Electrocution and Electric Shock Accidents

Victims of electric shock (or the surviving family of an electrocution victim) can file a personal injury lawsuit against the parties responsible for the accident. Responsibility in an electric shock accident may be caused by

A personal injury lawsuit allows the victim to seek compensation for the injury. In a personal injury lawsuit, the victim can seek damages for

When someone is killed in an electrocution accident, the surviving family members can sue for damages by filing a wrongful death lawsuit. Compensation in a wrongful death lawsuit can include funeral costs, burial expenses, and loss of financial support.

Below, our California personal injury lawyers discuss the following frequently asked questions about electric shock lawsuits:

If you have further questions after reading this article, we invite you to contact us at Shouse Law Group.

1. Can I file a lawsuit after an electrical shock accident?

Anyone injured in an electrical shock accident may be able to file a personal injury lawsuit for compensation. The party responsible for causing the accident may be liable to the injured party for damages.

In an electric shock personal injury lawsuit, the injured party will seek compensation for their losses and injuries. Damages after an electrocution injury accident may include:

  • Medical bills,
  • Lost wages from missed work,
  • Future loss of earnings,
  • Pain and suffering, and
  • Any other related losses and expenses.

If a family member was killed in an electrocution accident, certain surviving family members may be able to file a wrongful death lawsuit. A wrongful death lawsuit will allow the family to be compensated for their loss and is also a way to hold the person responsible for the accident liable for their actions.

Often times electrocution victims are construction workers electrocuted at job sites. In these cases, a construction injury lawsuits can focus on workers compensation benefits as well as recovery of damages against the employer, contractors and those responsible for unsafe conditions at the job site. 

2. What damages are available in an electric shock lawsuit?

The damages available in an electric shock accident lawsuit depend on the seriousness of the injuries and whether the injuries were fatal.

When someone is injured in an electric shock accident, compensatory damages are intended to put the plaintiff into a similar position they would have been but for the accident. Compensatory damages in a personal injury lawsuit include both economic and noneconomic damages, such as:

  • Medical bills,
  • Emergency medical treatment,
  • Physical therapy,
  • Prescription medications,
  • Medical supplies,
  • Lost earnings,
  • Lost earning capacity,
  • Loss of consortium,
  • Compensation for scars or loss of a limb,
  • Emotional pain,
  • Court costs, and
  • Pain and suffering.

In some cases, punitive damages may also be available. Punitive damages, or exemplary damages, may be available when the defendant engaged in particularly bad behavior. This includes injuries caused by the defendant's malice, oppression, extreme recklessness, or fraud. In deciding how much to award in punitive damages, the jury considers:

  1. How reprehensible the defendant's conduct was;
  2. The relationship between the plaintiff's harm and the amount of punitive damages; and
  3. What amount will punish the defendant and discourage future wrongful conduct by the defendant.1

3. Can I file a wrongful death lawsuit if my spouse was electrocuted?

Electrocution is death caused by electric shock. When a loved one is killed in an electrical accident, the deceased victim is not able to file a personal injury lawsuit. However, a wrongful death lawsuit allows surviving family members to recover damages. Certain family members can file a lawsuit for damages when a loved one has died as the result of another's wrongful actions.2

The damages available under a wrongful death lawsuit include:

  • Funeral costs;3
  • Burial expenses;
  • Financial support the deceased would have earned during his or her lifetime;
  • The reasonable value of household services the deceased would have provided;4
  • Loss of gifts or benefits expected; and
  • Compensation for the loss of companionship, protection, affection, and support.5

The eligible family members who can file a wrongful death claim depend on the specific state law. In California, the family members who can file a wrongful death lawsuit include:

  • Surviving spouse;
  • Domestic partner;
  • Children;
  • Grandchildren (if the deceased person's children are deceased); or
  • Anyone else who would be entitled to the property of the decedent by California intestate succession laws.

