If Injured by Fireworks, Can You Sue?
A Fourth of July celebration without fireworks is practically unpatriotic. But as eager as Americans are to express their love of country (and explosives), they often completely ignore basic safety precautions when handling fireworks.
Every year thousands of Americans suffer serious injuries in fireworks-related accidents. Some suffer severe burns or other severe bodily injuries. If that doesn't sound bad enough, other people lose limbs; one man in Fargo even blew off his own head. Apart from injuring yourself, you could hurt someone you love—or a complete stranger.
Many people who end up in emergency rooms after suffering injuries from fireworks find themselves wondering the same thing: If you suffer a personal injury from fireworks this Fourth of July, can you sue whomever may be responsible?
Negligence and Fireworks
Most of the time, fireworks injuries are caused by negligence. Fireworks accidents usually happen because someone didn't follow instructions when setting up the fireworks.
If you're a bystander and you suffer a personal injury from someone else's private fireworks or a public fireworks display, you may be able to sue for negligence. Not every fireworks accident is caused by negligence, however. and to win a negligence claim, you'll have to show all of the following elements:
- The defendant (the person responsible for putting on the fireworks) had a duty to act reasonably;
- That duty was breached;
- You were injured; and
- The breach of duty caused your injury.
In other words, you have to show that it was the other person's poor judgment that caused you harm. For that reason, if the other person did everything by the books, you probably won't be able to win a negligence suit against them. And of course, if you were the one lighting the fireworks and you injured yourself, you wouldn't be able to sue. Plus, there's no use in suing yourself, even if you were allowed to do so!
Defective Fireworks and Product Liability Claims
What if you didn't do anything wrong and the fireworks still went crazy and injured you? You may have suffered personal injury because of a product defect from how the fireworks were manufactured. If this is the case, you'll be able to sue the store that sold you the fireworks, the firework manufacturer, and anyone else in the supply chain on the grounds of product liability. If you believe that you've been hurt by defective fireworks it's usually a good idea to speak to a personal injury lawyer to see if you have a case.
Product liability claims are usually based on negligence, strict liability, or breach of warranty. To hold the manufacturer liable for negligence, you would have to be able to show that the manufacturer was somehow reckless or careless when it designed or made the fireworks, or in the warning that it printed on the package. You would also have to show that this recklessness or carelessness created a dangerous defect.
Sometimes proving negligence is very hard to do when you don't know where in the supply chain the defect occurred. However, you can win a strict liability claim if you can show that the fireworks had an unreasonably dangerous product defect that caused you injury when the product was used in a way it was intended to be used.
Another thing to note is that all of these laws vary from state to state. If you've received fireworks-related injuries, the best thing to do is contact an experienced personal injury attorney in your state. They would be in the best position to tell you your legal options, and they will likely take an initial consultation free of charge.
- Overview of Product Liability Law and Legal Issues (FindLaw's Learn About The Law)
- The Danger of Crossing State Lines for July Fourth Fireworks (FindLaw's Law and Daily Life blog)
- Fourth of July Legal History: How Did it Become a Holiday? (FindLaw's Law and Daily Life blog)
You Don’t Have To Solve This on Your Own – Get a Lawyer’s Help
Meeting with a lawyer can help you understand your options and how to best protect your rights. Visit our attorney directory to find a lawyer near you who can help.