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.
Some product defects that may lead to electrical injuries are:
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.
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 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.
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.
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:
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.
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.