Electrocution Accidents on a Construction Site

A term in the construction industry describes the accidents that lead to the most fatalities on the job. This term is called the “Fatal Four.” Falls are the most common cause of work-related fatalities. Another type of accident on this list is electrocution. This hazard is responsible for nearly one of every ten deaths on the job in the United States.

Contractors often do not pay close attention to electrical hazards. They may not have the experience alone and delay hiring someone with the knowledge and skill set to keep people safe. Contact a construction accident lawyer for legal guidance.

Everywhere on a Construction Site Uses Electricity

Contractors should never take any risks with electricity.

According to the International Energy Agency, 30 percent of the world’s total consumption of electricity is from the building and construction industry. Accordingly, the contractor and other workers at the site will be heavily using electricity for different jobs. Most commonly, electricity powers the machinery.

The contractor will also need to design and build the electrical infrastructure crews will use at the site. The result is that every worker on the job is at risk of an electrocution injury.

While construction site electrocutions are rare, they are still a leading cause of on-the-job fatalities because they are so deadly. Coming into contact with an electric current in any one of several ways can cause death or serious injuries.

Construction workers always face risks of electrocution on a job site. If a third party is responsible for their injuries, they have a potential lawsuit for damages.

Here are some of the common causes of electrocution on a construction site. Needless to say, an electrocution accident should never happen on the job.

Buried Power Lines

Experience Lawyer for Construction site

Construction sites use a lot of electricity and are usually near power sources. One of the first vital tasks engineers perform is mapping out the location of underground utilities. They must work in conjunction with the power company and local authorities.

However, sometimes, an engineer or contractor may not follow the law. Alternatively, they may receive incorrect information from the utility company about the location of buried power lines. Then, the worker can inadvertently come into contact with those lines when digging or working in the ground. These buried utilities are often active, leading to severe electrocution when these wires are touched.

Defective Work Equipment or Tools

Sometimes, it may be the actual work equipment that is defective. When workers try to use or touch work equipment, they may suffer severe electrocution.

The Consumer Products Safety Commission has recalled many defective power tools. For example, one tool had a switch that could become dislodged, exposing users to live electrical currents. The danger is even more pronounced in larger machines. This equipment has an even stronger electrical current.

In other instances, the equipment may have a safe design and manufacturing process, but the contractor might have improperly inspected or maintained it. Sometimes, the contractor should take equipment out of service and either retire or repair it. However, whether they consciously disregard safety in the name of profits or are simply too careless, they might fail to do so and put others at risk.

The electrocution can come from the equipment itself or a current that travels from an improperly maintained or overloaded power source.

Wet Equipment or Power Sources

Water and electricity do not mix. Water is an extremely strong conductor of electricity. A contractor should install a ground fault circuit interrupter to protect workers from potential electrocution when the ground is wet. This equipment will automatically turn off the electricity flow the moment it senses that someone is experiencing electrocution. The interrupter should act within a split second to stop the danger.

Sometimes, the contractor fails to do their job correctly, and construction workers may be electrocuted. They may not have installed adequate interrupters, or they may not have checked the ones they have to ensure they are in proper order.

Low-Hanging Power Lines

Construction workers may end up too close to downed or low-hanging power lines. If they are on an aerial lift or a ladder and come into contact with a power line, they can suffer serious electrocution injuries. Someone may send an employee to work too close to aerial power lines. Alternatively, they can be working too close to a transformer.

The utility company is usually the entity that is legally responsible for low-hanging power lines. There are guidelines in the National Electric Safety Code that specify the proper elevation of power lines.

Improper installation, or excessive load, can cause a power line to sag to the ground. When the power line sags, it is still active and conducting electricity. All it takes is a quick moment of contact with a downed power line to deliver a potentially lethal current.

Improperly Grounded Wires

The most common OSHA electrical violation is when a contractor does not correctly ground electrical wiring. Grounding is a backup system that provides a path for excess electricity to travel. Proper electrical grounding will channel excess electricity back to the ground (hence the term grounding.) The extra energy can cause a fire or electrocution.

Grounding becomes necessary when there are problems with the wiring. For example, the electricity needs a place to go if the wiring gets cut. Grounding wiring returns it to its source. If the contractor uses improperly grounded wires, they can electrocute workers.

Other causes of electrocution on the job may include:

  • Overloaded circuits
  • Wires that are not properly covered
  • Faulty electrical outlets
  • Worn-down wiring
  • Improper or inadequate training of workers

An investigation after the accident will likely reveal the cause, so your attorney can determine who you can sue.

Common Effects of Electrocution and Electric Shock Accidents

Electric shockocution can put someone’s life at immediate risk. They can also suffer lasting injuries resulting in the loss of some of their functions and/or permanent disfigurement.