In addition to a wrongful death lawsuit, a "survival" cause of action can also be filed. This type of claim is brought on behalf of the deceased's estate to compensate for losses suffered by the victim from the wrongful act.6

4. What should I do after an electrical shock accident?

Electrical shock accidents can range from causing a harmless shock to a deadly jolt of electricity. Anyone who has suffered an electrical shock should seek medical attention if the injured person has any of the following symptoms:

  • Serious burns
  • Confusion
  • Loss of consciousness
  • Seizures
  • Cardiac arrest
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Chest pain
  • Heart problems

After someone has been injured by an electrical shock, that person should not be touched if he or she may still be in contact with the source of electricity. If possible, shut off the source of electricity. If the electric shock victim is injured or if there is an active hazardous source of electricity, you should call 9-1-1.

The injury victim should also consider contacting an experienced personal injury attorney who handles electric shock accident cases. A lawyer can help navigate the personal injury claim process, deal with the insurance company, and fight to get full compensation for the injury victim and their family.

5. Who is to blame for an electric shock accident?

Liability in an electric shock accident depends on a number of factors, including where the accident occurred, who was involved, and the source of the electric shock.

5.1. Negligence

In most cases, electric shock accident claims are based on negligence. The negligent party is responsible for any damages caused by their wrongful actions.

To recover damages after an injury accident, the plaintiff claiming negligence must prove the following elements:

  1. The defendant owed the plaintiff a duty of care;
  2. The defendant breached that duty of care through negligence; and
  3. The defendant's negligence was a substantial factor in causing the harm or death.7
Example: Otis put up his Christmas tree and plugged in the tree lights. However, Otis noticed the wires were all mangled, probably from an animal chewing on the cords. Otis saw some exposed wires and made a mental note to buy some electrical tape to cover up the exposed wires.
Phillip came over to pick up Otis to go to a work party. Otis asked Philip if he could unplug the lights before they left. Philip grabbed the cord to unplug the lights and received a painful shock. Otis apologized and said he forgot about the exposed wires. Philip was taken to the emergency room for burn injuries from the electric shock.
If Philip files a lawsuit for damages, Philip could show Otis was liable because Otis was negligent in asking Philip to unplug the lights without warning him about the exposed wires.

5.2. Employee Negligence

When an employee is negligent in causing an accident, the employer may be held liable for the employee's actions. Under “Respondeat Superior” laws, an employer can be held vicariously liable for the negligence of the employees.8

5.3. Premises Liability

When an electrical shock occurs on someone else's property, the property owner may be liable for dangerous conditions that existed on their property. Under “premises liability” laws, property owners and occupiers owe others a duty of care to maintain their property and warn others about any dangerous conditions.

In a premises liability personal injury lawsuit, the plaintiff must prove:

  1. The defendant owned, occupied, or controlled the property;
  2. The defendant was negligent in the use or maintenance of the property;
  3. The plaintiff was harmed;
  4. The defendant's negligence was a substantial factor in causing the plaintiff's harm.9

6. Can I get compensation if I was partly to blame for the electric shock accident?

An injury victim may still be able to recover damages, even if he or she was partly to blame for the accident. In a state that follows “comparative fault” law, the plaintiff can still recover damages based on the level of fault of the defendants.

For example, if a property owner was 80% at fault for failing to warn visitors about exposed wires and the plaintiff was 20% at fault for touching the wires, the plaintiff may be able to recover 80% of damages from the defendant.

7. Workplace Electrocution Accidents

The workplace is one of the most common places where electric shock and electrocution accidents occur. According to the Occupational Safety & Health Administration (OSHA), in 1999, 278 workers died from electrocutions at work. Electrocutions accounted for almost 5% of all on-the-job fatalities.10

In 2016, there were 1,640 nonfatal electrical injuries on the job requiring days off of work. On average, these nonfatal accidents required 5 days away from work to recover from the electrical accident.11

Workplaces with the highest rates of electrical accidents and electrocution rates in the U.S. include:

  • Mining industry
  • Construction workers
  • Firefighters
  • Electricians
  • Utility workers
  • Medical workers
  • Roofers
  • Maintenance workers

According to OSHA, most electrical accidents result from one of the following:

  1. Unsafe equipment or installation,
  2. Unsafe environment, or
  3. Unsafe work practices.12

When an injury occurs in the workplace, the claim is often covered by workers' compensation. Workers' compensation provides medical care and lost income payments for individuals who are injured on the job. Workers injured on the job generally do not have to show the employer was at fault to get workers' comp.

