Electrocution is a common risk at construction sites and is one of the leading causes of deaths when employees are killed on the job. Oftentimes, there are multiple things happening on a construction site at one time and there is live power on the site when other work is occurring. This presents a risk of electrocution for workers at the site. Electrocution is a severe injury and, when it is not fatal, can leave the victim with critical and permanent damages.
In many cases, electrocution will occur because the employer has done something wrong or otherwise failed to follow a rule. When that happens, you or your loved one who has been injured may have legal recourse against the party that was responsible for your injuries in the form of financial compensation. The electrocution accident attorneys at Rosenfeld Injury Lawyers are experienced advocates when it comes to helping their clients file electrocution lawsuits in order to recover for these injuries.
What is Electrocution?
Electrocution occurs when a person makes contact with an energized high-voltage electrical source. Electrocution occurs when the current makes its way through the human body and causes a violent response. Electricity will primarily damage and destroy human tissue in the body. The injury happens because the human body will serve as a conductor of the electricity when there is human contact with both the electrical source and another source such as the ground at the same time.
The human body is especially vulnerable to electricity. It does not take much of an electrical current to cause damage and injury. While the skin can sometimes protect the body against electricity, when the current penetrates the skin and enters the body, people are vulnerable to serious injury. The electricity can generally break down the skin’s resistance when the voltage exceeds 500 V.
How is Someone Electrocuted on a Jobsite?
There are numerous ways that workers can come into contact with electricity on a worksite. Here are some ways that employees could be electrocuted:
- An employee is on a ladder that touches over power lines
- An excavator digs in the ground not knowing that there are energized underground power lines. A metal piece then make contact with the energized underground power source.
- Power may not be turned off on a worksite and a worker may touch a power source thinking that it has been deactivated.
- Something, such as a tree, can fall on a power line and can knock it down and the fallen power line contacts a worker on the ground.
These are just the most common instances of electrocution on a worksite. Anytime that there is live power on a worksite, workers are at risk of electrocution if the proper protection measures are not taken.
Common Electrocution Injuries
There are five main injuries that result from electrocution. Four of these are primary injuries and the fifth is a secondary injury that occurs as a result of the primary injury. Here are the different injuries that one can suffer from electrocution:
Cardiac Arrest – This is the most common form of electrical injury. Some studies show that as many as forty percent of electrical injuries are arrhythmias. Electricity will go to the area in the body where there is the least resistance, and the heart is generally on that path. In some cases, electrical currents as low as 60 MA can cause injury to the heart. In some cases, even low voltage shocks can cause severe damage. Injuries can include fibrillation or other muscle damage to the heart. The cardiac incident will generally occur either immediately or very shortly after the exposure to the electricity.
Tissue Injury – Electrical current is able to destroy tissue. The damage comes from the fact that the body emits heat as a resistance to the electrical current that is passing through it. This heat will burn the internal tissue and can cause it to cease functioning. Generally, the longer the duration of the electric shock, the more severe the tissue destruction will become.
Central Nervous System Injuries – The central nervous system conducts electricity throughout the body. This current can reach the brain and can cause brain damage. In addition, the current of energy can damage the nervous system which is unable to handle the high voltage passing through it,
Burns – Contact with the electrical source can cause thermal burns. Most likely, the point of the body that has contacted the electricity will be burned as well as the place where the electricity exited the body. Burns can be external to the skin. Even if there is not external damage, there can be internal burns that can cause even more serious injury when they impact the internal organs.
Secondary Injuries – In many cases, those who are injured may lose control of their body. Sometimes, this can lead to a fall. When this occurs from height at a construction site, the worker can suffer fractures or even more serious injuries. Some injuries occur when a ladder contacts an overhead power source and this will cause severe injury when the worker falls to the ground.
Statistics About Electrocution
The number of deaths from electrocution has been dropping this century as more measures are taken to protect workers from critical injuries. The number of electrocution deaths has dropped to 134 in 2015. In 1998, the number of electrocution deaths in the United States exceeded 300. However, there have been advances in safety in the past two decades. On the other side, some have argued that the drop in electrocution deaths resulted from the Great Recession and is not a result of anything that employers are doing differently on work sites.
82 of these 134 deaths have resulted from incidents at construction sites. Many of these deaths came from contact with overhead power lines or some other electrical fixture on a worksite. Additionally, electricians constitute the bulk of those killed by electrocution on work sites. From 2011 to 2015, there were 105 electricians who were killed by electrocution in the construction field.
