Every 4th of July Americans gather with family and friends to celebrate Independence Day. Along with hot dogs and hamburgers, admiring fireworks is a big part of the tradition. “Oohs” and “aahs” from crowds are heard from great distances as each shell explodes in the sky, and children run around with sparklers waving in hand. For many, however, the good times stop when a friend or loved one is hurt by a firework.
Approximately 8,700 firework-related injuries were treated in U.S. hospital emergency rooms in 2012. Nearly 5,200 of those injuries happened in July. Based on past years’ experience, it is estimated that 7 firework-related injuries will result in death in 2014. Statistics also tell us that the risk of injury is highest for teenagers and young adults, aged 15 through 24, and second highest for children under the age of 10. Even the innocent looking sparklers that children love to waive around and flail about in the night sky have caused an estimated 1,100 emergency room visits in 2011– sparklers burn at temperatures upwards of 1,800 degrees Farenheight.
In addition to physical pain and suffering, the aftermath of a catastrophic firework-related injury may bring emotional, psychological, and financial hardship. If you, or a loved one, are hurt by a firework, you should contact a firework injury lawyer to discuss your legal rights.
For now, be proactive and do the best job you can to enjoy fireworks safely. Helpful tips when using fireworks or attending a fireworks show include:
Refrain from purchasing or using fireworks that are illegal in your state
- Pennsylvania prohibits the use of Consumer and Display Fireworks in Pennsylvania without a permit (does not include non-fireworks or novelties)
- New Jersey prohibits the sale and use of all consumer fireworks
If you intend to use consumer fireworks, obtain a display permit from your municipality
- Pennsylvania municipalities will issue display permits to competent operators who post at least a $500 bond and pass an inspection of their display site by a fire chief
Precautions to take when using permitted fireworks or novelty items:
- Read and follow the instructions
- Make sure that the items are used in an open area, away from trees and structures
- Place used items into a bucket of water before properly disposing them
- Do not allow young children to handle fireworks, even sparklers
- Ignite one firework or novelty item at a time
The safest way to enjoy fireworks is to leave it to the professionals and attend a public fireworks display
- You or a child should never pick up fireworks or firework debris that may be left over following a fireworks display
If you or a loved one suffer injuries while using legal fireworks or attending a fireworks display, contact an attorney that is experienced in personal injury and products liability law
Responsibility for Firework-Related Injuries
Even when you are being safe around fireworks, others may be handling fireworks improperly. A Pennsylvania fireworks injury lawyer can hold the people handling the fireworks accountable for any injuries that they cause. A person who is handling fireworks must exercise a high degree of caution so as not to injure other people because fireworks are inherently dangerous. For example, a person who ignites a fuse on a firework that is pointed at a group of people is not exercising the high degree of caution that Pennsylvania law requires of them. Whereas a firework that is properly supervised and set-off in a reasonably safe area, by a competent operator, will not necessarily result in liability against the person handling fireworks.
Products Liability Actions for Firework-Related Injuries
An injured person may also have a case against a fireworks manufacturer. A products liability lawyer can help you explore your legal options. Under New Jersey products liability law, a fireworks manufacturer must ensure that its product that is reasonably fit for its intended purpose. Any one of the following defects may expose the manufacturer to liability for injuries that are caused by its product:
- a design defect;
- a manufacturing defect; or
- a defect in marketing.
In Pennsylvania, an injured person, or their loved ones, may file a products liability lawsuit against a fireworks manufacturer for a defect in its product. A manufacturer can be held responsible for a fireworks-related injury if a defect made the fireworks unreasonably dangerous, and the defect was a substantial factor in causing the injury.
Fireworks manufacturers have a responsibility to warn users of the dangerous nature of their fireworks (e.g. shoots explosive flaming balls at high speeds). The manufacturer knows its fireworks and should anticipate the dangers associated with their use, especially when the user may not realize why, or how, a particular firework is dangerous. That is why manufacturers must take care to inform users of the dangers of the fireworks.
Publicly Hosted or Sponsored Firework Displays
It is convenient and cost effective to attend a fireworks show hosted by a Public entity like a school or a township. The sponsor typically hires a private contractor to run the firework show, and a work agreement will specify the responsibilities and duties between the host and the contractor. A Pennsylvania or New Jersey fireworks injury lawyer will investigate the host-contractor agreement to hold the right party accountable for a fireworks-related injury.
For example, in one Pennsylvania fireworks-related injury case, a county government allowed its fire department to have a carnival that featured a fireworks show. The fire department hired a private firework company to run the fireworks show. An agreement between the fire department and the firework company said that the fire department was responsible for cleaning up the firework debris on the morning after the fireworks show.
Three days after the fireworks show, a child found a firework, took it home, and the firework exploded in his left hand. The injuries were catastrophic! The child lost his hand. The child’s attorney used the firework contract to sue the county and the fire department. The Court agreed that the both the county and the fire department were responsible for the child’s injuries.
Almost always, the public entity will argue that it cannot be held liable– that it is immune from liability. But a fireworks injury lawyer will know how to navigate New Jersey and Pennsylvania immunity laws. Legal investigation will reveal exceptions to the states’ immunity laws: Pennsylvania’s real estate exception has been applied broadly by the courts; and, New Jersey’s dangerous condition exception has been used to hold public entities responsible for injuries suffered as a result of failed fireworks cleanup.
Fireworks are fun and captivating, but they are also dangerous products that can cause serious bodily injuries or death. If you, or a loved one, are injured from the use of fireworks, contact a personal injury or product liability law attorney in our Philadelphia or New Jersey office. Slade McLaughlin and Paul Lauricella are experienced trial attorneys who have won jury verdicts in these legal areas in the past. All consultations with McLaughlin & Lauricella, P.C. are free and confidential.