Accidents involving electrical shock can be minor, or they could be fatal. When an electrical current passes through a human body and kills a person, an electrocution occurs. A wide range of injuries can be attributed to electrical shock. A few of the more typical injuries include:
- Cardiac arrest
- Severe burns
- Spinal cord injuries
- Psychiatric issues
- Fractures from falling
- Nerve and tissue damage
Electrocution dates back to about 1899 and the first electric chair. Since execution was by severe shock, the term “electrocution” was used. For lack of a better term, it continues to be used.
Severity of the shock
How strong an electrical shock is to an individual primarily depends on four factors. Those are:
- The voltage amount
- The type of electrical current
- Where the path of the current travels through the body
- Whether any grounding existed
Overhead power lines
Electrocution often results from contact with overhead power lines. Power companies must properly install, maintain and repair their power lines, especially if they’re knocked down in a storm. They can be held liable for injury or death if they fail to use due care and caution in protecting members of the general public.
Dangerously defective products
Defective electrical products such as appliances cause a great number of injuries in the home. Improper installations or faulty repairs can cause severe shocks, electrocutions or start fires. Children being electrocuted by products is particularly worrisome as they might not understand the inherent dangers of electricity until they’re older.
Electrocutions at work
Unsafe working conditions at construction sites and industrial settings have caused many electrical accidents and electrocutions. These might be caused by unsafe machinery, faulty repairs or dangerously defective tools.
Electrical accidents and workers’ compensation
The general rule is that if a person is seriously shocked or electrocuted while in the course of his or her employment, workers’ compensation benefits are their sole and exclusive remedy. The law doesn’t permit them to sue their employer directly. What comes to issue though is that in cases of severe shock or electrocution, workers’ compensation benefits won’t adequately compensate a victim or a mourning family.
Third party liability
An exception to the sole and exclusive remedy rule of workers’ compensation is the third party liability rule which is often seen in large construction site accident cases. There might be many contractors and construction workers on a job site building a skyscraper. If a carpenter from one company is severely shocked or electrocuted through the negligence of an electrician from another company, he and his family might be able to work around the sole and exclusive workers’ compensation rule by filing an actual negligence lawsuit against the electrician and his employer. Additional damages would be available in that lawsuit that aren’t covered by workers’ compensation. The law allows that lawsuit to be brought at the same time as any workers’ compensation claim too.
Another exception to the sole and exclusive remedy rule for workers’ compensation is the law of product liability. A worker who was seriously shocked, or the family of a person who died by electrocution from a dangerously defective product can also bring an action in a civil court under the legal theory of product liability. Pursuant to product liability law, a manufacturer, distributor, supplier or retailer can be held liable for injury or death due to:
- A design defect that makes an entire product line dangerously defective
- A manufacturing defect resulting from poor workmanship
- A failure to warn of dangers in a product that aren’t obvious
Negligence, third party liability and product liability cases all require specially trained and experienced lawyers. Workers’ compensation claims have their own special rules too that most law firms aren’t prepared to deal with. Any severe shock or electrocution case involves one or more theories of liability. Electricians aren’t the only people who are at risk for severe shock or electrocution. Injury or death from electrical shock might involve painters, roofers, construction workers, industrial workers, consumers or their children. Regardless of how an electrical accident occurred, an attorney who is experienced in electrical accidents might be of great help to an injured person or a decedent’s family.