Electrical burns and injuries pose serious threats to electric shock victims. They are painful, debilitating and disfiguring. Prompt medical treatment is necessary to know the extent of tissue and internal organ damage. Untreated tissue damage and loss of blood flow can result in limb amputation.
It is important that victims understand that even though a burn may not appear severe on the surface, the electric current that caused the burn may have done extensive damage to the body’s internal tissues and organs beneath the burn.
What are electrical burns?
They are a type of injury that a person suffers when he or she has been the victim of an electric shock, which involves a electricity passing through his or her body.
What causes electrical burns?
Electrical burns are caused by the electric current that is sent through a person’s body when a person suffers an electric shock injury. The current burns the person’s skin either as it enters or exits the person’s body or both.
How do these injuries occur?
These type of burns occur principally because of exposure to power lines, electronic appliances and wiring. A burn could occur from contact with a high-voltage power line that’s been damaged or that is close to a home or business. It could also happen with home appliances and wiring.
Exposure to power lines is a serious risk for utility workers who regularly work on, maintain and repair a utility’s power lines. Additionally, non-utility workers could suffer burns from exposure or contact with low-visibility power lines near their home or business as they’re attempting to do repairs or conduct basic maintenance and upkeep.
The failure to turn off the power to appliances or other electronic items before making home repairs and/or installations frequently results in people suffering serious electrical burns.
They can also occur as a result of a short-circuit, accidentally inserting one’s fingers in an outlet and/or falling into water that has been electrified due to exposure to electricity.
What affects the severity of the burn?
Factors that will affect the severity of this type of burn include:
- The amperage of the electric current
- The length of time that a victim was in contact with the source of electric current
- The pathway that the electric current takes as it passes through a person’s arm and whether it damages tissue, muscle and/or bone
- The type of electrical current that’s involved (e.g., direct current (DC) or alternating current (AC))
Research shows that low-frequency alternating current (AC) – rather than direct current (DC) – frequently results in burn injuries of greater severity because AC causes a person’s muscles to contract and to continue contracting, rendering an electric shock victim unable to let go or release his or her hold of the object through which the electric current is flowing.
Types of electrical burns
Generally, there are three types of electrical burns:
- First degree or superficial – This type of burn damages the outer layer of skin known as the epidermis. The skin is red, painful and may swell. When touched, the skin turns white.
- Second degree or partial-thickness – This type of burn damages both the outer layer of skin (epidermis) and extends deeper into the dermal layer of skin. It is very painful and it may result in blistering.
- Third degree or full thickness – This is the most serious and destructive type of burn. It extends beyond the epidermis and dermis and affects all layers of a person’s skin, going deep into a person’s tissues and muscles, possibly damaging veins and arteries. A person’s outer layer of skin could look black, brown or white as well as charred or leathery. Because a third-degree burn destroys a person’s nerves, this burn results in a less intensive pain.
Additionally, these burns may be classified based on what caused them:
- Arc burn – This is a very serious and potentially life-threatening burn that occurs when electrical energy travels from a high-resistance area to a low-resistance area. No actual contact with the arc is necessary. The extreme heat alone from the arc cause a burn, possibly an explosion and even throw a victim, causing very severe injuries.
- Flash burn – This type of burn is caused by the heat and light of an electrical arc as it passes over a person’s skin.
- Flame burn – This occurs when a person is burned by an object that has been ignited by an electric current, arc or flash.
Electrical burn sign and symptoms
The signs and symptoms of this type of burn of include pain, skin redness, swelling, blistering, visible burns and disfigurement of the area of the body that was exposed to the electric current.
How to treat electrical burns
Treatment for a serious burn may include:
- Strong pain medicines
- Special bandages
- Antibiotic and other types of creams or ointments
- Surgery to repair the burned area
- Skin debridement
- Skin grafting
- Extensive rehabilitation
Need help from an experienced electrocution lawyer?
If you or someone you love is a victim of serious personal injury or death caused by electricity, please call us toll free at (800) 548-0043 for a free consultation.