Medical Treatment of Electrocution
Immediate medical assistance is of the essence if one is to survive an electrocution. This is a form of trauma to the body and requires specialized expert care. Some of the primary means of treatment electrical injuries include treatment for burns as that is one of the most immediate concerns in the wake of an electrocution. In addition, there may be cardiac treatment that is necessary since many electrocution victims suffer some sort of heart damage. Electrocution victims will also be in serious pain due to the nervous system damage so pain management is also a paramount concern.
In some cases, the injury from the electrocution is not immediately apparent after the incident has occurred. In that case, the patient will need to receive ongoing care to treat injuries as they arise. In addition, there may also be extensive rehabilitation necessary if it is at all possible to repair some of the damage to the nervous system. How much function a person can regain is dependent on the care that they receive in the immediate aftermath of their injury.
OSHA Regulations Related to Electrical Safety
OSHA has regulations that govern a number of areas that relate to electricity. Here are some of the areas in which employers must follow OSHA rules:
- Electrical construction standards
- Training of workers around electricity
- Hazard recognition
When employers violate these rules, workers can file a complaint with OSHA. Violations of OSHA rules can be the basis for a successful lawsuit when breaking the rule helped cause the injury.
How Much is my Electrocution Injury Case Worth?
While there are many factors that contribute to the value of your electrocution injury case such as: medical expenses, lost income, pain and disability (only mention if not mentioned earlier on the page) the cases below will hopefully give you some insight into how these cases are valued by juries, lawyers and insurance companies. While these cases can be instructive, they should not be conclusive in valuing your particular situation.
Plaintiff Verdict for $473,295 in Virginia (2018) – The plaintiff was installing equipment on the job using a stud welder. The welder was connected to a power source, but was turned off. The workman needed to move the stud welder a short distance and picked up the welder. When he did so, he received a strong electrical shock and was not able to quickly remove his hands from the welder. The plaintiff lost consciousness and suffered permanent injuries from the electrical shock. The lawsuit claimed, in part, that the defendant failed to properly energize the stud welder in a manner that made it dangerous when touched.
Settlement for $6.225 million in California (2018) – The plaintiff was working as an electrician and was at a waste-to-energy facility. He was tasked with the removal of a 2400-volt contact starter from its cubicle so that it could undergo maintenance. When he tried to move the starter, there was an arc flash explosion. The plaintiff suffered electrical burns as well as a traumatic brain injury. The plaintiff sued both the employer for negligence as well as the manufacturer of the contact starter for product liability claims. The defendants were found 75 percent liable in total and the case settled during the damages phase of the trial.
Plaintiff Verdict for $12.25 million in California (2018) – This was a wrongful death case. The decedent was setting up a table at a swap meet run by the defendant. The tent pole struck a power line above, causing severe electrocution and death. The decedent’s wife was also present and suffered serious injuries of her own as well as emotional distress from both her injuries as well as witnessing her husband’s death. The lawsuit claimed that the power lines above were uninsulated and dangerous and that people on the property should not have been allowed to use space directly underneath the power lines.
Settlement for $500,000 in Pennsylvania (2018) – This was a wrongful death action. The decedent was working as an electrician at an elementary school. He was installing a new light fixture and was working on top of duct work when he came into contact with a hot wire that was not turned off as it was supposed to be and was electrocuted to death. The lawsuit claimed that the premises were unsafe and that the employer failed to follow OSHA safety regulations. The lawsuit also alleged that the area should have been barricaded off but was not.
Plaintiff Award for $8,615,127 in New York (2018) – The plaintiff was working on an unsecured ladder at a home renovation project. The ladder shifted and the plaintiff fell to the balcony. He grabbed the ladder and contacted a high tension wire that was in the vicinity. The plaintiff was severely injured from the electrocution and suffered paralysis of his non-dominant hand and partial paralysis of one leg. The lawsuit claimed that the plaintiff’s injuries will continue to worsen. The plaintiff filed suit against both his employer as well as against Home Depot, which sold him the ladder that shifted.
Plaintiff Verdict for $23 million in Florida (2018) – This was a wrongful death action. The decent was a 15-year old child who was climbing a bamboo stalk in a friend’s backyard. The stalk struck an overhead power line and the child was fatally electrocuted. The lawsuit had claimed that there was a work order filed three years before the incident for the power company to remove the bamboo stalk, but the work order was never executed. The lawsuit was filed against the power company and one of the counts of the complaint was for gross negligence.
