Electricity is a vital part of our way of life. We’re highly dependent on electricity, making it easy to forget or simply not consider its dangers and the devastating effects of electrical accidents. While electrical injuries can happen to anyone and accidents can occur in any setting, the greatest risks are to those who work in certain jobs and industries.
In 2020, the highest rate of fatal workplace electrical injuries in the U.S. occurred in the mining industry, with construction workers seeing the second highest. In fact, extraction and construction workers combined accounted for 44% of electrical injury fatalities, and installation, maintenance, and repair workers accounted for another 20%.
There were 126 fatal electrical injuries in the workplace in 2020 and 2,220 non-fatal injuries that caused days away from work. Outside of occupational settings, the Electrical Safety Foundation International estimates there are 51,000 home electrical fires that cause around 500 deaths and 1,400 injuries each year.
The physical and emotional effects of electrical injuries can be extensive and cause both short- and long-term struggles for the injured and their families. Electrical accidents often impact quality of life and the ability to work, and the financial burden of recovery and future medical needs may be overwhelming.
If an electrical injury occurs at work or home, an individual or business could be held liable. It’s important to speak with an experienced Louisiana electrical accident attorney to discuss your legal options for electrical accidents. A lawyer can help determine if someone’s negligence contributed to or caused the electrical accident and the type of compensation you may deserve.
Types of Electrical Injuries
Electrical accidents cause serious injuries, and in some cases, they’re fatal. The severity of electrical injuries an individual may sustain greatly varies because it’s dependent on several factors: the voltage, length of time exposed, path it traveled through the body, and level of current.
Electric shock victims may experience many temporary but also permanent and irreversible effects. Sometimes, the injured person may struggle to move a part of their body when the accident occurs but regain movement in the days following. For others, some of the health effects from electrical accidents worsen over time, leading to permanent injuries or limitations.
There are four types of electrical injuries:
- Flash: Usually causes superficial burns only because the electrical current doesn’t enter the body (it doesn’t go past the skin).
- Flame: Clothes catch fire, which can cause severe burns, and the electrical current could pass through the skin.
- Lightning: High voltage electrical current over a short time but flows through the whole body. It may cause significant external and internal organ damage.
- True: The person becomes part of the electrical current, and in most cases, there’s an obvious entry and exit site on the body – typically the hands, feet, and head. Internal and external injuries can be serious.
Organs that could be damaged in an electrical accident depend on the path an electric current takes through the body. Since nerves, blood vessels, and muscles have the highest conductivity, electric currents can easily travel through their low resistance. But when the current encounters bones, tendons, or other parts of the body with higher resistance and low conductivity, the greater the damage that may occur to these areas. For example, when the electricity entry site is a hand and the exit a foot, the current travels by many organs on the way, likely affecting the heart and possibly causing significant internal damage.
There are many effects and injuries from electrical accidents, including:
- Amputation of feet or hands (entry and exit points)
- Organ damage
- Cardiac arrest
- Blood vessel, vein, and artery damage
- Muscle, nerve, and tissue destruction
- Respiratory arrest
- Spinal cord injuries
- Abnormal heart rhythm
- Numbness or feeling of pins and needles
- Kidney failure
The way electricity and the body interact has complex medical implications. Sometimes there are no apparent external injuries from an electrical accident, but there’s serious internal organ damage. Because of this, doctors typically order imaging of the areas an electric current traveled by or through to look for injuries that aren’t apparent but could be dangerous or even fatal.
Electric shock injuries are not limited to the effects of current traveling through the body. Often, when someone is shocked, they fall from great heights, like when a worker maintains a power line and an electrical accident occurs. Explosions are another risk, and the blast could throw someone several feet. As a result, falls and explosions caused by electrical accidents could lead to other injuries, including concussions, traumatic brain injuries, and broken bones.
Beyond the immediate health risks, research has shown that there can be many long-term effects of electrical injuries. Some people have developed mental health conditions, such as depression, anxiety, and post-traumatic stress disorder, and suffer from poor concentration and memory loss.
Generalized pain, eye problems, joint stiffness or arthritis, muscle pain and spasms, paralysis, dizziness, tremors, and migraines are other possible long-term effects of electrical accidents. However, it’s difficult to predict how someone will be affected by electric shock due to the abundance of factors that affect the type and severity of this trauma.
Causes of Electrical Accidents
Thousands of electrical accidents occur each year in the U.S. Working around power lines and using electric machinery and tools are common causes of electrical injuries in occupational settings. In fact, at least half of all workplace electrocutions in Louisiana occur from contact with power lines.
The causes of workplace electrical accidents vary, but many are related to an unsafe environment, such as poor maintenance of tools and electric systems, lack of ground-fault protection, faulty or uninsulated wiring, and wet conditions. Unsafe work practices are another cause of electrical accidents, including lack of safety and equipment training, and improper use of extension cords.
At home, the main dangers of electrical accidents include contact with power outlets and cords, exposed wiring, and lighting. Damaged plugs, faulty wiring, and damaged extension cords present many electrical dangers in a house. Flickering bulbs are often ignored but may indicate something could be wrong with the electrical system and cause an electrical fire. For children, biting or chewing cords and using metal objects to poke outlets are also common sources of electrical injuries.
Legal Options for Electrical Accident Victims
The impact of an electrical accident on the person injured and their family, or the surviving family of a loved one who was tragically killed, can be devastating. Electrical accidents often cause lifelong physical, emotional, and psychological health conditions and struggles. Managing the effects of an electrical injury may involve several therapies and treatments, medications, and frequent monitoring by doctors and specialists. It may require time off work, high medical bills, future surgeries, other medical treatment, and physical and emotional pain and suffering.
Whether you suffered an electrical injury at work or home, you should consult with an experienced Louisiana electrical accident attorney to discuss your legal options. Since most electrical accidents are preventable, a person and/or business may be liable for what happened, but you’ll need to prove their negligence.
With an electrical injury claim, you could be compensated for the many damages you and your family experience. And if a loved one was killed in an electrical accident, a wrongful death claim could ensure the financial stability of the surviving family members. While a personal injury or wrongful death lawsuit can’t take away the injuries or loss, it can lower the stress of recovery and hold negligent parties responsible for what happened.
If you’ve been in an electrical accident, the electrical injury attorneys at Herman, Herman & Katz can help. We’ve handled cases involving negligent electric utility companies, businesses, employers, and individuals and can help you navigate the effects of an electrical injury. We’ve gotten countless clients the compensation they need and deserve while protecting their rights and fighting for their best interests as they recover. Contact us online or call 1-844-943-7626 for a free consultation.
Jed Cain is a partner with Herman, Herman & Katz, LLC. He has dedicated his career to representing injured folks and their families.