Electrical Injuries vs. Electrocution Injuries: What You Need To Know
Electrical injuries can be very serious. Even though they do not involve the loss of life, as is the case with electrocution, they can drastically alter the lives of their victims.
It is important that everyone be familiar with the most common electrical injuries so they can recognize them when they occur and, thus, know when it is time to seek urgent and immediate medical care if tragedy strikes.
Need an electrocution lawyer?
If you or someone you love is a victim of serious personal injury or death caused by electricity, please call us toll free (800) 548-0043 for a free consultation.
What is an electrical injury?
Electrical injury occurs when electricity flows through a person’s body as a result of contact with an electrical energy source. Unlike electrocution, these damages do not result in death. Common electrical injuries include: musculoskeletal and orthopedic injuries; amputation; and ventricular fibrillation.
Common types of electrical injuries
Below our attorneys identify and discuss the most common types of electrical injuries that can result from direct or indirect contact with high-voltage electrical current:
- Burns: High voltage is generally defined as being greater than 1,000 volts, and it typically results in flash- or flame-induced local burns to the point of contact as well as massive necrosis (tissue death) of deeper tissues.
- Orthopedic injuries: These are electrical injuries to the skeletal system, muscles, joints and ligaments. There can also be acute renal (kidney) failure, eye injuries, neurological injury and traumatic brain injury from contact with power lines.
- Thermal injuries: A thermal injury is a type of burn that results from contact with heated objects, such as electricity, boiling water, steam, fire and hot objects. A thermal injury occurs along the current pathway and ground.
- Flash or flame injuries: Flash or flame injuries consist of any burn injury caused by intense flashes of light, high voltage electric current or strong thermal radiation. They’re found in 40% of electrocution victims.
- Loss of consciousness: This results from brain injury in about one-third of electrical injury victims. It also is experienced by many victim who suffer from peripheral neuropathies (weakness, numbness and pain from nerve damage, usually in the hands and feet), which are most commonly associated with the entry point of first contact.
- Fractures: Fractures occur in over 25% of electrical injury cases.
- Musculoskeletal injuries: These injuries involve a range of disorders involving muscles, bones, tendons, blood vessels, nerves and other soft tissues. Musculoskeletal injuries occur in 40% of electrical injury cases.
- Multiple amputations: Multiple amputations occur in 11% of people who suffer electrical injuries.
- Secondary injuries from falling: Secondary injuries often occur from falling after contact with power lines due to a startle reaction, either from elevation or from a standing position on the ground. Likewise, myocardial infarction (heart attack), disc herniation, hip fractures, extremity fractures, and/or other secondary injuries often occur.
- Ventricular fibrillation: Ventricular fibrillation is a condition in which there is uncoordinated contraction of the cardiac muscle of the ventricles in the heart, making them quiver rather than contract properly. Although ventricular fibrillation is the most commonly identified arrhythmia in cardiac arrest patients, it may result from electrical exposure and is a function of the electrical current flowing through the heart muscle, and the duration of such flow.
- Arc blast or flash injuries: Arc blast or flash injuries are burn injuries that are produced when a person near an electric fault receives radiant heat burns (when a power line contacts the ground or an object that is connected to the ground, a “ground fault” occurs).
What factors affect the severity of an electrical injury?
Assessing the severity of a person’s electrical injury – including electric shock – requires consideration of the following factors:
- The voltage involved
- The amperage of the electric current involved
- The pathway that electricity traveled through a person’s body (e.g., through the heart, muscles, head, eyes and/or chest, or hand-to-hand)
- Length of a person’s exposure to/contact with the source of electricity
- Health and/or medical condition of the person before the injury occurred
- Whether the electrical current was direct (DC) or alternating (AC)
What is an electrocution injury?
Tragically, death is all too frequently the disastrous result of an electrocution injury that is caused when a person is exposed to and/or comes into contact with a high-voltage electrical current or power.