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, unsafe electrical installations, electrical equipment, and behavior around electricity still occur, with tragic consequences including serious injury and 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 anywhere near the following:
Learn more about how you might be entitled to make a compensation claim if you have been injured by electricity.
What we call 'electric shock' is more precisely described as an electric current passing through the tissues and/or organs of the body.
The human body is considered a 'good conductor' of electricity, meaning that significant injury can be incurred in a very short time, even within a second of contact with electric current. It is also important to note that extreme caution should be taken when looking to assist anyone who is the victim of an electric shock, as electric accidents can easily become multi-victim/multi-fatality incidents.
Some types of injuries sustained from electric shock accidents are described below.
HealthDirect explains that the immediate injuries apparent after a person has suffered an electric shock, which include:
It's important that a person who has suffered an electrical injury receives medical attention immediately, even if they appear well. 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.
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:
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 sufferer being inflicted with a non-fatal injury. 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 a person is exposed to the current during a shock is a significant contributor to the level of injury suffered.
Finally, muscle spasms can cause 'mechanical' injury in two ways:
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 engaged in a work-related task 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 location where there is electrical wiring or electrical appliances.
Causes have been identified as including:
Electricians are subject to strict electrical safety and licensing laws and are highly trained professionals.
There is specific legislation applying to electric work; this work is defined in that legislation as:
Strict codes of practice apply to this work. Regardless of the measures put in place, their occupation exposes electricians to significant risks.
Two of the three key areas of electric risk in Queensland are clearly more relevant to the work of electricians. These are:
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 electrical hazards involved in construction include:
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.
Electric shock injury in this context is due to:
Any worker can suffer electric shock injury while performing their work or in public, for example by being required to use faulty equipment that are damaged, faulty, 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 may be entitled to claim compensation are:
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 specific 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:
If the injury occurred in the workplace, and negligence on the side of the employer was not involved, a statutory claim (often referred to as a 'WorkCover claim') can be lodged with your employer's workplace injury insurer, however, if negligence has been a causal factor in the injury, the injured party may consider running a 'common law' claim in addition to the statutory claim, usually resulting in additional compensation. Very basically, a 'common law' 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. Common law claims can be complex and personal injury solicitors generally have a great deal of experience and knowledge in running such claims.
It is advisable to contact experienced personal injury lawyers as soon as possible, after initial medical attention has been provided, to best understand your rights and entitlements under the law.
Yes, there are strict time limits to make an electric shock compensation claim. It is advisable to do the following in regards to any claim:
For electric shock injuries sustained in the course of employment, a claim should be made to WorkCover (or your work's 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.
For common law claims, you are generally required to commence a claim with the court within 3 years of the injury occurring.
Your first priority after an electric shock injury should be to get the right treatment and care and your focus 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.
As each claim is different, the amount of time it takes to settle a claim can vary, however claims are generally settled within 12 to 18 months.
The length of time it takes to resolve your claim is dependant on a number of factors, some of which are controlled by the claimant's side and other controlled by the insurer (the 'other side'). Having an experienced legal team behind you can work to your advantage, by reducing unnecessary delays.
If you've suffered an electric shock at work, and would like to make a statutory claim, this should be done as soon as possible, after seeking medical care.
Personal injury claim associated legal fees depend on the amount of work required, which can vary, as each claim is unique.
Many lawyers who represent injured people provide their services on a' no win no fee' basis, reducing the financial risk of making an electric shock injury compensation claim. Many agreements differ however, and there can be 'catches' which can leave claimants significantly out of pocket. At Smth's Lawyers, we 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.
In electric shock claims, the amount of compensation awarded will depend on a great number of factors. Even ball-park figures are unhelpful and can often lead to expectations that may not be met, and have little utility in terms of forward planning.
The law exists to make injured people 'whole,' meaning as close to how they would be if the injury had not been incurred. Throughout the life of the claim, especially in the earlier stages, the focus is on the physical/psychological improvement of the claimant, however, once MMI (maximum medical improvement) has been reached, then based on the level of impairment at that point, the law seeks to bridge the gap financially.
Therefore, some accidents involving electricity result in only a mild electric shock and injuries can be minor and resolve quickly with no lasting damage; which would lead generally to a lower settlement amount. However, some people who suffer electric shocks are far more significantly affected, and therefore the amount of compensation they recieve would be more considerable.
Relevant factors affecting the size of electric shock injury claims include:
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:
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 utilise their knowledge and experience for the benefit of your claim.
Personal injury law can be complex and making a common law claim can be particularly daunting. The amount of work associated with running a claim, and the legal knowledge required to protect your rights and secure the accurate level of compensation is significant, therefore engaging a team of lawyers is advisable.
Generally, personal injury lawyers will be able to discuss your situation initially without cost. This would be advisable, even if you are planning to self-represent, in order to gain initial knowledge about your rights and entitlements and discuss the difference between self-representation and running your claim with a law firm.
If you suffer injuries whilst at work, and you are looking for further information in terms of making a claim. Here at Smith's Lawyers, we offer a free consultation for injured people looking to seek compensation. As mentioned before, we also have a "No Win. No Fee. No Catch." policy, which means you will never be out of pocket.
Get in touch with us today to give yourself the best opportunity to understand your rights.
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