Electric ShockCompensation Claims

The significant risks to people from contact with electricity or electrical faults are well known and have been recognised by a Queensland government review. The same review reported that over a 10 year period about 400 serious electrical incidents were reported to the relevant government office.

In a 2019 submission, Master Electricians Australia estimated that around 15 people per year die and around 300 are hospitalised due to electrical accidents in the home.

Electrical safety is clearly paramount, and there are strict rules around any activities that involve electricity. Unfortunately, however, unsafe electrical installations, electrical equipment, and behavior around electricity can still occur, with tragic consequences including serious injury or even death.

Electric shock injuries can occur outside (for example, due to lightning strikes), or inside of the workplace, the home or any other building. The key areas of risk are:
- Powerlines
- Electric switches or wiring
- Electrical equipment

Learn more about how you might be entitled to make a workers compensation claim.

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Common Electrical Shock Injuries

What we call 'electric shock' is more precisely described as an electric current passing through the tissues or organs of the body.

The human body conducts electricity - a good reason to be cautious when providing first aid to any victim of electric shock injury. But the ease with which the body allows electricity to pass through it unfortunately also means that electric shock victims can suffer significant injuries.

Some types of injuries sustained from electric shock accidents are described below.

Direct Trauma from Electric Shock
HealthDirect explains that the immediate injuries apparent after a person has suffered an electric shock include:
- Breathing difficulties or inability to breathe at all
- A weak and/or irregular pulse
- Burns, frequently at the sites at which electricity entered and left the body
- Loss of consciousness
- Cardiac arrest

It's important that a person who has suffered an electrical injury receives medical attention very quickly, even if they appear ok. They may have internal injuries or be suffering other complications that aren't apparent straight away. A medical examination is recommended in all cases.

The Australian Institute of Health and Wellness reports that electric shock injuries can affect the cardiovascular system and neurological (or nervous) system. This can cause disturbances to heart, brain and respiratory function.
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Burns from Electric Shock
A significant number of electric shocks result in burn injuries - up to a quarter of electric shock injury cases involving hospitalisation have a principal diagnosis of burns.

Burn injuries can be external or internal. Whether a person who has suffered an electric shock incurs either or both of these can depend on the type of electrical accident.

Electric shock injury from a number of different sources can cause burn injuries:

- An arc flash - this usually causes 'superficial' burns, or burns to the skin, which can be serious (see an example here)
- Flames from an electrical spark or arc flash that have set items alight
- Lighting strike or 'true' electrical injury where the current flows through a person's body - this can cause both superficial burns and burns to internal tissues
Muscle Spasm and Mechanical Injury
In very simple terms, muscles move in response to electric impulses from the brain, that travel down the nerves to the relevant muscle, where a chemical is released to cause the muscle to contract or relax (you can find a more detailed explanation here).

So it's no surprise that an electric shock causes muscle spasms in the body.

By far the most significant type of muscle spasm involves the heart. An electric shock can cause an electrical disturbance or damage to the heart (or both), which can lead to the heart functioning poorly or stopping altogether. The resulting decrease in blood flow to vital organs including the brain can cause serious injury or death.

Additionally, muscle spasms can result in the person who has suffered an electric shock being more significantly injured. In some cases, the contraction of the muscles in contact with the source of electricity, such as a faulty wire, may mean the person cannot let go and stop the transmission of electricity. This tends to result in more serious and long term symptoms, as the length of time for which a person is exposed to the current during an electric shock accident is a significant contributor to the level of injury suffered.

Finally, muscle spasms can cause 'mechanical' injury in two ways:

- if significant enough, they can cause bones to fracture or dislocate
- any muscle spasm can lead to contact with an object or structure, for example by causing a fall, leading to additional injury
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"At-Risk" Job Types for Electric Shock injury:
A 2013 review found that across Australia each year, about 190 workers successfully claim compensation for accidents involving contact with electricity. For the period 2014-2016, almost half of those admitted to the hospital with electric shock injuries reported that they were working for income when they suffered the injury.

You may be surprised to find that there is a wide range of occupations in which workers are at risk of electric shock injury. However, the fact is that electric shock injuries can occur in any workplace where there is electrical wiring or electrical appliances.

Causes have been identified as including:

- Faulty electrical equipment
- Damaged electrical cords
- Electrical appliances in contact with water
- Faulty wiring in a home or other building
- Contact with powerlines
- Lightning
Electricians
Electricians are subject to strict electrical safety and licensing laws and are highly trained professionals.

