It’s easy to grow complacent about the dangers of electricity. The very fact that you’re reading this means you used electric current—to say nothing of the current that keeps on the lights—without giving it a second thought and while suffering no harm.
Each year, however, more than 30,000 Americans suffer electric shock injuries. Electrocutions from high-voltage lines and electrical devices claim as many as 950 lives. Defective, improperly installed, poorly maintained and incorrectly used products and wires take a terrible toll, with small appliances, power tools and lighting accounting for the majority of shock injuries and deaths.
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Individuals who survive major electric shocks often experience lifelong physical and mental disabilities. The medical literature on this still-poorly-understood problem documents
- Permanent and intermittent paralysis
- Numbness and tingling along limbs and in hands, feet, fingers and toes
- Altered senses of taste, touch, hearing and sight
- Muscle weakness
- Joint pain and stiffness
- Memory and speech difficulties
- Mood swings and personality changes
- Anxiety and depression
- Post-traumatic stress
- Sexual dysfunction
Such issues can leave an electric shock victim unable to work and maintain healthy relationships with friends, family members, children and spouses. The ability to maintain a household and care for oneself, let alone others, may also diminish or disappear entirely.
When an electric shock injury or fatal electrocution results from someone else’s negligence, the victim or victim’s family has strong grounds for seeking compensation. Still, succeeding with a personal injury or wrongful death claim based on an electric shock or electrocution can be difficult because defendants will argue that the victim misused a product or intentionally ignored risks to their own health.
My Virginia personal injury law firm colleagues and I have helped electric shock victims hold negligent companies and contractors accountable. Uncovering appliance design flaws, errors in wiring or failures to make necessary repairs is not easy, but doing so is necessary to at least ensure that electric shock victims do not suffer financially in addition to physically, intellectually and emotionally.