Premises Liability Electrical Injuries

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Consider for a moment the fact that virtually 100% of the time we are indoors we are surrounded by sources of electricity. Whether in a residential space, visiting an office space, or in a commercial or industrial building, we are enclosed in a web of electrical lines and outlets running through walls, floors, and ceilings, all attached to every kind of electrically-powered device we can imagine. Any of these sources of electricity -- all in close proximity to people -- are potential sources of danger and potential sources of premises liability electrical injuries if the owners and operators of these buildings have failed to provide and maintain safe surroundings.

When death or serious injury has resulted from an electrical failure on a building's premises, the expertise and resources of an experienced personal injury attorney can be crucial in proving premises liability on the part of the building's owner and/or operator and in securing proper compensation for those who have been hurt.

What Causes Premises Liability Electrical Injuries?

As we noted above, our homes, workplaces, and public buildings are filled with electrical sources, so the sources of electrical injuries are many and varied. The most common type of premises liability electrical injury and death is from burns resulting from electrical fires. A report by the National Fire Prevention Association (NFPA) focusing just on home fires in the U.S. resulting from electrical problems found that faulty wiring, lighting, cord and plugs, and appliances caused:

  • An average of more than 800 deaths per year;
  • An average of more than 2,400 serious injuries per year;
  • Some $2.8 billion in property damage per year.

These numbers are just for average annual deaths, injuries, and property loss from electrically-caused fires in home settings, and don't even begin to address other injury types like shocks and electrocutions or other premises locations like workplaces and public buildings.

The same report found that the most common sources of home fires caused by electrical distribution and lighting equipment were:

  • Wiring and receptacles -- 68%;
  • Lamps and lighting -- 14%;
  • Cords, extension cords, and plugs -- 10%
  • Power supplies and transformers -- 8%

The U.S. Fire Administration -- part of FEMA -- reports that in non-residential buildings, some 8,200 fires were caused by electrical malfunctions in a single recent year (2017), and that overall, 19% of non-residential building fires and 13% of residential building fires in the United States are due to electrical sources in wiring, electrical panels, and appliances.

What Types of Electrical Injuries May Result?

Since fire is the primary injury source from electrical malfunction in our homes, workplaces, and public buildings, the most common types of premises liability electrical injuries are burn injuries and smoke inhalation. A public health study of urban residential fire injuries in the United Kingdom found that:

  • The main diagnoses were smoke inhalation in 68% of patients, burn injuries in 21% of patients, and both injury types in 8% of patients;
  • While most injured patients did not require in-patient hospitalization, a significant percentage did (32%), with some needing intensive care including specialized burn management care, hyperbaric oxygen treatment, and other therapies;
  • Rates of injury were higher in children and elderly people than in other age groups.

In addition to injuries from electrically-sparked premises fires, other premises liability electrical injuries include shocks and electrocutions. A guide from the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) notes that shocks and electrocutions can result from sources such as worn wiring, improperly installed receptacles with loose wiring or improper grounding, and extension cords that are worn or that bypass grounding protection. A significant source of electrocutions in premises settings is the failure to upgrade older homes and public buildings to current codes.

Legal Considerations for Premises Liability Electrical Injuries

Residential, commercial, and industrial buildings may be owned and operated by entities ranging from individual owners and renters through major corporations. In any case of premises liability electrical injuries, it is crucial to promptly identify each and every individual and business entity that may bear responsibility for the injuries due to being an owner or operator of the building.

Legal theories of liability will general focus upon negligence, strict liability, or both. Negligence-based liability for electrical injuries on a premises will often seek to prove that owners and operators did or failed to do something that a reasonably prudent owner/operator would have done to ensure the electrical systems on the premises were safe. Were they aware of the electrical defect and failed to repair it? Should they have been aware of the defect, but failed to make reasonable inspections to detect the problem? Were they aware that outdated or non-code-compliant hardware presented an unreasonable degree of danger?

Strict liability, on the other hand, will focus on basic issues of safety and habitability on the premises. Although the requirement for proving the specific unsafe condition may be greater with strict liability, this theory does not require proving that anyone was actually negligent -- merely that the premises were unsafe to a degree that meets the legal standards for strict liability.

Proving premises liability electrical injuries cases are substantially different from proving more typical personal injury claims like traffic accident cases. They will always involve some degree of engineering or scientific analysis to prove the source of the electrical injury, along with sometimes more complex legal theories of liability (such as strict liability). Often it will be necessary to engage expert witnesses such as forensic engineers, electrical systems experts, and property leasing experts to prove what went wrong and who may have been liable. An experienced personal injury attorney will be accustomed to working with these types of experts to successfully pursue a client's injury claim.

View this video that describes the function of a ground-fault circuit interruptor (GFCI), one of the most important electrical safety devices in our homes:

Sacramento Electrical Injury Lawyers

Hello, I'm Ed Smith, and I am a Sacramento Electrical Injury Lawyer. Individuals and corporations who own, lease, and/or operate residential and public premises have an obligation to ensure basic safety standards to protect people who live, work, and visit at their premises. When problems with electrical systems on the premises result in injury to people, an experienced personal injury attorney can help prove cases for premises liability electrical injuries and recover proper and adequate compensation from those who failed to provide that basic safety. If you or a member of your family have been injured in an incident involving defective wiring or other premises electrical systems, please contact our office for free and friendly advice at (916) 921-6400 or (800) 404-5400, or reach out to us via our online contact form.

We are proud to be among the injury attorneys of the Million Dollar Advocates Forum and to be members of the National Association of Distinguished Counsel.

You can see some of our prior case results on our past verdicts and settlements page and check out our client reviews at Yelp, Google, and Avvo.

Photo by Michal Jarmoluk from Pixabay

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