Workers' comp after an electric shock accident generally covers medical expenses and lost wages. However, other damages that are available in a personal injury lawsuit may not be available in a workers' comp claim, including noneconomic damages like pain and suffering.

8. Common Causes of Electrical Shock Accidents

Aside from workplace electrical accidents, common causes of electrical shock accidents include:

  • Children inserting objects in electrical outlets;
  • Downed power lines after a storm;13
  • Fallen power lines in water;
  • Old wiring;
  • Electric appliances coming into contact with water;
  • Loose connectors;
  • Wiring not according to code;
  • Cutting through walls into electrical wires;
  • Bypassing electrical safety features; and
  • Improper grounding.

Electric shock injuries can cause damage to the skin and internal organs. When electricity comes into contact with the body, it can cause the following injuries:

  • Cardiac arrest;
  • Muscle and tissue damage;
  • Nerve damage;
  • Thermal burns;
  • Injuries from falling after an electric shock;
  • Brain damage;
  • Seizures;
  • Loss of consciousness; or
  • Death.
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Call us for help.

For questions about electrocution and electric shock accident lawsuits or to discuss your case confidentially with one of our skilled California personal injury attorneys, do not hesitate to contact us at Shouse Law Group.

We have local law offices in and around Los Angeles, San Diego, Orange County, Riverside, San Bernardino, Ventura, San Jose, Oakland, the San Francisco Bay area, and several nearby cities.


Legal References:

  1. California Civil Jury Instructions (CACI) 3940 - Punitive Damages. See also California Civil Code § 3294 (“(a) In an action for the breach of an obligation not arising from contract, where it is proven by clear and convincing evidence that the defendant has been guilty of oppression, fraud, or malice, the plaintiff, in addition to the actual damages, may recover damages for the sake of example and by way of punishing the defendant.”)
  2. California Code of Civil Procedure 377.60 (“A cause of action for the death of a person caused by the wrongful act or neglect of another may be asserted by any of the following persons or by the decedent's personal representative on their behalf: (a) The decedent's surviving spouse, domestic partner, children, and issue of deceased children, or, if there is no surviving issue of the decedent, the persons, including the surviving spouse or domestic partner, who would be entitled to the property of the decedent by intestate succession.”)
  3. Vander Lind v. Superior Court (1983) 146 Cal.App.3d 358.
  4. See California Civil Jury Instructions (CACI) 3921.
  5. Same. See also Allen v. Toledo (1980) 109 Cal.App.3d 415.
  6. Code of Civil Procedure 377.30 - Decedent's Cause of Action.
  7. California Civil Jury Instructions ("CACI") 400. See also California Civil Code section 1714(a) (“Everyone is responsible, not only for the result of his or her willful acts, but also for an injury occasioned to another by his or her want of ordinary care or skill in the management of his or her property or person.”)
  8. Perez v. Van Groningen & Sons, Inc. (1986) 41 Cal.3d 962, 967 (“Under the doctrine of respondeat superior, an employer is vicariously liable for his employee's torts committed within the scope of the employment.”)
  9. California Civil Jury Instructions (CACI) (2017) 1000. Premises Liability. Essential Factual Elements.
  10. Occupational Safety & Health Administration (OSHA) Publication 3075 - Controlling Electrical Hazards.
  11. Electrical Safety Foundation International (ESFI) - Workplace Injury & Fatality Statistics.
  12. Occupational Safety & Health Administration (OSHA) Publication 3075, see footnote 10 above.
  13. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) - Protect Yourself and Others from Electrical Hazards After a Disaster.

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