Electricity and Electrocution
The law imposes a duty of utmost care where someone is directly injured due to the dangerous nature of electricity. An example of such a duty arises when someone is electrocuted by coming into contact with a high voltage line in the possession and control of the defendant utility company.
In cases in which involve accidents other than electrocution, that occur on the property (dangerous premises) of a customer and are allegedly caused by some action or inaction on the part of the electric utility company, the duty is to use reasonable care in the installation, operation, and maintenance of their electric lines. Thus, when the utility company does not own the equipment or lines which directly cause the injury but merely passes its electricity through the customer’s facility, the duty is less onerous than the duty of utmost care.
A power company must exercise the utmost care to reduce hazards to life as far as practicable in maintaining and employing high power lines. This includes the duty to inspect its wires and other equipment on a reasonable schedule to discover and correct hazards and defects. If it is reasonably anticipated that persons might come in contact with energized lines, the power company must insulate them, post adequate warning signs, or take other precautions reasonable under the circumstances to prevent injury.
A company will be considered to have knowledge, even if they did not have actual knowledge, of an electrical hazard, which has existed for a period of time which would reasonably permit discovery had the company adequately performed its duties.
Most premises electrocution injuries involve the plaintiff or his equipment coming into contact with high voltage energy lines. In these cases, it is usually necessary to retain an electrical expert, either an electrical engineer or a safety expert or both to testify regarding the standards of care.
Typically, the provisions of national codes, like the National Electrical Safety Code, provide for certain standards to be met by the electricity company in the placement and maintenance of their high energy lines. Expert engineers and safety experts can inspect the site of the incident to determine whether a violation occurred and whether that violation caused the injury in question.