How does electric shock drowning occur?


Many people enjoy recreating during the summer months at one of Kentucky's many lakes, reservoirs or rivers. While some like to use a motorboat or other watercraft for sport, others prefer just to swim or wade in the water.

Unfortunately, swimmers and boats do not always mix so well, even when boats are docked at their marina. An example of this fact which has gotten attention lately is the phenomenon of electric shock drowning.

Electric shock drowning most commonly happens when something is amiss with the electrical system of a docked boat or with the electrical current being provided by the marina. If there is a broken or faulty ground, for instance, then the water around the boat will begin to carry current from the boat, much like the water in a bathtub would carry current if someone's radio or blow dryer fell in to the tub.

If the current is high enough, a person swimming near the boat will be electrocuted. Even at lower levels, however, the shock from the current will cause a person's muscles to seize, meaning that they will not be able to swim and will likely drown, even if they are otherwise healthy people and good swimmers.

The problem is that a swimmer cannot tell that water is carrying dangerous electric current just by looking at it. Usually, by the time a swimmer realizes something is wrong, it is too late. Moreover, many times, a boat's current will go in and out from being faulty, and charging the nearby water, to working correctly.

It can take some considerable digging for a drowning victim's family to figure out that their loved one died because of electric shock drowning. Sometimes, even an autopsy will not reveal any information. However, if it turns out a person enjoying one of Kentucky's waterways did die because a boat owner or marina did not properly maintain their electrical equipment, then the family may be able to obtain compensation through a wrongful death cause of action.

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O'Brien Batten & Kirtley, PLLC

O'Brien Batten & Kirtley, PLLC
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