Fireworks Injuries: Who's to Blame when Someone Gets Hurt?

Fireworks Injuries: Who's to Blame when Someone Gets Hurt?

Michelle Patrick
Michelle Patrick
 | 
It's firework season.

The United States Consumer Protection Safety Commission (CPSC), the agency responsible for gathering firework accident statistic, estimates that approximately 10,000 people were treated for fireworks injuries in 2019. That equates to 3.1 out of every 100,000 people being injured by fireworks. CPSC states that it can take up to two years for them to get all of the data related to firework injuries, so these are conservative estimates. Not surprisingly, CPSC estimates that firework injuries are at their highest in July. 

As might be expected, the most common firework injuries occur to the hands or the fingers. Leg injuries are the next most common. The majority of these injuries involve burns followed by cuts and bruises. 

What happens if you are injured while attending a fireworks show or from shooting off your own fireworks? Is anyone liable?

State Law and Fireworks

Depending on the state you are located in, it may be illegal for you as an individual to purchase, and/or shoot off, certain types of fireworks. For example, in California, only “safe and sane” fireworks are legal. “Safe and sane” fireworks include handheld sparklers, cone fountains, snappers, party poppers, and wheel and ground spinners. Roman candles, chasers, torpedoes and skyrockets are considered “dangerous” and therefore illegal. In California, anyone 16 or older can purchase legal  fireworks from 12:00pm on June 28 to 12:00 pm on July 8th. 

Texas is similar to California in that only those over the age of 16 can buy fireworks and there is a limited period in which to buy fireworks, June 24 to July 4 and December 20 to January 1. Texas law makes it illegal to shoot off bottle rockets and skyrockets, as well as any fireworks that the CPSC considers unsafe. Roman candles, sparklers, wheels and spinners, and fountains are legal in Texas. In addition, many cities in Texas have additional fireworks regulations. 

If you are hurt by something a state deems "unsafe," and you had reasonable cause to know you were near an unsafe firework, a lawyer may argue you don't have the right to be compensated. 


Public Fireworks Displays 

Once again, state law regarding public firework displays can vary. In California, a permit must be obtained by the city or organization planning the fireworks display. These displays can use “dangerous” fireworks. Like California, a license is required for an organization or city to hold a public fireworks display in Texas. 

Liability 

Firework injuries fall under the personal injury umbrella. They may also fall under the workers’ compensation subset of personal injury if you were injured while working with fireworks as part of your job. When a fireworks injury happens, the circumstances surrounding the injury are critical questions in determining if there is any liability.

If you were injured at a public fireworks display, then the city or the organization holding the display may be at least partially liable if they were negligent in any way. This could include failing to obtain a permit or failing to set up barriers to prevent people from getting too close to the fireworks.

In addition, the fireworks operator may also be liable. Once again, you would have to show negligence on the part of the operator. If the operator did not shoot the fireworks off from a safe distance, or did not have the proper equipment, they may be liable. 

The manufacturer of the fireworks may be partially liable if there was a manufacturing defect. Manufacturing defects could include the firework going off too early or it going a different direction than indicated. 

If you are injured by fireworks while at a friend’s house, the homeowner may have some liability. As above, you would have to show that the homeowner acted negligently. Injuries sustained while on someone's property are often covered by homeowners insurance. 

If you are injured by fireworks but it was due solely to your own negligence, then it is unlikely that you will be able to recover anything for your injuries. 

It is important that you know the laws of your state. A handful of states follow a contributory negligence theory in personal injury cases. In a contributory negligence state, if you are found even partially at fault for your injuries, you will not recover anything. 

In other words, make sure what types of fireworks you are watching this 4th, and if you really want to be near them. 


This article is intended to convey generally useful information only and does not constitute legal advice. Any opinions expressed are solely those of the author, not LawChamps. 







 
Michelle Patrick

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