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Lightning Injuries & Deaths: Potential Liability for Entities That Fail to Protect Victims

When it comes to electric shock and electrocution, there are few types of injuries victims can suffer. These may include flash or flame injuries, which can involve injuries to the skin or flames and fires caused by an electric charge, true electrical injuries that involve victims becoming part of the electrical circuit (where electrical current flows through their bodies), and lightning injuries, which typically entail injuries caused by low duration and high voltage charges common in a lightning strike.

While they may not be as common as electric shock and electrocution accidents that take place on worksites or construction sites and involve electrical wiring or machinery, lightning injuries and deaths can and do happen. In fact, a recent report documenting global lightning fatalities noted the following:

  • Statistics on lightning fatalities are not widely available, but estimates range from several thousand up to 24,000 deaths each year worldwide.
  • In the U.S., there were an average of 31 lightning fatalities each year between 2006 and 2015.
  • Researchers have found that in developed countries like the U.S., lightning related injuries tend to occur at a ratio of roughly 10 injuries per fatality annually. This would mean roughly 300 lightning-related injuries each year nationwide.

The numbers show that lightning strike injuries and deaths happen with some regularity in the U.S., though the numbers are far less than injuries caused by other factors, such as power lines, transformers and wiring, and the use of electric appliances, tools, or machinery. Still, those incidents create the potential for personal injury claims, especially if victims’ injuries were caused or contributed to by the negligence of entities that had legal obligations to keep them safe.

Lightning & Personal Injury Cases

Because personal injury cases are centered on proving that another’s negligence caused accidents and injuries, claims and lawsuits involving lightning strikes must involve some form of negligence if they are to have any merit in civil court. This means that there must be other factors at play that extend beyond just being “struck by lightning.” For example, there may be potential liability in cases involving:

  • Employers or contractors that subject workers to unsafe conditions or violate safety standards, especially in relation to performing work during unsafe circumstances (i.e. lightning storms).
  • Premises liability involving property owners who fail to protect visitors and guests, or failed to take steps to reduce risks involving lightning, such as when they have large metal conductors on their property that pose risks in lightning storms, or pools and other bodies of water.
  • Liability of schools or other programs and institutions that failed to protect students or members, such as allowing students to play in dangerous weather conditions where they are at risk of lightning injuries.

Whether it is a personal injury claim or a wrongful death lawsuit brought by families who have lost a loved one, cases involving lightning strikes can make for rare and difficult legal cases. While the circumstances may be unusual, it is important to remember that these cases focus on holding at-fault parties accountable for negligence, which often takes the form of companies or entities that fail to respond appropriately to potential hazards involving lightning strikes, such as dangerous conditions and dangerous weather, and fail in their legal obligations to keep victims safe from preventable harm, such as ensuring they are not subject to dangerous conditions or that they are removed from dangerous locations.

At Morici, Longo & Associates, our Chicago trial lawyers have extensive experience protecting the rights of victims and families in a range of cases involving personal injury and workers’ compensation claims based on electric shock and electrocution. In addition to handling more common forms of these accidents, our experience and insight also allows us to handle the challenging and unique issues involved in cases where lightning strikes, in addition to underlying negligence, cause injuries or death that could and should have been avoided.

If you have questions about any electrical-related accident in Chicago or the surrounding areas of Illinois, do not hesitate to contact us for a free consultation.