Whenever a human body comes into contact with electricity, there exists the possibility of a variety of injuries due to such electric shock. If the electric shock results in death it is referred to as electrocution. If electrocution is caused by someone else’s negligence, it falls into the category of wrongful death.
Some of the injuries resulting from electric shocks and electrocution include the following:
- Burns, which are the most common shock-related, nonfatal injury, including to the skin and tissue under the skin;
- Nerves and tissue damage;
- Spinal cord injury or nerve damage resulting from the electric current passing through one’s body;
- Cardiac arrest from the effect of electricity on one’s heart;
- Fractures from being thrown or falling from a height, such as off a building, ladder or truck;
- Head and brain injuries such as loss of consciousness, amnesia and confusion;
- Psychiatric and psychological problems, including depression, anxiety and aggression.
- Wrongful death may occur from any electric shock that carries sufficient current to stop the heart.
Factors in Severity of Injury
There are many different factors that determine how severe the electric shock injury may be, including the following:
- The type of electrical current;
- The amount of voltage;
- The length of time the body is in contact with the electrical current;
- The pathway the electrical current takes through the body;
- The type of circuit;
- The victim’s state of health; and
- How quickly help arrives.
Liability for Electric Shock/Electrocution
Many electric shock and electrocution deaths occur on construction sites. In fact, electrocution is the second leading cause of death for construction workers. Electrocution, when it takes place in the workplace, often occurs due to unsafe working conditions or malfunctioning or defective machinery or tools. Although some of these cases will be limited by workers compensation in New York, there are often ways in which we can look to a third party for liability, such as the owner of the premises, a general contractor or the manufacturer of a defective product or the companies which maintains machinery or equipment.
Another source of electric shock or electrocution is contact with overhead power lines. Electric companies have a duty to properly install and maintain their wires including fixing sags in power lines or repairing and guarding against power lines that have been knocked down in a storm. When a power company fails to exercise reasonable care in protecting the public in these situations, it can be held responsible.
Defective products can also cause electrical injuries, which often occur in the home. They may involve either defective design or defective manufacture. In a case involving an electrical shock arising from defective design of a product, the claim is that the product functioned as it was designed but the design itself was negligent, thereby causing the injury. If the risk of electric shock or electrocution cannot be designed out of a product without destroying the utility of the product, the manufacturer must provide proper warnings and safeguards to prevent injury.