Electrocution injuries are extremely dangerous — killing almost 1000 and injuring almost 30,000 people in the United States each year — yet almost all electrical injuries are from preventable accidents. Read on to learn more about how an electrocution accident lawyer can be of help when an electrical accident has impacted your life.
How Do Electrocution Accidents Happen?
Nearly half of electrocutions occur in a workplace setting, usually because of contact with power lines or from electrical machines or tools. According to a 2006 report from the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH), 3,378 workers died from on-the-job electrical injuries between 1992 and 2002. Here are some quick facts from the report:
- The most common cause of death was direct contact with power lines, which resulted in almost 42 percent of deaths
- The second most common cause of death was a failure to de-energize equipment before starting work
- The third most common cause of death was mistaken or mislabeled wiring creating contact with “hot” wires.
The report also stated that non-fatal injuries were far more common, affecting almost 50,000 workers over the ten-year time period. Here’s some more information:
- 36 percent of the non-fatal injuries were caused by contact with the electric current of a machine, tool, appliance, or light fixture
- 34 percent of the non-fatal injuries were caused by contact with wiring, transformers, or other electrical components
- 2 percent of non-fatal injuries were caused by contact with buried, underground power lines
With almost half of all fatal occupational electrical accidents involving power lines, it comes as no surprise that some of the greatest risks are to live line workers. This is an occupation that employs over half a million people across the country. Texas live line workers are responsible for the construction and maintenance of poles, power lines, auxiliary facilities, and equipment for the distribution of electricity. Even without exposure to electricity, this is a dangerous job. To reach the lines, line workers conduct amazing feats of human acrobatics, including working in baskets that hang from hovering helicopters.
As the only state with its own power grid, and the second-largest energy-producing state in the nation, it comes as no surprise that Texas’ line workers numbers are growing — as is the construction industry, manufacturing, and other high-risk industries. Unfortunately, so did the overall number of injuries and deaths from exposure to electricity from 2018 to 2019.
In 2019, Texas had 29 fatalities from electrical accidents, up 20 percent from the year before. However, this was followed by a sharp drop in electrical fatalities in 2020 — a 24 percent decrease. However, 2020 also saw a 17 percent increase in nonfatal electrical injuries despite workers putting in 10 percent fewer hours than the year before.
The number of electrical fatalities dropped almost 50 percent between 2003 and 2020. Are workers safer than ever, or will an attempt at a return to pre-pandemic productivity combined with labor instabilities put workers at even greater risk?
What Are the Kinds of Electrical Injuries?
Electricity is extremely dangerous, and the severity of the injury sustained will depend on a wide variety of factors. That said, there are four main categories of electrical injuries. These include:
- Electric shock. This is a reflex response that may involve trauma. This occurs when an electrical current passes over or through a worker’s body. It usually involves burns and can cause abnormal heart rhythm and unconsciousness.
- Electrocution. These injuries occur when an electrical current passes over or through a worker’s body in a complete circuit. This results in a fatality.
- Falls. Electric shock can cause a person’s muscles to contract, causing a worker to lose his or her balance and fall. An explosion from an electrical incident can also cause a fall.
- Electrical burns. These injuries are the most common shock-related, nonfatal injury, and they occur when a worker makes contact with energized electrical wiring or equipment. Although electrical burns can occur anywhere on the body, they most often occur on the hands and feet.
Lineworkers are not the only ones at risk of electrocution. The CDC released a report in 2018 that showed that 77 percent of the contract worker electrocutions that occurred from 2012-2016 were workers employed in the construction industry. Power line installers saw 32 deaths per 100,000 full-time employees while 105 electricians out of every 100,000 died as a result of electrocution.
Tragically, in many of these fatal cases, the deceased worker was a contractor who was not a trained electrical specialist performing work that should have been conducted by a trained, if not licensed, electrician. Industries like the construction industry continue to increase the number of contracted labor workers they use, and this has increased the risk of accidents and death.
Almost 50 percent of annual construction fatalities and injuries are contractors who work for a company with fewer than 10 employees, which means that injured employees or their families are often left confused about their options.
What Should You Do If Someone is Injured by Electricity?
An electric shock can cause both internal and external damage, and while it can be difficult to act in the moment, a quick response can have a big impact on minimizing the negative effects. If you witness someone else being shocked:
- Do not touch them if they are in contact with the electricity course. The electrical current will pass through them in you
- Don’t move them unless it is absolutely necessary to avoid further injury. Injured parties should only be moved by trained professionals.
- Move any source of live electricity, like a fallen wire, away using a rubber or wood object. Do not use anything metal or wet because it will let the current pass through to you
- Call 911. First responders will be able to help if the victim is unconscious, severely burned, have trouble breathing, experiencing muscle pain, seizures, numbness, or other concerning symptoms
- Start CPR if they are not breathing. Make sure they are not touching a live electricity source first
- Address the wound. Cover any burns with sterile, non-adhesive gauze, if possible
Make sure the accident is reported to your employer as soon as possible. You may also file a report with the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) directly, especially if you have concerns about any hazards that may have contributed to the electrocution. No matter who notifies OSHA in the event of a workplace accident, a report will need to be filed eventually with important information about the incident and the employer, including:
- Inspection case number
- Date the case was opened
- Project type
- Project cost
- Injuries or fatalities
- Nature of injury
- Occupation, age, and sex of the injured employee
- Narrative of the accident
OSHA has specific guidelines designed to increase safety and reduce hazards, including specific guidance on hiring contract workers. When these guidelines are not followed or a company has acted in a way that is negligent, resulting in an accident, you may have grounds for a lawsuit.
Can I Sue If I’m Injured by Electricity?
Some people believe they cannot sue their employers for injury, especially if the employer has workers’ compensation. If your employer has workers’ comp coverage, it is unlikely you will be able to sue them. However, there are plenty of exceptions. For example, just because an employee directly reports to one supervisor does not mean that supervisor is the only potentially liable party in the event of an electrical accident.
Generally speaking, the only recourse when someone has been injured or even died on the job is to go to workers’ comp benefits. However, there is an exception guaranteed by the Texas constitution and reiterated in the Texas labor code. That exception is when the employer has been grossly negligent — a special term that means not only did something bad happen but that when that bad thing happens, it’s likely to be very bad and very much the result of bad behavior on the part of the company.
Especially in industries that use contract labor, liability is a complex web that sometimes only a personal injury lawyer can untangle. Whether gross negligence may be at play or whether workers’ compensation benefits do not apply in a particular case, it is generally always worth the time to set up a free consultation with an electrocution accident attorney.
Why Should You Hire an Electrocution Accident Lawyer?
Depending on your specific situation, your first course of action may be to file an incident report with your employer followed by a workers’ comp claim. In some cases, especially for contract workers who may not be covered by workers’ comp, this may not be an option.
To establish that you have a personal injury claim, you must be able to prove a few things.
- Reasonable duty. The party that injured you owed you a reasonable duty. In the case of electrocution injury, you will prove that your employer was required to adhere to safety protocols and regulatory oversight and failed.
- Breach of duty. The party that injured you breached that duty by acting negligently, or by failing to act protectively.
- Injury. Injuries can be physical, emotional, financial, or all of the above. You must have documented evidence of your injuries to move forward with a case.
- Injury was caused by breach of duty. The breach of duty caused your injuries. For example, if a negligent crane operator’s inattention causes you to fall from a platform onto a live wire, the crane operator breached their duty to safe working conditions, and that negligence has caused your injury.
Considering the high rate of fatalities when it comes to electrocution accidents, it may be that the best course of action is to explore a wrongful death suit if you are an eligible family member.
How Much Is an Electrocution Lawsuit Worth?
Even if negligence is not a factor, an electrocution accident injury lawyer can help those who have been injured and their loved ones understand their rights when it comes to the mountain of medical costs they are facing.
A personal injury lawyer can help you explore options for paying the mounting medical bills and other expenses associated with your injuries. These factors might include:
- Loss of earnings
- Loss of future earnings
- Medical bills
- Cost of future medical care
- Household expenses
- Pain and suffering
- Mental anguish
- Loss of consortium or companionship
How Can FVF Help?
FVF always offers case consultations at no cost to you because our goal is that you will walk away from that first conversation feeling informed enough to decide what is best for yourself. We know you have big decisions to make about whether you will proceed with your case — and whether you want FVF to consider taking on your case. FVF accepts injury cases only in circumstances when we our representation adds substantial value to your claim. We also work on a contingency fee basis, so you will always know what to expect when it comes to our fees.
If you do choose to hire us, you’ll have the benefit of working with a team of personal injury lawyers with more than 80 years’ combined experience, and you will be treated with dignity and respect. Contact us today to schedule your free consultation.