Electric Shock Drowning (ESD)

Electric Shock Drowning (ESD) happens when freshwater swimmers are exposed to minute amounts of alternating current that has leaked into the water from improper wiring or electrical connections on docks, boats, lighting fixtures, and outlets.

The escaped electrical currents then pass through the water along a return path in an effort to discharge and ground the excessive electricity. Swimmers unfortunately become the conduit and can end up experiencing symptoms ranging from minor tingling to discolored skin to full on skeletal muscular paralysis. 

Depending on the level of exposure, a person may drown while immersed in the water due to the incapacitating effects of an electrical current flowing through their body.  

Regrettably, most instances of ESD are the result of a preventable accident. If a loved one was swimming and became a victim of ESD, contact our premises liability lawyers for a free consultation.

Our team is knowledgeable in drowning and electric shock cases and will be able to identify if negligence played a role. Should negligence be found, we will then seek compensation to cover medical and/or funeral expenses, and other losses. 

Free Case Review


Drowning accidents are rarely thought to be the result of electrical shock (a.k.a. a silent, swift killer), but the result of another’s failure to properly maintain and/or use equipment. For instance, a recent ESD accident happened at Scorpion Bay at Lake Pleasant, Arizona that was originally thought to be a standard drowning accident.  

However, after the fire crew arrived on the scene they discovered an electric current in the water. The emergency crew then had to first secure the dock before entering the lake to assist the victims. One person died, two suffered severe injuries, and two others suffered non life-threatening injuries.

Owners of boats, marinas, docks, and pools all have a responsibility to regularly check, maintain, and properly use devices and equipment to prevent fatalities caused by low-level AC electricity-related incidents. 

Outside of boat, marina, and dock owners, other entities are also accountable for properly maintaining and fixing any faulty or damaged hydroelectric generators and underwater power lines around bodies of water to help prevent an Electric Shock Drowning. 

The following codes and standards apply to boats and marinas and their related electrical safety issues: 

If accident investigators determine the cause of an ESD incident to be the result of negligence, a drowning victim’s surviving family may be entitled to financial recourse. 

At Lerner and Rowe Injury Attorneys, our wrongful death attorneys know that no amount of money can fill the void of a lost loved one. What it can do is help ease some of the unplanned financial burdens so that you can focus on coping with your loss.      


Swimmers that experience any of the following signs of ESD should immediately try to exit the water if possible. Once out of the water, the shocked swimmer needs to stay upright and seek immediate medical attention. 

Any individuals not harmed need to let other people in the area know of the danger to help prevent an ESD death or near misses. They also need to provide enough information to help others understand the danger so that they can appropriately respond. 

In addition to the three previously mentioned signs (tingling, discolored skin, muscle paralysis), the following additional signs can help you recognize exposure to an electric shock in the water:

  • Muscle cramps
  • Numbness
  • Pain


According to Electrical Safety Foundation International (ESFI), take the following steps if you see an electric shock drowning taking place:

  • Do NOT jump into the water
  • Call 911 or VHF Channel 16 immediately
  • If possible, turn off all nearby power sources
  • Use extreme caution when trying to remove a victim from the water by using an insulated lifesaving device or rope. Do not use anything made from metal 
  • Begin CPR or use an (AED) Artificial Electronic Defibrillator if the victim does not have a pulse and is not breathing 

Were You or a Loved One Electrocuted While Swimming? Get A Free Case Evaluation Today! 

If you, or a loved one, has been in an ESD or water-related incident due to the negligence of another, contact a premise liability attorney from Lerner and Rowe Injury Attorneys by calling (844) 977-1900

You can also use our convenient 24/7 LiveChat feature, or submit a secure form online now. Our attorneys are experienced with handling ESD cases, we offer free consultations, and you don’t have to pay a cent unless you win compensation.