Plaintiff Verdict for $500,000 in Pennsylvania (2017) – The plaintiff was performing masonry work on a home improvement project. He was on the ground next to a ladder when the current from a low hanging overhead power line ran through the ladder. The current went through his arms and his legs. He lost part of both of his feet from his injuries and now walks with a permanent limp. The lawsuit claimed that the power company allowed the power line to hang too low and failed to properly inspect the power line. The plaintiff was partially responsible for his own injuries by carrying the ladder in an improper upright position.
Plaintiff Verdict for $3,401,739 in Utah (2017) – The lawsuit was brought on behalf of a minor child. When he was two years old, he was playing in the backyard. A tree fell on to a high voltage power line which severed the power line. The line produced heat that was significant enough to cause multiple electrical burns on the child’s body. The child suffered severe scarring as well as cognitive loss. The lawsuit was filed against the tree maintenance company alleging that the company should have removed the tree since it was contracted by the power company to maintain the trees around the power lines.
Settlement for $3.25 million in South Carolina (2017) – This was a wrongful death case. The decent was in her home and experienced an electrical problem. She suffered numerous injuries from the high voltage that caused her death. The lawsuit claimed that the electrical company left energized wiring in her driveway for over an hour. The lawsuit claimed that the defendant should have de-energized the line when performing the work.
Settlement for $60 million in Ohio (2016) – The lawsuit was brought on behalf of a severely injured 12-year old child. She was injured by a downed power line that was part of a system that was antiquated and needed replacement. The power line was downed in Hurricane Sandy. The power line dangled over the street within easy reach. The girl reached up and touched the low hanging power line and was severely electrocuted, suffering a significant brain injury. She will now require around the clock care for the rest of her life due to suffering a profound brain injury.
Settlement for $6 million in Washington (2016) – The plaintiff was working for a subcontractor on a road construction project. He was assigned to help steady the swinging pole. However, the defendants allowed the pole to become electrified during the process. The plaintiff suffered electrical brain injuries that resulted in cognitive and memory impairments and was unable to return to work. He also suffered entrance and exit burns in his hands and feet from the current. The general contractor and the subcontractor were cited for safety violations in connection with the incident.
Plaintiff Verdict for $1.806 million in Louisiana (2015) – This was a wrongful death case. The decedent was at a bar. He was invited up to the roof of the bar after closing in order to get a view of the Mississippi River. The operated of the bar provided him with alcoholic beverages while he was on the roof. The decedent came into contact with a power line that was located in close proximity to the building. The lawsuit was filed against the bar owner for allowing patrons access to the roof with the dangerous condition and against the power company for failing to warn customers of the dangerous condition.
Settlement for $3.1 million in Nevada (2015) – The plaintiff was a structural mover and was engaged in a job. He was on the roof, attempting to move low hanging wires. He was walking on the roof carrying a telephone cable when he contacted a high voltage wire. He suffered severe injuries in the electrocution and was in a coma for several weeks afterwards. He suffered significant destruction of bones and muscle that resulted in multiple amputations. The lawsuit was filed against the county for issuing the permit since it knew or should have known that the roof was within six feet of high voltage power wires.
Settlement for $1.05 million in Massachusetts (2014) – This was a wrongful death case. The decedent was an electrical apprentice who was working at a construction project. He came into contact with a live 277 volt circuit and was electrocuted to death. There was a short circuit in one of the junction boxes that helped cause the injury. The decedent was trapped when current ran through him and he could not be freed. The lawsuit claimed that the workers were not properly trained in the electrical plan and that the property owner was aware of the issues with the main circuit breaker and did not fix them.
Settlement for $1.25 million in Pennsylvania (2014) – This was a wrongful death case. The decedent was working in asbestos removal as part of the renovation of a property. He came into contact with a high voltage electrical line and was killed. The lawsuit claimed that the defendants should not have let anyone into the area where there was an active power line and failed to post diagrams of the power lines for workers to see.
Have You or a Loved one Been Electrocuted? Get Legal Help Now
An electrocution injury lawyer can help you and your family get the compensation that you deserve from an electrocution injury. Contact the attorneys at Rosenfeld Injury Lawyers to set up your free no-risk consultation today and find out how we can help you.