What Happens to Electrical Shock Survivors after Their Injuries? | Shapiro, Washburn & Sharp

Virginia Personal Injury Attorney

In the United States, approximately 400 people die from electrocution, and 4,400 are injured each year because of electric burns. According to the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission, about 3,000 people go to emergency rooms each year suffering from electrical burns. Our Virginia personal injury attorneys have successfully represented many electric burn injury victims and understand the devastating impact these injuries can have.

Electric shock injuries, once considered primarily as immediate physical trauma, are now considered a more intricate injury. Doctors and medical professionals are increasingly recognizing that the consequences of electric shock incidents can be far-reaching, often manifesting in ways that are diverse, delayed, and not always easily understood. Among these long-term effects, cognitive and emotional problems have gained prominence, shedding light on the significant, yet often underestimated, repercussions of such injuries.

The main classes of electric burns are:

  • High-voltage burns – Any severe electrical burn sustained as a result of exposure to electrical currents of significant voltage, such as those encountered in industrial or powerline accidents. High-voltage burns can cause deeper tissue damage, affect multiple body systems, and increase the risk of complications.
  • Low-voltage burns – Low-voltage burns are sustained as a result of contact with 500 volts of electricity or less. Low-voltage electrical burns are typically associated with household or low-power electrical sources. While they are generally less severe than high-voltage burns, they can still cause significant tissue damage, especially if contact with the electrical source is prolonged. The extent and severity of low-voltage burns can vary depending on factors like the duration of exposure and the pathway the current takes through the body.
  • Arc burns – Arc burns, also known as electric arc burns or arc flash burns, are a specific type of burn injury caused by exposure to an electric arc. An electric arc is a high-temperature electrical discharge that occurs when there is an unintended gap in an electrical circuit. These arcs can produce extremely high temperatures and intense light, which can result in severe burns and other injuries to individuals in close proximity to the arc.
  • Flame burns – This class of burns is sustained when a person comes into contact with any object ignited by a current of electricity. These burns result from electrical faults or malfunctions and are characterized by the intense heat and light produced during the electrical discharge. Electric flame burns can be extremely severe.

The Immediate and Apparent Effects

Electric shock injuries are typically associated with immediate and visible effects, such as burns, muscle contractions, and cardiac issues. These acute consequences demand immediate medical attention and intervention. However, it is the long-term effects that are now receiving greater attention from the medical community.

Variability in Long-Term Effects

Electric shock injuries do not follow a one-size-fits-all pattern when it comes to long-term consequences. They can vary widely from one individual to another. While some may experience only minor, if any, lasting effects, others may endure severe and persistent complications. This variability in outcomes underscores the complexity of electric shock injuries and the need for comprehensive medical evaluation.

The Delayed Onset of Symptoms

One of the perplexing aspects of electric shock injuries is the delayed onset of symptoms. Some individuals may not exhibit significant cognitive or emotional problems until weeks, months, or even years after the initial incident. This delay can lead to the misunderstanding or misattribution of symptoms, making it challenging for both patients and medical professionals to connect these issues to the electric shock event.

Long-Term Cognitive Implications

Electric shock injuries can result in a range of cognitive problems that become apparent over time. These may include difficulties with memory, concentration, and cognitive processing speed. Patients may find it challenging to perform tasks that once came naturally, impacting their daily lives and livelihoods.

Long-Term Emotional Consequences

Emotional problems stemming from electric shock injuries can be just as debilitating as cognitive ones. Individuals may experience anxiety, depression, and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) as a result of their traumatic experiences. These emotional challenges can interfere with their ability to lead fulfilling lives and maintain healthy relationships.

Legal Implications

For those who have suffered electric shock injuries, understanding the long-term effects is critical in pursuing legal remedies. These injuries can have a profound impact on an individual’s quality of life, their ability to work, and their overall well-being. Seeking legal recourse may be necessary to secure compensation for medical expenses, lost income, and the emotional distress caused by these injuries.

Our Virginia personal injury law firm’s attorneys have advised and represented many victims of electric shock injuries. One notable case involved an airline pilot who was forced into early retirement after suffering life-threatening shocks and a fall in a hotel shower. The business owner allowed exposed wiring to hang within reach of a person who was standing while showering.

In another case, a Coast Guardsman nearly lost his life when deteriorated wiring for a dockside fuel pump shocked and burned him. The pump was supposed to have been disconnected from its power source, and our client trusted that it was. Our firm also represented an industrial crane operator who became almost completely paralyzed from the waist down when his crane’s boom cable made contact with a transmission line that was not correctly marked or tagged out.

In each of these cases, the electric shocks happened because someone was negligent. The hotel and its contractors failed to properly install the light fixture and comply with building codes. The company employing the crane operator failed to follow basic safety protocols. The dock owner failed to repair or replace faulty wiring, or to simply kill power to the dock. Those instances of negligence made the companies and property owners responsible for causing the injuries and liable for covering the victims’ medical bills and paying other types of personal injury damages.

Contact a Virginia Personal Injury Attorney

If you or a family member has suffered an electric burn injury, contact a Virginia Beach personal injury lawyer from Shapiro, Washburn & Sharp.

Our firm has successfully represented many accident victims, and we understand how frightening these injuries can be for families, not only dealing with the uncertainty of your loved one’s health but also the financial worry about how you will be able to take care of their medical and personal needs. We are available to meet and discuss the circumstances of your case and advise you on what your legal options are and how we can help. Call our office today to schedule a free and confidential consultation.