Electrical Injuries from Defective Power Tools and Outdoor Equipment
Although we may commonly think of indoor appliances when we consider the electrically-powered devices in our lives, Americans also tend to come into contact with a wide variety of outdoor electrical devices, as well as power tools that may be used inside, outside, or on the road. Lighting systems in and around pools and spas were among the first outdoor electrical systems to require special grounding and outlets due to the electrical hazards posed by close contact with electricity and water. And seemingly every hand-powered tool that ever existed now has electrical versions powered either by direct connection to a power outlet or by rechargeable battery packs that can store (and suddenly release) quite considerable amounts of electricity. As with any electrically-powered items close to people, this raises the possibility of electrical injuries from defective power tools and outdoor equipment.What Types of Injuries Result from Defective Power Tools and Outdoor Equipment?
Obviously, power tools present a dual hazard for potential injury -- first, the very functions that make them useful (cutting, sawing, nail and screw driving, etc.) all present a danger of simple physical injury if the tool is defective or if it is misused. And second, the electrical power that makes the tools function -- either alternating current from a power cord and electrical receptacle or direct current from a battery pack -- presents the dangers of electrocution, shock, or burns.
Other outdoor equipment may present a significant danger of electrocution since the outdoors is often wet, and live electrical circuits and water do not mix safely. Indeed, some outdoor electrical equipment such as swimming pool and spa pumps and lighting are specifically intended to be near people and water.
Electrocution that causes death is usually a result of ventricular fibrillation being induced in the heart muscle. The normal function of the heart muscle is controlled by electrochemical impulses that cause the heart to beat in a proper rhythm for circulating blood in the body. The sudden application of electricity can cause the heart's ventricles -- the chambers most responsible for pumping blood back into the body -- to stop functioning properly and merely twitch rather than forcefully contract to push out blood. This can rapidly lead to a loss of consciousness, the stoppage of breathing, and death. Immediate CPR is required, and hopefully, a defibrillator device is nearby that can be used to shock the heart back into a normal beating rhythm. Electrocution is a primary hazard in places where a person may be exposed to high-voltage electricity or in places where the exposure is to low-voltage electricity in the presence of water or other materials that may greatly increase the conductivity of electrical current through the body.
Other injury hazards that may be posed by power tools and outdoor equipment include electrical shock and burns. Electrical shock is simply the physical injury from exposure to current that is less than lethal electrocution. Burn hazards are typically created by power tools or outdoor equipment defects that result in electrical sparking or arcing or in a sudden release of thermal energy that either directly causes a burn or ignites clothing or other materials that cause a burn injury.What Types of Power Tools and Outdoor Equipment Can Cause Electrical Injuries?
The dangers of close proximity exposure to electricity and water have long been recognized. As a result, some of the first places where safety devices such as ground-fault current interrupters (GFCI) and other methods for interrupting current flow were introduced and required were in pool and spa equipment. This includes both pool pumping equipment and lighting. If these devices and proper grounding of electrical circuits to which they are attached are not present, a very significant hazard of fatal electrocution may be present. Many types of outdoor electrical equipment such as this will have their own independent GFCI devices -- regularly testing the GFCI protections on the outdoor equipment, as well as any GFCI outlets they're plugged into and the circuit breakers to which the outlets are connected is a crucial safety protection.
Among other types of power tools and outdoor equipment that have been recalled due to defects posing a hazard of electrical injury, the Consumer Products Safety Commission has listed in recent years:
- RIDGID® NXT HD06000 and HD09000 wet/dry vacuums in which a defective power switch can become dislodged and expose users to live current. The recall for complete replacement of the vacuums included more than 220,000 units in the U.S. and some 2,500 more in Canada.
- DEWALT DWD110 and DWD112 power drills in which wiring can contact internal parts and pose a shock hazard to users. More than 130,000 units in the U.S. and Canada were recalled for replacement.
- Hampton Bay, Patriot Lighting, and Paradise outdoor path light kits with a defective electrical plug that could break off in an outlet. The recall for repairs involved more than 75,000 units.
- Multi-use WAYNE WaterBUG GLOW Multi-Use Submersible Water Removal Pumps with a circuit board that present fire, burn, and shock hazards. More than 40,000 units were recalled for replacement.
Product liability claims for electrical injuries caused by defective power tools and outdoor equipment tend to be complicated, lengthy, and expensive. Consider that a typical personal injury case related to a defective product may have multiple defendants, likely including designers, manufacturers, distributors, retailers, and installers of the defective tools or equipment. And these are not ordinary individual defendants -- these are typically large companies with well-financed legal departments and outside legal counsel who have long experience defending product defect cases.
The good news is these types of product defect claims are that some or all of the likely defendants are also likely to be major corporations who will typically have large liability insurance policies and significant corporate assets available to adequately compensate even major injury or death claims. The bad news is that these defendants will fight hard to pay as little as possible, preferably nothing, because there is one claimant injured by a defective product, there are likely to be many more. Note the recalled items above, which involved tens of thousands of defective units, each a potential cause of serious injury or death.
Successfully pursuing and concluding product liability lawsuits related to electrical injuries from defective power tools and outdoor equipment requires experience, knowledge of the science and engineering involved, familiarity with the top forensic experts, and significant resources. An experienced accident attorney can bring this to the fight to successfully resolve clients' personal injury claims.
View this news report about a tragic local death that resulted from the lack of a GFCI protection device in pool equipment:Sacramento Electrical Injury Lawyer
Hello, my name is Ed Smith, and I'm a Sacramento Electrical Injury Lawyer. Defective power tools and outdoor equipment can expose users to significant dangers of injury by electrical shock, burns, or even fatal electrocution. If you or a loved one have been injured in an incident involving a defective power tool or other electrical outdoor equipment, please contact our office for free, friendly advice at (916) 921-6400 or (800) 404-5400, or reach out to us through our online contact form.
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