Burn injuries victim who cut through electrical cable receives damages

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Burn injuries victim who cut through electrical cable receives damages

17th January 2013

A labourer who suffered severe burns to his face, arms and legs when he cut into an underground electrical cable after being told to ignore a warning sign, has received £70,000 in an out of court settlement.

The man’s injuries were so serious that he was placed in a medically-induced coma for five days immediately after the incident, which happened almost two years ago.

Anya Rupal, a serious injury specialist at Fentons Solicitors LLP, said the South London man’s ordeal began when he was working as part of a team contracted to refurbish a restaurant.

“My client’s site manager had instructed him to dig a hole through the pavement outside the restaurant in order to locate the water mains,” said Anya, a solicitor with the firm. “No other specific instructions were given regarding the size or the depth of the hole, he was simply told to keep digging until he found the water mains.

“After prising away some concrete paving slabs and using a shovel to remove the earth immediately beneath, my client uncovered a red and yellow plastic sheet which was clearly labelled with the words: ‘Warning danger cable’.” added Anya. “When he reported what he had found to his manager, he was instructed to cut through the sheet and carry on digging.”

When the claimant located the cable, he again informed his manager who issued him with a handheld trowel and told him to ‘be careful’ digging around it, as an electrician had confirmed it to be live. After exposing the cable, the claimant continued digging until the hole was a metre deep. But when the earth became too hard to dig through with the trowel he began using an electrically powered hammer known as a Kango.

“My client had been using the Kango for around 15 minutes when he unwittingly cut into a second underground cable,” said Anya. “He remembers a sudden extremely loud explosion followed by a huge green flame which leapt past his face. After leaping from the hole in considerable pain with his face, limbs and body completely blackened, he managed to stagger into a nearby café where witnesses began pouring water over him. When an ambulance arrived and took him to a specialist burns unit, his face, arms and legs had swollen up and he was placed in a medically induced coma for the next five days.”

Having undergone a number of skin graft operations, the claimant was discharged from hospital two weeks later. Over the next three months, he was cared for at home by his mother and girlfriend who helped him with his bathing, dressing and mobility around the house. After he had recovered sufficiently to be able to change his dressings himself and move around unaided he underwent an intensive rehabilitation programme which included burns medication, hydrotherapy, scar treatment, massage and physiotherapy.

“My client’s employers denied liability for his injuries, claiming that he was negligent in using the Kango as they had provided him with a handheld trowel specifically for the job,” said Anya. “However, the trowel he was given was completely unsuitable for the tightly compacted earth directly beneath the first cable and the suggestion that he could have continued using the trowel to remove the hardened earth a metre below the surface is nonsense.

“Although he accepts that he was told to use the trowel to dig around the first cable, he maintains that he was never instructed against using a Kango thereafter and insists that his manager must have known he was using the tool due to the tremendous amount of noise the machine makes,” added Anya. “As a result of his injuries, my client has been left with scarring to his face and all four of his limbs as well as post-traumatic stress disorder which has thus far prevented him from returning to the type of construction work he was used to.”

After lengthy negotiations, Anya settled the claim on behalf of her client for £70,000.

How can Fentons Solicitors help?

Fentons Solicitors is experienced in handling claims relating to all types of serious injury and has a specialist department experienced in handling claims for victims of accidents in the workplace.

If you think that you have a case or require further information contact Fentons on 0800 0191 297 or fill in the online claims questionnaire.