There is specific legislation applying to electric work, which is defined in that legislation as:

- Connecting electricity supply wiring to electrical equipment or disconnecting electricity supply wiring from electrical equipment; or

- Manufacturing, constructing, installing, removing, adding, testing, replacing, repairing, altering or maintaining electrical equipment or an electrical installation.

Codes of practice also apply to this work. However, their occupation exposes electricians to significant risks.

Two of the three key areas of electric risk in Queensland are clearly higher relevant to the work of electricians.

- Electrical installations, including fixed wiring and associated equipment - risks arise from improper work practices, the impact of the work of others (including unqualified persons) on the integrity of installations and unlicensed electrical work (which may be dangerous and which electricians may be required to fix)

- Electrical appliances in the home and workplace

Over 80% of hospitalisations and 40% of fatalities from electrical injury were caused (in 2014-2016) by exposure to electric current. Clearly, these were not all electricians, however, these figures show just how dangerous the environment in which electricians work can be.

Construction Workers
Construction workers account for a significant proportion of workers who suffer an electric shock at work.

This is unsurprising when you consider that the major hazards of electricity include:

- Overhead and underground power lines, which workers may not see or even know are present
- Faulty electrical wiring or equipment
- Unqualified persons working with electricity
- Electric currents are invisible and do not make any sound

The statistics on electric shock injury in the construction industry are sobering. Between 2002 and 2014 the second highest cause of fatalities on construction sites involved contact with electricity. And in 2014-16 the construction sector accounted for about 16% of electric shock injury cases in the workplace in Australia.

These statistics include electricians working on construction sites, however, they show that the workers most at risk are those without electrical training.

Electric shock injury in this context is

-Direct or indirect contact with electricity
- Arc flashes
- Secondary harms including falls from heights
- Explosions and fires
Other Workers
Any worker can suffer electric shock injury while performing their job or in their workplace, for example by being required to use faulty equipment or electrical appliances that are damaged, faulty, or in contact with water, or by coming into contact with poor electrical installations. Some examples of people who can suffer an electric shock at work and be entitled to claim compensation are:

- Office staff
- Care workers
- Nurses
- Theatre staff
- Hairdressers
- Mechanics
- Engineers
- Cleaners
What Evidence is Required to Make an Electric Shock Claim?
If you need to seek compensation for an electric shock injury, it's best to seek legal advice from experienced personal injury lawyers on the evidence required. The evidence needed for each case is different, depending on the details of the electrical accident and your personal circumstances and needs.

There's no 'one size fits all' approach, but as a general guide, successful electric shock compensation claims are usually supported by evidence proving:

- how the electric shock injury occurred
- treatment provided by a hospital, doctor or specialist
- long term impacts of the injury, future treatment and rehabilitation needs and prognosis (likely extent of recovery and timeframe)
- medical costs, including fees for doctors and specialists, hospitalisation costs, medicines, and likely future costs of rehabilitation
- financial impacts such as lost income and earning capacity
- the amount of pain and suffering endured

Most electric shock compensation claims will be based on a claim of negligence. Very basically, a negligence claim is available when a person or organisation that owes you a legal duty to care for your safety and wellbeing fails to do so to a reasonable standard, and you suffer injury as a result. Negligence claims can be complex and personal injury solicitors have the skills and experience to gather the right evidence to support a negligence claim.

It's best to consult lawyers who are personal injury experts to get specialist advice on the legal process involved and the evidence required for your compensation claim.
Is There a Time Limit For Making an Electric Shock Injury Claim?
Yes, there are strict time limits to make an electric shock compensation claim.

For electric shock injury compensation claims arising from employment, a claim should be made to WorkCover or a self-insurer within 6 months from when the injury occurred or when the injuries caused by an electric shock are first linked to your workplace duties by a doctor.

Common Law or Court claims for electric shock injury compensation will be made on the basis of negligence, or on the basis of wrongful death, if the worst were to occur and the electric shock injury proved to be fatal. For these types of legal claims, you are generally required to commence a claim with the court within 3 years of the injury occurring. Before lodging a Court claim there may be certain steps you need to take under the law to notify the person you are claiming against that you intend to make a claim.

Your first priority after an electric shock injury should be to get the right treatment and care and your focus will be on your recovery. However, to preserve your rights to claim compensation, it is a good idea to speak to a lawyer once you're able to. We offer a free advice consultation for any potential personal injury case, where we can advise you about time limits and discuss the claims process. If you decide to proceed, we will ensure your claim doesn't miss any deadlines.
How Long do Electric Shock Settlements Usually Take?
Statistics show that the average time to finalise a Common Law or Court claim is just under one year for workers seeking compensation. The timeframe may be longer for other claims, as identifying the people or organisations to make a claim against can be more complicated for non-work related legal claims.