Here are some injuries from electrocution accidents:

  • Electric shock – When the body is exposed to a large current, the electricity may interrupt the electrical signals between the brain and the muscles. The heart is one of the most critical muscles in the body, and electrocution can cause cardiac arrest, where the heart stops beating.
  • Electric burns – Electricity will travel through the body. Along the way, it will drastically raise the temperature throughout the path. The heat can cause severe burns that can leave a lasting impact. The electrocution victim may need immediate surgery, requiring numerous skin grafts to repair the damage over time. They can have permanent scarring.
  • Loss of muscle control – A large electric shock can cause uncontrollable muscle spasms that can continue even after the flow of electricity ends.
  • Thermal burns – Even if the worker is not electrocuted, they can suffer severe burns if they touch a hot surface right after the flow of electricity has stopped.

Electrocution and Electric Shock Injuries Can Be Severe and Debilitating

There is a reason why average electricity injury electrocution settlements tend to be higher than accident victims receive for other injuries. The damage to the body, and the costs, can be far more considerable.

Here are some common injuries that construction workers suffer from electric shockocutions:

  • Burns
  • Respiratory arrest
  • Damage to the nerves 
  • Damage to internal organs
  • Cardiac arrhythmia

The time right after the electric shockelectrocution accident occurs is critical. The victim may need life-saving treatment to stabilize them. After that, they will potentially need surgery and extensive rehabilitation.

Potential Defendants in a Construction Site Electrocution Accident

It is a well-established principle of law that an employee cannot sue their employer in a personal injury lawsuit. Unless an injured construction worker finds a third party they can sue, they must proceed through the workers’ compensation system after suffering an injury. The fact that an employer has paid workers’ compensation insurance premiums insulates them from any possibility of a negligence-based lawsuit. Thus, your construction accident attorney will investigate your accident and determine whether another party can face a lawsuit for the electrocution or electric shock accident.

Here are some potential third-party defendants:

  • Another contractor or subcontractor – If you have suffered an injury on a worksite, you can sue a third party who was present at the scene of the project. If your electric shockelectrocution injuries resulted from someone other than your employer’s negligence, you can file a personal injury lawsuit against them for negligence. 
  • The general contractor – Unless they employed you, you can hold the general contractor liable because they negligently hired or retained a subcontractor working at the site in the face of known safety risks inherent in their record.
  • The utility company – If low-hanging power lines were the utility’s fault because of their inspection or maintenance, the utility company might be liable. In addition, the utility company might also be responsible if they did not properly alert the contractor about buried utility lines.
  • A construction machinery manufacturer – If the electrocution or electric shock was due to defective work equipment, the manufacturer or anyone else in the “stream of commerce” can be responsible. You will need to prove that there was a manufacturing, design, or marketing defect. Alternatively, you can prove that someone was negligent in the product’s design, making, or sale. 
  • An architect or engineer – The project designer may have put vital parts of the work too close to power sources, which can electrocute workers. Maybe they negligently surveyed the property before giving the plans to the contractor. 

Your lawyer will need the time to investigate your accident thoroughly. They can gather the evidence necessary to prove your case before it disappears. Therefore, you must retain an experienced construction injury lawyer as soon as possible after the accident to give them the time necessary to work.

If you win your case (either in court or by receiving a settlement), you will be entitled to the full damages you have suffered. If you are suing a corporate defendant, there will likely be more insurance coverage and assets to pay for your injuries.

Settlements or Jury Awards After an Electric ShockElectrocution Injury

If you can prove that someone else caused your accident, you can receive damages for:

  • Medical expenses to treat your injury, including the costs of rehabilitation and all surgical procedures to repair the damage
  • Lost income for your time missed from work or any reduction in your earnings capacity (electrocution victims are often unable to return to the work that they did before their injury)
  • Pain and suffering, which can be considerable, given the potential burns and nerve damage from electrocution injuries
  • Loss of enjoyment of life
  • Scarring and disfigurement, which can be very pronounced after you have suffered burns in an electrocution accident

If your loved one died in an electrocution accident, your family can file a wrongful death lawsuit to seek compensation for your own damages. The estate can also file a survival action, so your family can receive financial recovery for what your loved one endured before they died. These two cases are often part of one lawsuit.

As you can see, you may deserve considerable damages.

You do not need to worry about paying your lawyer upfront because they will not ask for money from you. They only receive payment if and when you win your case. Thus, there is no risk to you to hire an experienced construction accident attorney.

Consult with a Construction Injury Lawyer Today

Electrical accidents are far too common in construction work, and many workers or passersby can suffer severe or fatal injuries. Whether you suffered burns, cardiac damage, or other injuries, or you lost a loved one in an accident, the most important thing is seeking the compensation you deserve.

Consultations are free with no obligation to hire a personal injury attorney in Long Island. A respected injury law firm will evaluate your rights and options and, if you hire them, will represent you in every stage of your case.

Filed Under: Construction Accidents

For a free legal consultation, call 516-451-7900

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