, and building a structure too near uninsulated power lines.
Both power companies and general contractors have a “duty of care” to ensure that no one suffers an electric shock or electrocution. Downed power lines must be repaired in a timely manner, for example. If any of these entities fail to live up to that duty of care, they are said to be negligent and therefore, responsible for any injuries or deaths that result.
It is not unusual for people to be electrocuted after a natural disaster such as a hurricane, earthquake, or tornado because power lines are often blown down during these incidents and buildings are sometimes destroyed, leaving electrical wiring exposed. It is especially dangerous when the power lines and water are in contact with one another, such as after a storm or hurricane.
Some examples of these types of injuries include people who suffered electric shock when they touched a metal ladder that was, unbeknownst to them, touching a power line. In one case, a man was working in a truck and when the boom was raised, it came into contact with a power line. He was electrocuted and caught fire as a result. In a rare incident, a man was found dead on a commercial property when he was electrocuted while trying to change a light fixture. In an incident involving children, batting cages became electrified when an electric box short-circuited.
Injuries from Electric Shock
Electric shock can cause a number of injuries and symptoms such as numbness and seizures. Burns are very common and these burns can sometimes occur internally due to the levels of voltage. Electric shock can also bring on a heart attack or respiratory failure, which can lead to death if not treated immediately. Nerve damage, such as neuropathy, is also common and it affects organ function, movement, and sensation.
If the electric shock causes the person to be thrown, all sorts of injuries can result, including spine injuries. Broken bones have even been known to result from violent muscle contractions after the shock. Injuries to the nerves, brain, muscles, and internal organs can be permanent, depending on the severity of the shock. Damage to internal organs may require surgery to at least attempt to repair them, in part if not in full.
Even a small amount of electrical current can cause a mild injury. This is why all appliances carry instructions to avoid water and not tamper with the electrical cord or inner workings of the device. Of course, high voltage is responsible for most electrocution deaths.
If the individual survives the electrical shock, typical medical tests that are conducted are an electrocardiogram to check the heart, a CT scan of the head, x-rays for possible bone fractures, and a urine test for muscle enzymes since they are an indicator of muscle injuries.
Electric Shock and Electrocution Lawsuits
If the electric shock or electrocution is the result of someone’s negligence, a lawsuit can be filed against the alleged responsible party. Typically, these lawsuits are made against power companies, product manufacturers, property owners, or general contractors on construction sites.
When a power company is involved, it is usually because their personnel did not repair a power line either properly or immediately.
General contractors on construction sites are obligated to make sure that their workers are protected from overhead power lines and that all electrical equipment being used is in working order. Employees must also be properly trained in using any of the equipment.
When a product manufacturer is at fault, the lawsuit is called “product liability.” Manufacturers are required to include safety information with their products and to ensure that any electrical appliances are made according to safety standards. If the design of the product results in an electrical injury, or if the design has not been followed in the production process, the manufacturer might be held liable for injuries.
Of course, if there is any question as to the cause of the electrical accident, the attorneys for the responsible party’s liability insurance company will attempt to prove that it was not the fault of their client but the fault of the plaintiff (the injured person). If exposed wires are involved, it is easier to show who is at fault than if the electrical injury is the result of a defective product. In that case, the defect must be proven, and it must also be proven that the injury was caused by that defect.
If a company fails to warn users of the dangers of its product, it could also be held liable for someone’s injuries. This might be the case if the manufacturer does not include instructions with its product or provides insufficient instructions.
If the accident results in a death, a wrongful death lawsuit may be filed against the responsible parties by the family of the deceased person. In these lawsuits, money for pain and suffering is often recovered, as well as the cost of real financial losses, such as the loss of the deceased’s income for the care of the family. If there are any remaining medical expenses, those might be included in the settlement as well.