A Los Angeles man suffered severe electrical burns after stepping – and subsequently falling – on exposed live electrical wires on a Boyle Heights sidewalk. The man suffered brain and burn injuries as a result of the electrocution and is still in critical condition. He claims he suffered the burns while taking photographs of nearby bridge construction. The man may be able to recover compensation for his injuries if the city of Los Angeles had, and breached, a duty to protect him from exposed electrical wires.
The city, however, offers a different scenario – one where they may not be liable for the man’s injuries at all. Los Angeles admits that the live electrical wires were present, but claims the injuries were sustained during vandalism and attempted theft of copper wire. If the man was engaged in deviant behavior the city may not owe a duty to protect him from reasonable harm.
Burn Injuries in California
Burn injuries can be devastating, and are often cited as the most painful injuries a person can sustain. Electrical burns are caused by an electric current running through the body. The Los Angeles man reportedly suffered electrical burns twice – once when he stepped on the wire and again when his body landed on them when he fell. Burn injuries can cause significant physical ailments, including tissue scarring, lacerations, burns, heart failure, seizures, and even death. The costs associated with recovering from burn injuries can be incredibly high, and may be emphasized if injuries cause a person to miss work. If the man was on the property legitimately and without an unlawful purpose he may be able to recover compensation to cover medical bills, rehabilitation, surgery, pain and suffering, or lost wages.
Property Owners Required to Prevent Reasonable Harm
Premises liability is a form of negligence in California that imposes a duty on owners of land – including municipalities – to protect others from foreseeable injuries. Owners generally have a duty to others who enter their property to “exercise ordinary care in the management…to avoid exposing persons to unreasonable risk of harm.”
A plaintiff, in successfully recovering damages for negligence or premises liability, must prove that the defendant had a duty to prevent harm, the duty was breached, and that a foreseeable injury occurred as a result of the breach.
This general duty, however, often may not apply to trespassers or individuals who are engaged in unlawful behavior. Just as a California homeowner may not be liable for injuries a burglar sustains after breaking into his or her home, Los Angeles may not be liable for the injuries a vandal or thief sustains in the commission of a crime. Should the man pursue legal action against the city, the court will weigh the evidence and determine whether the city had – and breached – a duty to the injured man.
Dangerous Conditions of Public Property
California also permits those injured on public property to pursue damages from a city if the injury was a result of inherently dangerous conditions. The claim is also one of negligence, but is more specific. A plaintiff must prove that:
- The premises or property was in a dangerous condition when the injury occurred;
- The injury was caused by the dangerous condition;
- The injury was reasonably foreseeable; and
- The danger was the result of an employee’s negligence or failure to institute protective measures after notice of the danger.
If Los Angeles was aware of the exposed electrical wires but failed to make any protective measures, they may be liable for injuries it caused. However, the facts of the case indicate that the injury occurred well after midnight on a Tuesday evening and that immediately after the man sustained his injuries the city contained and sealed the wires. This may indicate the city’s version of the story is closer to the truth.
Burn injuries can be serious, and even life-threatening. If you or someone you know has sustained burn injuries through no fault of your own you may be entitled to compensation. Contact a personal injury attorney at Citywide Law Group today to learn about your legal rights.