Electrocution takes the lives of more construction workers every year than almost any other accident. According to the United States Bureau of Labor Statistics, there were 285 fatal construction accidents involving contact with an electric current in 2011. Their families are left wondering how an individual who had to undergo years of training in order to work with electricity, was harmed.
The majority of these accidents occur due to the negligence of construction company owners, managers, general contractors, or subcontractors who are cutting corners in order to save money and meet deadlines. In other instances, another electrician fails to properly install the wiring on a property, or the property owner attempted to do a repair they weren’t qualified to perform. The faulty wiring in these cases electrocutes the person attempting to make repairs.
Regardless of what caused the accident, many victims believe that they will be taken care of by their employer’s workers’ compensation insurance, not realizing that on average more than 50% of all workers comp claims are denied outright.
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Even if an electrocution victim has their workers’ comp claim approved, that claim can only compensate the injured for a fraction of their lost wages. In many cases, the victim is able to recoup their losses by pursuing a civil lawsuit against the company or person whose negligence resulted in the accident.
What Do I Stand To Gain From A Lawsuit?
Victims and their loved ones have everything to gain and nothing to lose. When you work with the attorneys at Lipsig, Shapey, Manus, and Moverman P.C., you don’t pay anything until we win your case.
As for gains – compensation given to a plaintiff is known as damages. There are several types of damages that can be awarded to a victim in a civil lawsuit:
These damages reimburse the victim for the actual cost of the injury including medical expenses, lost wages, and replacement of property. These damages are meant to return the victim back to the state they were in prior to the accident.
These damages award the victim with monetary compensation for things that that cannot necessarily be calculated. Examples of this include pain and suffering, loss of companionship, and a shortened life expectancy.
These damages are awarded not to compensate the plaintiff, but to punish the defendant. The court intends these damages to deter the defendant from behaving in the manner which lead to the accident in the first place.
While each case is different, here is an example of damages that were awarded to one of our clients who was involved in an electrical accident:
For an electrician who was injured while she worked on a high-voltage electrical panel box that was not de-energized by the general contractor
How Do I Know If My Employer Was Negligent?
Construction sites are full of dangers, from working at great heights on scaffolding, to falling objects which may hit the employees below. The Occupational Safety & Health Administration has recognized that by holding construction companies, general contractors, subcontractors, and their managers accountable for the safety of their employees, fewer construction accidents will happen. For that reason, OSHA has specific regulations for nearly everything on a work site.
If your employer fails to enforce these regulations they may face fines from OSHA and also be held liable for any injuries that are suffered as a result.
Construction Site Electrocutions
OSHA has reported that electrocutions are the fifth most fatal accident on construction work sites. A construction worker being exposed to electricity can result in electric shock, fire, burns, and explosions. Many construction workers are at an even greater risk because they are surrounded by excellent electrical conductors, such as metal, which can amplify the shock the body receives.
Sadly, most of these accidents could have been avoided.
How Electrocutions Happen
Electrical currents travel through an electric circuit. An electrical shock can happen when a person’s body completes the circuit by:
- touching both wires of an electrical circuit
- touching another conductor that is carrying a current
- touching one wire that is energized and the ground, and
- touching an accidentally energized piece of metal
These accidents occur because of unsafe installation practices, unsafe equipment, unsafe work practices, or an unsafe environment. OSHA has put safety standards in place to protect construction workers from electrocution.
OSHA Safety Standards
OSHA states that all construction company owners and managers must follow safe work practices. When it comes to working with electricity, these practices include:
- keeping all electrical tools properly maintained
- shutting off power to electric equipment before inspecting or repairing it
- never working with electric when the surrounding area is wet
- wearing protective equipment, and
- being cautious of you are working with wiring and a power source has not been shut off
Protective equipment includes heat resistant and flame resistant clothing, insulated tools, and grounding tools. Even with this protection, unsafe practices can result in an injury.
The Effect On The Body
There are a lucky few who only experience a slight buzzing or tingling sensation from an electric
shock. Many though are seriously injured or killed. The intensity of the shock depends on several factors:
- where the current entered the body, and the path it takes
- the strength of the current
- the current’s frequency, and
- the amount of time the body remains in the circuit
If a current is strong enough, it can result in severe burns, fire, or even cardiac arrest. There are several types of burns caused by electric shock, including electrical burns, arc or flash burns, and thermal contact burns.
In many cases, the person touching the electrical current becomes immobilized. This occurs because the electricity causes all of the muscles to contract. The longer a person is immobilized, the longer the exposure to the electrical current, and the greater the risk of injury or death.
Why Isn’t Workers’ Comp Enough?
Even those who do receive workers’ comp benefits may find that it simply isn’t enough to cover their day to day expenses. If a claim is accepted, workers’ comp covers the following:
This is the only benefit that workers’ comp will pay in its entirety. Any medical expenses relating directly to the injuries sustained during an electrocution will be covered. That being said, there are some procedures forwhich the insurance company requires a pre-authorization. These procedures may or may not be covered by workers’ comp.
For employees whose injuries are so extensive that they are unable to return to work, workers’ comp will reimburse them for a fraction of their lost wages. This benefit only goes into affect after the employee has been out of work for a full seven days. The amount given is decided by a panel. That panel creates a percentage which represents how disabled the injured person is, based on their doctors recommendations. That percentage is then multiplied by two-thirds of the weekly wage earned before the accident.
If an electrocution results in the death of a worker, their dependent loved ones may be entitled to up to $6,000 for funeral expenses. Cash benefits of up to two-thirds of the deceased’s weekly wage may also be available.
What If My Employer Claims To Not Have Workers’ Comp?
In the state of New York, all employers are required to have worker’s comp for the protection of their employees. If your employer does not have workers’ comp insurance, you have the right to pursue legal action against them in order to receive compensation for your losses.
Who Can I Contact If I Have Additional Questions?
The attorneys at Lipsig, Shapey, Manus, and Moverman P.C. are here to answer any questions you and your loved ones may have. Contact us for your free consultation today at (888) 700-1104.