Firework Celebrations Can Mean Serious Injuries and Liability
Although the July 4th holiday has become closely associated with celebrations that include fireworks, the month of July sees a huge increase in firework-related injuries. The Consumer Protection Safety Commission (CPSC) reports that an average of 280 people suffers injuries caused by fireworks daily each year throughout the month of July. While some of these accidents involve careless or ill-advised conduct by the injured individual, many burns and fires that result in serious injuries occur for reasons other than unsafe conduct by the injured party. When a fireworks injury is caused by the negligence of a neighbor setting off fireworks in their backyard or a municipality or commercial entity conducting a public fireworks display, injured spectators or bystanders can have the legal right to financial compensation.
Prevalence of Firework Injuries and Deaths
While some people might assume that non-occupational firework injuries tend to be extremely rare, they are far more prevalent than you might guess. Approximately 9,100 people were treated for pyrotechnic injuries in emergency rooms throughout the U.S. during 2018 accordig to the CPSC 2018 Fireworks Annual Report. On the positive side, this number declined significantly from 12,900 the prior year. The CPSC indicates that well over half of these accidents resulting in injuries (62 percent) occur between June 22, 2018 and July 22, 2018. Of the 5,600 people treated in emergency departments during this period around July 4th, many involved fireworks that you might not consider particularly dangerous. The types of fireworks that caused injuries included:
- Firecrackers – 1,000 ED visits
- Sparklers – 200 ED visits
- Bottle Rockets – 200 ED visits
Firework Injuries and Fatalities
The CPSC report provides a breakdown of the types of injuries caused by fireworks during 2018 along with details regarding five fatalities though the report indicates that the number of deaths will probably be higher. The report indicates 121 reported non-occupational firework fatalities between 2003 and 2018 (i.e. 7.5 deaths annually). The agency data indicates that 44 percent of emergency room treated injuries were burns, including the following breakdown:
- Hands and Fingers – 28 percent
- Legs – 24 percent
- Eyes – 19 percent
- Head, Face & Ears – 15 percent
- Arms – 4 percent
While many firework accident victims were treated and released from emergency rooms, 17 percent of patients suffered severe enough injuries that they had to be admitted into the hospital or transferred to another facility. The CPSC conducted 20 follow-up investigations with injury victims and were informed that some of this sample endured long-term injuries.
Determining Who Is Responsible for Fireworks Injuries
The part(ies) that mignt be financially responsible for your injuries will vary based on the circumstances of the accident. Most firework accidents are caused by the neligence of someone, which could include the victim. If you were injured while attending a large firework display put on by a city or business, the entity that organizes and promotes the event can be liable if negligent use of fireworks harms spectators at the event. Firework injuries also might be caused by a friend or neighbor shooting off fireworks in their backyard. Parties whose lack of exercise of reasonable care for your safety cause the firework accident could be liable.
Defective fireworks that do not comply with safety regulations can justify a claim aganst the manufacturer of the pyrotechnics. The CPSC report found that a significant number of fireworks did not meet mandatory safety standards. The CPSE Office of Compliance and Field Operations in conjunction with U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) investigate firework shipments imported from overseas. In random sample testing, the agencies found that 67 percent of tested shipments were not compliant with the Federal Hazardous Substances Act (FHSA) and/or regulations promulgated under this act. The most common violations included overloaded fireworks that can trigger to large an explosion (“overloaded report composition” violations) and fuse burn time violations. Both of these types of violations can significantly endanger unsuspecting consumers.
Montlick and Associates, Attorneys at Law, wishes everyone a happy and safe July 4th holiday. If you or a family member are injured in a fireworks accidents, we offer a free consultation to evaluate your claim and explain your legal rights.
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