The length of time it takes to resolve your claim will depend on whether or not you can reach a settlement with the specific person or entity responsible for your injury. If you can, it will mean you get your compensation payment more quickly than going through a trial in court. Whether or not a settlement can be reached depends on the strength of the evidence in the case and having a skilful negotiator on your side. Good compensation lawyers will seek to resolve your claim as early as possible.

If you've suffered an electric shock at work you should make a statutory claim with WorkCover or a self-insurer as soon as possible. The time for a decision can be less than 20 days after lodging the claim if WorkCover is given all the right information. This allows you to start getting payments for some of your lost wages and for medical expenses to help in your recovery.

Seeing a personal injury solicitor early about a potential electric shock injury claim can help to get you the compensation you need to support your recovery.
How Much Does it Cost to Lodge an Electric Shock Claim?
For Court claims for electric shock injury compensation, the legal fees depend on the amount of work required. Some factors affecting the legal costs in an electric shock accident case include:
- The amount of evidence and what we need to do to collect it
- How complex the case is
- The cost of getting expert advice and reports, for example, evidence from specialists about your medical condition and treatment.

If your claim arises out of a workplace accident, you can make a claim to WorkCover or a self-insurer without a cost - though many workers still appreciate the assistance of personal injury solicitors for their WorkCover claim to ensure they receive the maximum compensation they're entitled to.

Lawyers who represent injured people to help them through their personal injury claims can provide their services on a no win no fee basis, reducing the financial risk of making an electric shock injury compensation claim. We offer a free consultation where we can discuss any aspect of your potential claim, including what would be involved with a no win no fee agreement with us.
What Are the Average Payouts For Electric Shock Injury?
In electric shock claims, the amount of compensation awarded will depend on a number of factors. It's difficult to give an average compensation figure that would really help you understand how much compensation you might receive for an electric shock accident claim.

Thankfully, some accidents involving electricity result in only a mild electric shock and injuries can be minor and resolve quickly with no lasting damage. However, some people who suffer electric shocks are far more significantly affected and claiming compensation allows them to be financially supported to focus on their recovery.

Relevant factors affecting the size of electric shock injury claims include:

- The seriousness and physical impact of the injury
- How long it will take you to recover, and any permanent effects of the injury or impact on life expectancy
- Costs you've incurred for acute medical intervention, including hospital expenses, doctor and specialist fees, and medication
- The cost of any further medical treatment or rehabilitation required
- Lost income, and your ability to work and earning capacity going forward
- The impact of the injury on your relationships and other aspects of your personal life
- An additional amount for pain and suffering
- The legal costs you have incurred

Tragically, some electric shock accidents cause fatal injuries. SafeWork Australia estimated that the electric shock injury fatal accident rate for workers was 4% per year for 2014-2016. In the ten years ending 2012, from an electrical accident across Queensland.

In those cases, a compensation claim may be available for the dependent or dependents of the deceased person. This is called a claim for wrongful death. Personal injury claims for fatal injury can include compensation for:
- Costs of medical treatment
- Funeral expenses
- Loss of economic support from the deceased person
Can I Represent Myself When Making an Electric Shock Claim?
It is possible to represent yourself to make an electric shock injury claim. However, many people find they appreciate the help of specialist personal injury lawyers to navigate the legal process. Expert electric shock injury compensation lawyers can advise how much compensation you're entitled to and what evidence you need, and answer any questions you have along the way.

Personal injury law can be complex and making a personal injury claim in Court can be particularly daunting. It can help to discuss your case with a personal injury solicitor early on to determine if a compensation claim is right for you, and we offer a free consultation for this purpose. We can explain the legal process and describe the no win no fee basis on which we provide legal representation.

If you decide to claim compensation, our personal injury solicitors will listen to your story and provide compassionate and straightforward advice and legal representation to help you throughout your electric shock compensation claim.
Lodge A "No Win No Fee" Claim
If you suffer injuries while at work, you don't have to worry about the whole process of making your claim or the legal fees involved. Here at Smith's Lawyers, we offer free consultation services for injured workers looking to kickstart their claims. As mentioned before, we also have a no-win no fee, no catch policy.
Get in touch with us to give yourself the best opportunity to receive the maximum compensation possible for your claim.
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