Electrical Injuries

Fairfax Injury Lawyer Brien Roche Addresses Electrical Injuries

Brien Roche

Electrocution and electrical injuries resulting from the use and/or contact with electrical products are a widespread problem. The precise nature of the product defect may come in a number of different forms.

Types of Electrical Products That May Produce Electrical Injuries

Some product defects that may lead to electrical injuries are:

  • Electrical products designed to be used around water. Water and electricity are widely known to be an incompatible combination.  Products that are designed for use with or around water must have safety features that minimize the risk of electrocution.  Whether the product be a power washer to be used on a deck, an exterior house cleaner or a sump pump, it must be designed with the recognition that the product itself is being used around water and must be made in such a fashion as to minimize the risk of electrocution.
  • Grounding problems.  Electricity will always either seek ground or will follow the most conductive path back to its source.  What grounding does is to add protection against electrical shock by providing a mechanism for the  electricity to move from the defective product to the earth rather than through the human body.  The product at issue may be a tool, a vending machine or other machine or device.  If it is improperly grounded, then it becomes a significant hazard.
  • Circuitry defects.  The product may be an electric blanket or it may be a circuit control panel.
  • Insulation defects.  Every electrical product needs to be properly insulated so that the exterior elements of the product cannot become electrically charged.

Many people assume that electrocution results in immediate death. The fact is that the human skull is a poor conductor of electricity and therefore only a small fraction of the electricity passes into the brain. Most of the current passes through the body causing painful muscle contractions, burning and swelling of organs. It may require expert medical testimony to develop the scope of this pain and suffering of the deceased or injured person.

Electrical Injury and Wrongful Death In Pennsylvania

In June of 2009 Carrie Goretzka was fatally injured when a energized power line fell on her.  That power line had set trees on fire in her back yard and then eventually fell on her as she went outside to get her cell phone to call 911.

The Plaintiffs alleged that the power company in that area known as West Penn Power Company could have performed a simple 30 second procedure by cleaning the power line with a wire brush before splicing it in order to remove oxides from the wire which corrode wire allowing heat to build up and eventually melt and fray the line.

In addition it was alleged by the Plaintiff that the company should have performed an infrared inspection of its power lines to ensure they were not overheating.

It was further alleged by the Plaintiff that the fusing system within this line had been installed incorrectly and therefore the pole was not properly grounded so the line did not de-energize when it broke.

All of those were reported to be fairly simple fixes that could have been accomplished and many of which were actually admitted to by company employees.

As reported in the April 2013 edition to Trial Magazine, the jury in Western Pennsylvania awarded $109 million to the family.

Power Line Causing Electrical Injuries

Power line injuries continue to be a devastating source of electrical injuries in many locales. The victim not having seen the overhead uninsulated line is generally a product of that person’s lack of visual acuity, problems with depth perception, fatigue or forgetfulness. Other environmental factors that can affect visibility are glare, sunlight, clouds, and rain. This is why many overhead lines are marked with highly visible orange balls.

This is one instance where photographs can provide critical evidence of the perceptual difficulty experienced by the victim.

In addition human factors testimony may be critical to establish the frequency of these types of electrical injuries and the foreseeable nature of the injury.

Many of these injuries involve construction projects. Clearly the utility company is aware of where these people are working since notice has been given by the construction company.

Liability of the power company can be premised on notice from local contractors who are working in proximity to low hanging lines or in other instances lack of adequate safety programs. Simple warning systems such as orange balls or tell-tales dangling from the lines or other warning signs can be applied to overhead lines so as to warn people that are working nearby.

Certain standards are also established through the National Electric Code and also the National Electrical Safety Code.

Electrical Injuries From Blankets

Electric blanket fires and electric mattress pad fires are frequently the result of a product defect. These types of product liability claims require prompt investigation constituting recovery of the evidence and expert examination of the evidence if it is not in the hands of the local authorities.

These types of warming devices have a heating element in them which, in theory, conduct less current as the material becomes warmer.  The less current it conducts the less heat it produces.  Under this theory the heating wire is “self-limiting”, i.e. the wire should not overheat to the point of causing fire.  That theory, however, does not always comply with practice and as a result fires occur.

The major manufacturer of heating blankets is Sunbeam

There is a wealth of litigation material available in regards to Sunbeam claims wherein historically they have admitted that a fail-safe circuit is needed in its electric blankets.

With over 30 million owners of electric blankets and thousands of fires occurring per year throughout the world these products are potentially dangerous and must be treated as fire traps for the user’s own safety.

Electric Blanket Safety

While there are certain measures you can take to minimize the likelihood of injury or death as a result of a fire from an electric blanket, there certainly are many cases where a faulty or unsafe product is the cause. If you believe you have sustained injuries as a result of an unsafe electric blanket, contact us for a free and confidential consultation.

The City of Fairfax has some educational material available with recommendations on the safe operation and care of electric blankets. Some of their recommendations include:

  • Only use electric blankets that have been approved by nationally recognized testing agencies (like Underwriters Laboratories, Inc.).
  • Always buy new electric blankets; second-hand blankets may not be safe.
  • Replace all electric blankets that are more than 10 years old. Most fires caused by electric blankets are caused by those older than 10 years.
  • Replace any electric blanket that is worn or torn, where the electric cord is frayed, or where the temperature control is damaged.
  • Turn your electric blanket off when not in use. Many older models have no internal temperature control to shut the blanket off when it gets too hot; if your blanket has no such internal control, consider replacing it with a newer model.
  • Turn your electric blanket off before you go to sleep (unless the blanket is made specifically to be used all night).

Should You File A Product Liability Claim?

There are many considerations to take into account when considering to file a claim of product liability against the manufacturer of an electric blanket or heating pad. Brien Roche can provide guidance and resources for the thorough investigation into the product or electrical defect that caused the fire or injury.

Contact a Product Liability Attorney

If you or a loved one have been seriously injured as a result of electrical injuries contact Brien Roche, an experienced product defect lawyer serving Fairfax, Virginia, Washington DC and Maryland.

See electricity for a review of Virginia case law.

For more information on product liability see the pages on Wikipedia.

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Electrical Injuries

Contact Us For A Free Consultation

Contact Us For A Free Consultation