When people think of workplace accidents, they picture falls and other manual labor incidents. However, electrocution and electric shocks are among the most devastating events that happen on the job, and millions of people are at risk.
People use electrocution as a catch-all phrase, but the term only applies to instances in which an electric shock causes death. Workers can survive electric shocks, although the physical consequences may be quite severe.
Anyone who works around electronic equipment is at risk if their employers don’t take OSHA-mandated steps to protect the workplace. A laborer working on a construction site, a cashier at a fast-food restaurant, an orderly in a hospital — all of them encounter potentially hazardous situations every day.
Most electric shock accidents happen when someone turns off the power on a piece of equipment but doesn’t realize it’s still energized. Energy currents run to machines and tools even when they’re powered down, which is why OSHA implemented rigorous lockout/tagout safety standards.
Lockout/tagout systems include workflows for how to properly shut down equipment and bring it to a zero energy state. Machines cannot be moved or serviced safely unless they are at zero energy. Lockout/tagout protocols ensure that machines don’t restart unexpectedly or pose a threat to unsuspecting workers.
Companies that neglect these standards or fail to train workers properly can be held liable in the event of electric shock and electrocution accidents.
A compliant lockout/tagout program involves several safety measures and requires extensive worker training. Companies that neglect these standards or fail to train workers properly can be held liable in the event of electric shock and electrocution accidents.
Electric Shock Injuries
In the most extreme cases, workers die from electrocution. But electric shocks can cause lasting physical impairments for those who survive such accidents. How bad a person gets hurt depends on several factors, including the type of current, the amount of current that struck them, and how long they endured the shock. Whether their skin was clean or dirty, wet or dry, and thick or thin also influences the injury.
A person who has thick, dry skin will likely be more resistant to electric shocks than someone whose hands are wet or sweaty. People with thin or wet skin are more prone to internal organ and tissue damage, but resistant skin doesn’t guarantee protection. A thick-skinned person might avoid the worst internal damage but still suffer significant external burns. Electric shocks also cause kidney failure, blood clots, cataracts, muscle spasms, broken bones, and long-term neurological problems.
Given the variance in electric shock injuries, medical needs and expenses cover a broad spectrum as well. Skin burns will require ointments, medications, and in-office debridement but may not create ongoing medical needs. Someone who suffers extensive burns or brain damage, however, will require hospitalization and specialist care for many years to come.
We’ve seen tragic cases in which people’s lives were ruined in electric shock accidents. One woman was knocked unconscious by a shock and never recovered from the physical trauma. She required round-the-clock institutional care for the rest of her life.
Electric shocks sometimes have a two-pronged effect in which the initial shock is followed by a fall. An employee might not have been shocked too badly, but they can suffer severe injuries after falling from a platform or another elevated area. Because electric shocks pose such wide-ranging risks, it’s imperative that employers follow OSHA’s lockout/tagout guidelines — and that employees know their rights.
Is Your Employer Liable for an Electric Shock Accident?
There are two types of workplace accident cases: workers’ compensation and non-workers’ compensation. If your employer subscribes to Texas Workers’ Compensation coverage, you will receive a payout when you file a claim. Workers’ compensation guarantees your protection and does not require you to prove your employer’s negligence.
However, workers’ comp coverage is very narrow and may not cover the full range of expenses associated with the accident. You’ll receive damages for medical bills and lost wages but not for the long-term psychological toll an accident can have on you and your family.
In non-subscriber cases, you must prove that your employer was negligent. However, you will also be able to pursue more comprehensive damages. These include past and future lost wages, past and future medical expenses, physical pain and impairment, and mental anguish.
Non-subscriber cases are quite complex, so we recommend contacting an experienced lawyer as early as possible if you or a family member believe you have a claim.
Grief and Legal Action Are Not Mutually Exclusive
Hiring a lawyer is the last thing on anyone’s mind when a loved one has been hurt, and many people are reluctant to seek legal counsel in the immediate aftermath of an accident. People have told us they’re afraid of being seen as cold and opportunistic if they prioritize legal action.
Let me assure you that no one will think poorly of you if you hire a lawyer. Electric shock accidents devastate families even when they don’t end in death. No amount of money will ease your loved one’s pain or bring back their vitality and mobility. That’s a burden they, and you, will carry for the rest of your lives.
But that’s why you deserve compensation. The years ahead will be challenging, and your family will face tremendous medical expenses. Bringing a civil suit against the negligent employer can help ensure that those expenses do not bankrupt your loved ones.
Legal action may seem distasteful to you, but your employer’s lawyers and insurers will be building their defense.
However, you must act quickly to make a strong claim. Legal action may seem distasteful to you, but your employer’s lawyers and insurers will be building their defense. When victims choose to pursue their cases with Van Wey Law, we immediately examine the scene and interview witnesses. We gather as much evidence and data as we can, preserving the details before they’re destroyed. If the victim died as a result of the accident, we may need to order an autopsy. But there is a very short window in which we can do that.
We understand that thinking logistically feels all but impossible when your loved one is lying in a burn unit or when you’re preparing to lay them to rest. There is nothing we can do to alleviate your grief, but we can fight for you in court.
If there is one message we want to impart to victims and their families, it’s that there is no shame in seeking legal help. It takes mere seconds for accidents to happen, but it can take a lifetime of medical and psychological support for you and your loved ones to recover.