Electrical Shock and Burn Injuries from Faulty Home Wiring
Most of us live near structures with extensive electrical wiring in the United States. The houses and apartments where we eat, sleep and relax surround us with electrical wires, outlets, and switches that power all the "modern conveniences." Whether offices, retail stores, schools, hospitals, or factories, most workplaces are likewise wired for the lighting systems and electrical devices necessary for our work. When defects in these systems' design, manufacture, installation, and maintenance cause failures, we can experience electrical shock and burn injuries from faulty home wiring. An experienced personal injury attorney can help the victim of such an incident receive compensation when their injury results from defects in the electrical wiring or the negligence of others.How Large is the Danger?
The Electrical Safety Foundation estimates that:
- Electrical fires cause more than 50,000 home fires per year.
- Electrical fires in the home cause some 500 deaths and more than 1,400 injuries annually.
- Electrical receptacles specifically are involved in more than 5,000 fires each year.
- Electrical wiring is the number three cause of all home structure fires.
The type of injury that may occur is most often determined by the nature of the defect. In newer homes with installed GFCI outlets (read more about these below), electrocutions are significantly reduced. Therefore injuries from faulty home wiring are much more likely to be burn injuries resulting from electrically-sparked home fires. In older homes, however, and especially those that have not been retrofitted with GFCI outlets, there is a significantly greater likelihood of electrocutions occurring in rooms like bathrooms and kitchens where individuals may simultaneously contact electricity and wet conditions. We currently average about 200 electrocution deaths in the United States in the home each year.Red Flags for Faulty Home Wiring
In addition to being more aware of what condition our home's wiring may be in, there are some specific warning signs that we can try to be mindful of that may signal problems. Underwriters Laboratories -- an independent electrical standards and certifications organization -- notes that some of these red flags include:
- Extension Cords. The use of too many extension cords is problematic for two reasons. First, they are tempted to keep adding additional lights, appliances, etc., to the same circuit, increasing the possibility of overloading the circuit. Second, extension cords are exposed -- unlike the wiring inside our walls that is hard to get at to disturb, extension cords are out in the open where they can easily be cut, twisted, kinked, have their insulation broken, or otherwise be damaged, leading to sparks and shocks.
- Flickering Lights. Lights are individually relatively small users of electrical power. Still, they can prove to be useful "canaries in the coal mine" -- when we see lights dimming or flickering, this can often be a sign of larger power users in the house, such as heating and air conditioning systems and household appliances drawing power to the degree that either the household service as a whole or the particular circuit shared with the flickering light may be in danger of overloading.
- Strange Odors. Odd smells from an electrical switch or outlet can be signs of overheating that may be damaging insulation or of un-insulated wires contacting materials that may be near to burning. Definitely calls for an inspection.
- Sparks. The purpose of adequately installed home wiring is to avoid sparks; visible sparks are signs of problems needing immediate attention and avoiding using the sparking outlet or switch.
- Hot Electrical Receptacles and Switches. Electricity moving through wiring will naturally generate some heat due to resistance. While it may not be unusual for a receptacle or switch to become mildly warm when devices are used on its circuit, a hot switch or outlet may indicate either a miswired or overloaded receptacle.
- Sizzling or Buzzing Noises. Properly working home wiring systems don't make sounds. Noises such as sizzling or buzzing can indicate loose connections in the wiring or bad contact between the prongs of an electrical plug and the inside of the receptacle.
- Lack of GFCI Outlets in "Wet" Areas. The ground-fault circuit interrupter is one of the most significant home safety inventions of several decades. Recognizable for their testing buttons, these outlets can detect minute fluctuations in current that may signal an electrocution event occurring. For that reason, they are standard requirements under most building codes in "wet" areas such as bathrooms and kitchens where people may contact electricity while wet. Unfortunately, many older homes have never been retrofitted with these crucial safety devices.
Two of the best things we can do to protect against electrical shock and burn injuries from faulty home wiring is to ensure we have installed and regularly checked our GFCI outlets and smoke detectors. The Electrical Safety Foundation notes that 65% of home fire deaths occur in homes with no working smoke detectors -- these devices are an essential protection against burn injuries. And adequately installed GFCIs:
- Reduced home electrocutions by 83% since the 1970s.
- Reduced electrocutions from consumer products by 95% since the 1970s.
- It could prevent 47% of current electrocutions if added to the home.
- Fifty percent of American homes were built before GFCIs were introduced.
As with most personal injuries resulting from an electrical problem, those involving home wiring will require an investigation into how the incident occurred and what may have physically caused it. This includes determining the following:
- Was a part of the home wiring defective?
- If so, was the defect in its design or manufacturing?
- Was it improperly installed and code-compliant?
- Were there maintenance issues involved that caused the incident?
- Were there usage problems, such as overloaded circuits involved?
Although any electrical injury from faulty home wiring will first be considered from the perspective of a premises liability claim against the owner of a home and/or a renter (in a rental situation) -- those folks with primary responsibility for a home's safety -- answering all these investigative questions may point toward potential liability on the part of many other individuals and corporations involved with the design, manufacture, installation, and maintenance of the faulty home wiring.
View this video describing essential elements of home electrical systems:Sacramento Electrical Injury Lawyers
Hello, my name is Ed Smith, and I am a Sacramento Electrical Injury Lawyer. We want to believe we are safe at home from the dangers of the "outside world." Still, our home may have inherent perils of which we need to be aware to increase our safety. Common sense solutions like GFCI outlets and smoke detectors can make us much safer against electrical shock and burn injuries from faulty home wiring. However, these incidents can still occur with devastating results. If you or a member of your family have been injured in an incident involving shocks or burns caused by faulty home wiring, please contact our office for free, friendly advice at (916) 921-6400 or (800) 404-5400, or reach out to us via our online contact form.
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