An electrocution death is all too often the tragic result when a person comes into contact with high voltage electricity. The person’s family or estate may have a case against the responsible electric utility company or contractor. There may also be a case under the Worker’s Compensation laws.
Electrical hazards cause hundreds of deaths from electricity every year in the U.S. The majority of these avoidable fatalities result from contact with utility power lines, which are frequently transmitting and distributing 4,800 volts and 13,200 volts of electricity.
Suing for electrocution death
If a family member or loved one has suffered electrocution death, then his or her family or estate may be able to file a wrongful death lawsuit to sue to recover pain and suffering compensation and other economic loss damages.
The family or the estate may be able to sue the electric utility company that owned the power line or lines that were involved in the fatality.
Similarly, they may be able to sue the manufacturer, seller or distributor of the power line.
Additionally, they may be able to sue the companies that were supposed to inspect the utility poles, the pole top facilities (such as devices, hardware, attachments, braces, insulators, pins, insulator ties, crossarms and transformers) and other structures.
Finally, they may able be able to sue the company that was supposed to properly maintain the tree branches in the vicinity to make sure they wouldn’t contact power lines in the event of a storm.
Proving an electrocution death case
In order to successfully sue for wrongful death after an electrocution death, the family or estate of the person whose life was taken must be able to prove negligence, which includes showing that the utility, the contractor or the company in question breached a duty of care that it owed to the deceased.
Although each state’s laws will determine whether duty of care and responsibility is owed by a utility, it is not uncommon to see the duty phrased as follows:
- “A power company has an obligation to reasonably inspect and repair wires and other instrumentalities in order to discover and remedy hazards and defects.”
- “Electric companies must exercise ordinary care to guarantee that equipment is kept in reasonably safe condition.”
- “Although we do not follow a rule of absolute liability, the defendant’s duties to inspect and repair involve more than merely remedying defective conditions actually brought to its attention.”
(See Schultz v. Consumers Power Company, 443 Mich 445, 406 N.W. 2nd 175 (1993))
Worker’s comp case for electrocution death
If a family member or loved one suffered electrocution death while working and/or in the course of his or her job, then there may also be a case against his or her employer under the Worker’s Compensation law.
In a wrongful death claim under the Worker’s Compensation laws, a deceased worker’s family is compensated for actual expenses and the ongoing “cost” of losing their family member’s or loved one’s companionship, emotional and financial support and parental guidance to minor children.
Avoid a dangerous mistake
Just because an electrocution death occurred while the deceased was working does not mean that the only case that can be pursued is one for benefits under a state’s Worker’s Compensation laws.
Even when a state’s Worker’s Compensation laws come into play in this tragic event, the deceased’s family or estate may still be able to pursue a wrongful death lawsuit against other contractors and companies who had a role in creating – or should have played a role in preventing – the electrical hazard that took the deceased’s life.
These include the companies and contractors, which may include those I discussed above, can be held liable for their negligence and for the negligence of their employees.
It is important to remember that there is the potential in every case for contractors and parties other than a deceased worker’s employer to be held liable and accountable for a worker’s loss of life from electricity.
Causes of electrocution death
Death can result when an electrical current that has entered a person’s body travels through his or her heart as it attempts to exist at the nearest point of ground.
The following conditions can cause a loss of life due to the heart’s – and the body’s – exposure to electrical current:
- Ventricular fibrillation: A condition in which there’s uncoordinated contraction of the cardiac muscle of the ventricles in the heart, making them quiver rather than contract properly.
- Bradycardia: A slower than normal heart rate.
- Respiratory arrest: The cessation of normal breathing due to failure of the lungs to function effectively.
- Hyperthermia: Elevated body temperature due to failed thermoregulation that occurs when a body produces or absorbs more heat than it dissipates. In these types of cases, hyperthermia occurs from thermal injury to the tissues.
- Fluid loss.
- Metabolic acidosis: A condition that occurs when the body produces excessive quantities of acid or when the kidneys are not removing enough acid from the body.
- Direct injury to vital structures.
- Secondary trauma resulting from injuries such as falling after contact with power lines.
- Sepsis: Occurs when chemicals released into the bloodstream to fight the infection trigger inflammatory responses throughout the body.
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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.