Electric Shock Drowning

What is Electric Shock Drowning?

When most of us think about what “caused” a drowning accident, “electrocution” is rarely considered unless the victim is found in a bathtub containing a submerged device such as a hair dryer or a radio or died while swimming during a thunderstorm.. However, evidence is beginning to emerge that suggests such accidents could be more frequent.

In this post the drowning and aquatic accident injury lawyer at The Doan Law Firm will discuss a report from Tuscaloosa, Alabama where drowning due to electric shock was determined to have been the cause of death of two women who died at Lake Tuscaloosa. He will then discuss how electric shock as a cause of drowning accidents may be more common than previously thought.

The Accident

As reported by WIAT-TV of Tuscaloosa, in April of this year two women, Shelly Darling and Elizabeth Whipple, drowned near  a pier at Lake Tuscaloosa. While their bodies were being recovered the following morning, a deputy sheriff reported receiving an electric shock upon entering the water. After autopsies, the medical examiner gave a preliminary cause of death as “electrocution” for both women and “accidental” as the manner of death.

What is Electric Shock Drowning (ESD)?

Electric Shock Drowning (ESD) refers to a drowning accident where the victim loses the ability to swim or to tread water due to the effects of an electrical current flowing through their body. In practically all cases of ESD, the type of electric current responsible for the injury is Alternating Current (AC).

Electrical shock is rarely suspected as a cause of drowning because, unless the victim is observed coming into direct contact with the current’s source, there are very few physical signs (such as redness or blistering of the victim’s skin) that would suggest that the victim suffered an electrical injury immediately prior to death. Instead, ESD should be suspected if any of the following circumstances were present immediately prior to the accident:

1) the victim was swimming, or entered the water, near a dock or marina that is wired for AC. AC-powered devices do not need to be in operation for a current leak to occur!

2) the victim was known to have at least basic swimming skills, but became incapacitated shortly after entering the water

3) the victim or other swimmers in the immediate area reported sensing a “tingling” or other unusual sensation not normally experienced during swimming

4) a rescuer attempting to come to the victim’s aid also sensed an electric shock or became incapacitated upon entering the water

5) two or more drowning and/or near-drowning accidents occurred in roughly the same area and the area is known to contain a potential source of an  AC leak (including submerged utility cables)

Obviously, the possibility of ESD increases if two or more of the above circumstances were present at the time of the accident. In the Tuscaloosa case, 4 of the above-listed were present! However, proving that the victim’s death was due to ESD will require resources that are beyond those of a drowning victim’s surviving family.

If I suspect a loved one’s drowning death could have been due to ESD, what should I do?

Because they occur without warning, drowning deaths are known to cause a great deal psychological trauma to those left behind. It is also well-known that since drowning deaths are, by definition, “accidents,” many survivors search for an explanation as to “why” their family member died.

Even though they search for answers, most families do not have the resources necessary to conduct their own investigations. Additionally, and even if a family uncovers facts that indicate another’s negligence may have contributed to a family member’s death, most families are unaware of their rights under the law. In such cases, it is always best to entrust drowning death investigations to a law firm whose staff includes a lawyer with extensive experience. One such lawyer is the drowning accident lawyer at The Doan Law Firm, a national drowning and aquatic injury law practice with offices located across the country.

At our firm, your case review and first consultation with our drowning and aquatic accident injury lawyer are always free of any charge and do not require you to use out firm as your legal counsel. If, after speaking with our drowning and aquatic injury lawyer, you decide that a lawsuit is in order, we are willing to assume full responsibility for everything that is necessary to prepare your case for trial in exchange for a percentage of the final settlement that we will win for you.