Electrical injuries pose unique challenges for Ohio accident lawyers. When I first started handling these cases about twenty years ago, the term “electrocution” was reserved for instances when an individual died as a result of being exposed to electrical current. However, the term was frequently misused to refer to any electrical injury. In fact, the term was misused so frequently that its definition in the Oxford Dictionary was recently updated to include any electrical injury. I will likewise use “electrocution” to refer to both injuries and death caused by electricity.
Electrical Injuries are Unique
Injuries caused by negligent electrocution are unique in several ways. First, it is not the amount of voltage that determines the severity of the injury, but the amount of current forced through the body. A shock of 100 volts can do as much damage as a shock of 10,000 volts. Current is measured in amperes or amps. Currents of 10 milliamps (0.01 amp) or more are capable of producing severe shock, while currents between 100 and 200 mA (0.1 to 0.2 amp) can be lethal.
The injuries sustained from electrical current are varied. They can include cardiac damage, burns, visual disturbances, seizures, organ damage and neurologic injury. Since many electrical injuries occur in a workplace setting, the injured person may also sustain physical injuries from a fall following electrocution. Spinal cord injuries from electrocution, such as disk herniation, are common. This occurs as a result of the body’s violent seizing in response to the electrical stimuli.
Brain injuries from electrocution are common. Medical literature reports that the exact mechanism of brain injury from electrical current has not been established. The brain can be damaged on a cellular level (organic brain damage) or on a psychic level similar to PTSD, or a combination of the two. Further, there are no characteristic findings on MRI that one can look to rule in or rule out electrical injury to the brain. However, there is a well-established constellation of symptoms associated with neurotrauma from electrical injury. These include neurocognitive deficits such as phobias, extreme anxiety, loss of concentration, memory loss, diminished planning and executive functions, and neuropathies.
A personal injury lawyer representing a victim of electrocution must be wary of incomplete or inaccurate medical evaluations. Many physicians are not familiar with these injuries. They may not recognize the injury or refuse to relate it to the electrocution. In addition, some of the injuries come to light over time, as friends, family and caregivers gradually recognize changes in the injury victim’s personality.
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