In one year, “an estimated 12,900 people suffered fireworks-related injuries,” according to the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) acting chair. That year was 2017. (2)
The statistics were still not encouraging five years later. In 2021, firework accidents killed 9 people and injured 11,500, according to the CPSC. (3)
Types of Firework Accidents
Life-threatening injuries can result from a number of different types of firework accidents. Among the most damaging types are fires and burns.
“Fireworks started an estimated 12,264 fires in 2021, including 2,082 structure fires, 316 vehicle fires, and 9,866 outside and other fires. These fires caused 29 civilian injuries and $59 million in direct property damage,” according to the National Fire Protection Association. (4)
Yet fires are not the only type of firework accident. “In 2021, the parts of the body most often injured by fireworks were hands and fingers (an estimated 31 percent of injuries) along with head, face, and ears (an estimated 21 percent),” indicates the CPSC. (5)
“About 32 percent of the emergency department-treated fireworks-related injuries in 2021 were for burns,” says the CPSC. (6)
Of those burn injuries: (7)
- 14% were to the eyes.
- 21% were to the head, face, and ears.
- 31% were to the hands and fingers.
- 34% were to the legs, trunk, and arms.
Not surprisingly, the majority of injuries — 74% — occur around the July 4th holiday. (8) And 36% of those injured are children (9)
Causes of Firework Accidents
The causes of these firework accidents vary. Among the most prominent causes of firework accidents are: (10) (11)
- Non-compliant fireworks.
- Mechanism malfunction.
The CPSC notes non-compliant fireworks violations “consisted of fuse violations, presence of prohibited chemicals, and pyrotechnic materials overload.” The CPSC explains how roughly 32% of tested fireworks are found to be non-compliant. (12)
Mechanism malfunction can cause injury or death. In 2021, one person’s death was “associated with a mortar launch malfunction,” according to the CPSC. (13)
However, the most prominent cause of firework accidents is misuse. For example, in one accident report, a woman was “sitting on a lawn chair at a park when she noticed a group standing nearby. She heard a member of the group shout “Oh man I kicked it over” … and a firework landed on her lap and exploded… [her] dress and underwear caught on fire, severely burning her inner thighs and part of her genital area.” She needed skin grafting surgery and also experiences numbness in the area. (14)
If you or a loved one have been injured by fireworks, contact us today for a free case review.
Get a Free Case Review
Who Is Responsible for the Accident?
Responsibility for a firework accident is a complex question. Determining who is at fault could be key to the outcome of a lawsuit.
In some cases, responsibility may rest with the manufacturer or seller of the fireworks. For example, a defective product or a lack of warning labels on the packaging might mean they are liable.
Generally, the cause of your accident may be some clear violation of the law.
New York State Fireworks Law
Most consumer fireworks are prohibited in New York. However, “New York State Law allows for the sale and use of a specific category of consumer fireworks known as Sparkling Devices,” states the Division of Homeland Security and Emergency Services (DHSES). (15)
The DHSES goes on to say, “Sparkling Devices are ground based or handheld devices that produce a shower of colored sparks and or a colored flame, audible crackling or whistling noise and smoke. The law limits the type, size and construction of Sparkling Devices and requires that these devices must be handheld or mounted on a base or spike and be limited in sizes that range from 1 to 500 grams of pyrotechnic composition.” (16)
Still, alarming statistics apply to all types of fireworks, including handheld sparkling devices. For example, 2021 estimates included 1,500 firecracker injuries and 1,100 sparklers injuries treated in emergency departments nationwide. (17)
Firework accidents lawsuits are often negligence cases resulting in personal injury. Bringing a successful lawsuit usually involves proving the negligence.
A successful outcome in such cases requires the plaintiff (you) to show the court the defendant (party you are suing) owed you a duty of care, and the defendant breached this duty. (18)
Negligence is defined as the obligation to act “with the level of care that someone of ordinary prudence would have exercised under the same circumstances.” (19)
For example, a city may be negligent if its staff members are shooting off fireworks in a crowd, but do not put up any warning notices or barriers to prevent people from getting too close to where the fireworks are being launched. Or if at a company’s event, the organizer shoots fireworks up in the air but they go directly towards you.
In these cases, both groups are not exercising a basic standard of care.
Additionally, you must also show the court you suffered injury and the defendant’s breach caused your injuries. (20) In the first case, the city may be liable if the fireworks seriously burn you. In the second, it may be the manufacturer of the fireworks is liable if the device goes in the wrong direction and you get blinded from sparks from the device flying into your eye.
How to Prevent Firework Injuries
If you are near anyone using fireworks, it is critical to determine whether or not using those fireworks is legal. This is perhaps the most important safety tip since it can prevent many injuries. It is also important for the person using the fireworks to read all warnings and follow all instructions on the packaging. (21)
Additional safety tips for people setting off fireworks: (22) (23)
- Never allow children to play with or light fireworks, including sparklers.
- Keep a bucket of water or garden hose handy.
- Light fireworks one at a time.
- Keep out of range of lighted fireworks.
- Never try to pick up or light fireworks not igniting properly.
- Don’t use fireworks when drinking or taking drugs.
- Only light fireworks on a smooth, flat surface away from buildings and flammable materials.
Filing a Lawsuit
If you have suffered serious injuries in a fireworks accident, you want to speak with an attorney as soon as possible and consider filing a lawsuit.
Your attorney evaluates your case and helps you file your lawsuit. Attorneys can investigate your claims, gather evidence, and either represent you in court or negotiate a settlement on your behalf.
But What If I Signed a Liability Waiver?
Even if you signed a liability waiver in connection with a fireworks accident, you may still be able to file a lawsuit to recover compensation for your injuries.
A liability waiver is a legal document you sign acknowledging your awareness of the risks involved in a given activity you expect to participate in. Its purpose is to remove legal liability from the party sponsoring or organizing an event. In New York, such waivers may not apply to fireworks cases.
New York General Obligations Law (Section 5-326) voids agreements exempting some recreational establishments from liability. Establishments such as gyms, pools, and public amusement parks can still be held liable. (24)
Enforceability is a key factor in liability agreements. If a liability waiver was signed by a minor, contained unclear language, or was signed when you paid to participate in a recreational activity, it may not be enforceable.
Money you may receive for injuries in a negligence case are known as compensatory damages. These damages include:
- Medical expenses.
- Property damage.
- Loss of income.
- Pain and suffering.
To obtain the best outcome for your case, you want to carefully select your attorney.
How W&L Can Help
You need an attorney who is compassionate and skilled. Your attorney should have experience with a range of personal injury and negligence cases. Likewise, you can be more confident if your attorney has a track record of success.
W&L has this type of negligence and personal injury team. For nearly 40 years, our attorneys have been helping clients achieve favorable settlements and verdicts. Some of our successes include: