Electrocution happens when someone is exposed to high voltage electricity and shocked, and it can cause injuries that result in death. Toddlers and adolescents are the age groups most likely to suffer electrocution in the United States. The severity of the injuries depends on the amount of voltage, how long the victim encountered a current, the pathway of the electricity through the body, and the type of current and circuit. Smaller currents, which are currents from 70 mA– 700 mA, can cause heart fibrillation, which may be reversed with the use of a defibrillator. However, large currents can cause permanent damage to cells and result in serious burns.
Some injuries arising out of electrocution include internal organ damage, cardiac arrest, brain or nerve damage, headaches, changes in temperament or personality, loss of vision, memory loss, neuropathy, loss of cognition, permanent heart muscle damage, unconsciousness, burns, respiratory failure, and seizures. The organs most likely to be damaged are in the cardiovascular, respiratory, and central nervous systems.
Common Electrocution Injuries
Internal organ damage
Brain or nerve damage
Changes in temperament or personality
Some long-term complications from electrocution to the central nervous system include damage to peripheral nerves, delayed spinal cord injuries, or psychiatric issues such as depression. Certain cardiovascular rhythms that arise during electrocution, such as ventricular fibrillation, are lethal. While the lungs do not conduct electricity well, respiratory arrest may happen when electricity goes through the chest or the portion of the brain that controls breathing. A victim should get attention from the emergency department.
What situations commonly give rise to electrocutions? Situations in which electrocutions happen include accidental contact between metal and electricity, accidental contact with an exposed electrical source, contact with a power line, appliances and products such as defective hairdryers or hairdryers that fall in the bath, faulty electrical wiring, and lightning.
Electrocutions can occur in the home, at the workplace, or on somebody else’s property. When electrocution happens inside one’s home, the reason is sometimes defective products, such as defective power tools, faulty appliances, or unsafe toys. In those cases, it may be possible to recover compensation from the manufacturer or seller under a products liability theory. Electrocution on someone else’s property may arise out of similar conditions, but the property owner may have liability as well, if it knew or should have known of hidden dangerous conditions involving electricity.
In some cases, such as when a victim is electrocuted on a construction site, the electrocution victim falls from great heights. This means that the victim not only suffers direct injuries from electrocution but also harm from a fall. Damage to muscles and kidney damage may occur.
Liability for Electrocution
After electrocution, accident victims may suffer both financially and emotionally. If a worker is electrocuted on the job, he or she may be able to recover compensation through the worker’s compensation system. At times, workplace accidents happen because of a product defect or a negligent person who is unrelated to the employer. In that case, an injured worker may be able to sue and recover based on third-party liability.
If an electrocution is a result of a workplace accident, a victim may be able to recover benefits under workers’ compensation laws.
If the electrocution occurs outside work, the victim can sue any responsible party in civil court for economic damages and noneconomic damages, including medical expenses, loss of wages, lost earning capacity, permanent disability, out-of-pocket expenses, loss of enjoyment of life, and pain and suffering. When a spouse is permanently disabled, the family relationships change. In many states, an accident victim’s spouse can sue for loss of consortium.