The Danger of Downed Power Lines

Sometimes, as our San Francisco car accident lawyer knows quite well, real life writes stories that our imaginations never could. In this case, the San Francisco Chronicle reported a story that began when 21 year old Arman Samsonian crashed into a fire hydrant while rushing to the gym. Witness Irma Zamora, age 40, called 911 and then raced over to help. She was joined by 39 year old Stacey Schreiber. Unbeknownst to the two women, electricity was running through the water around the wrecked car. Both of the Good Samaritans were electrocuted and both died. The incident had unusual aspects but, unfortunately, it is far too common for downed power lines and electrocution to cause injury and/or death following a car accident.

In May, despite his attorney suggesting the electrocutions were not a foreseeable consequence of speeding, Samsonian pled no contest to vehicular manslaughter. On Wednesday, a Los Angeles Superior Court sentenced Samsonian to three years of probation and 70 days of community service. The judge also ordered him to pay restitution to the victims (note: restitution typically cannot compensate victims for pain and suffering). Committing another vehicular offense during the probation period will send Samsonian to prison.

What to Do If Power Lines Fall on Your Car
The Samsonian case certainly has interesting and unusual details, but electrocution following a car accident is a very real danger. Power lines falling during a crash are one of the main sources of electrocution. What is the best way to stay safe if power lines fall on your vehicle or powerlines.jpg one you have been riding in? PSE&G, one of the largest electric companies in the U.S., and B.C. Hydro, the main electric distributor for the Canadian province of British Columbia, both host webpages advising readers on how to stay safe if a power line falls on their vehicle.

The top tip – Stay put! Always assume wires are “live” (i.e. active and running with electric current) until proven otherwise. Unless some other danger exists, you are usually safest in your vehicle and you should stay there until professional aid arrives. You should also warn anyone who may try to approach your vehicle, including well-meaning Good Samaritans, to stay at least 33 feet away (the length of a bus).

If a fire or another life-threatening danger exists, you should carefully jump completely clear of the vehicle. You do not want anything to hit the ground before you land so you should leave anything that is loose or may dangle (ex. a long sweater coat) behind and be sure to tie any shoelaces. You are trying to avoid completing a circuit, so you must not touch the car and the ground at the same time. Jump as far as you can while making sure you don’t stumble and you land with both feet at the same time. After landing you should either hop away, continuing to land with both feet at once, or shuffle away, keeping both feet on the ground.

Avoiding Electrocution Incidents, Protecting Victims
If you encounter a downed wire in other situations, continue to follow the assumption that the wire is live. Stay clear and call the provider, the fire department, or the police for help. Teach children to avoid power lines and to alert an adult if they encounter a newly downed power line. Please share these safety tips; they can be life-saving.

Power line injuries can occur in a variety of ways and involve a range of at-fault parties. Examples include a power company that failed to respond appropriately to downed wires, an installation or repair service that did not secure the wires properly, or (as the Samsonian case demonstrates) a driver who caused an accident that led to a power line accident.

If you or a loved one were injured in an electricity accident in the Northern California region that was caused by someone else, please call our firm. Our San Francisco power line accident attorney can help you recover monetary compensation from those at fault.

See Related Blog Posts:
A Look at Safety Statistics and a Reminder from Your Northern California Injury Lawyer

Wet Weather and Driving Safety