Electric Shocks From Consumer Products | Shapiro, Washburn & Sharp

Authors of a 2019 overview of electric shock injuries and electrocutions in the United States included the following statistics and insights

  • Approximately 1,000 electrocution deaths occur each year, with around 400 of those coming from high-voltage electrical injuries.
  • At least 30,000 nonfatal shock injuries occur each year.
  • Five percent of all burn unit admissions in the United States are due to electrical injuries.
  • Children experience approximately 20 percent of all electrical injuries, with toddlers and adolescents suffering the most shocks and electrocutions among nonadults.
  • “In children, electrical injuries occur most often at home.”

The authors of the quoted StatPearls article also explain that

There are four main types of electrical injuries: flash, flame, lightning, and true. Flash injuries, caused by an arc flash, are typically associated with superficial burns, as no electrical current travels past the skin. Flame injuries occur when an arc flash ignites an individual’s clothing, and electrical current may or may not pass the skin in these cases. Lightning injuries, involving extremely short but very high voltage electrical energy, are associated with an electrical current flowing through the individual’s entire body. True electrical injuries involve an individual becoming part of an electrical circuit.




Dangers at Home Abound

Our Virginia personal injury law firm has a long track record of representing victims of electric shock injuries. In one case, a commercial pilot was forced into early retirement due to faulty wiring in a hotel room bathroom light fixture. Another client was a permanently disabled Coast Guardsman who was almost fatally shocked on a friend’s boat dock.

Each appliance and socket poses risks if it is poorly designed, improperly manufactured, or inexpertly installed and serviced. In fact, on the morning that we spent updating this blog post, the very first recall listing on the Consumer Product Safety Commission’s website was for a do-it-yourselfer’s replacement electric receptacle.

Short- and Long-Term Consequences of Electric Shocks

The outcome of an electric shock depends on the intensity of the voltage to which the person was exposed, the route of the current through the body, the victim’s state of health and the speed and adequacy of the treatment.

The standard American 110-volt outlet delivers more than enough electricity to hospitalize an adult, let alone a child. Many appliances, including microwaves, AC units and televisions, also contain capacitors that store huge amounts of voltage. Touching one of those components can result in the release of a deadly shock.

Immediate injuries from flame- and true-type electric shocks—the kinds most likely to occur in the home—include

  • Burns on the skin and inside the body
  • Stopped breathing and arrested heartbeat
  • Severe pain
  • Seizures
  • Confusion
  • Loss of consciousness

People who survive serious electric shocks may spend months, years or a lifetime experiencing shooting pains, headaches, numbness and tingling, mental confusion, memory loss, and intermittent or permanent paralysis.