July 02, 2018

Firework Accidents: Who is Responsible?


Attending fireworks displays on the Fourth of July is a tradition for many Americans, as much a symbol of the holiday as the American flag and cookouts. Fireworks can be fun and exhilarating. But, they can also be dangerous, resulting in serious injuries requiring extensive medical treatment and rehabilitation, or even death.

According to the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC), approximately 250 people are treated for fireworks injuries every day in the month surrounding our nation’s birthday. More than two thirds of injuries involve burns, while other injuries include blindness or the loss of extremities. Although it’s rare, fireworks displays can also end tragically. On average, seven people died each year from fireworks between 2001 – 2016.

Legal vs. Illegal Fireworks

Wisconsin law makes certain fireworks legal without the need to buy a permit, including small sparklers and novelty devices that spin on the ground. In order to legally use or possess other types of fireworks, such as firecrackers, bottle rockets, or roman candles, you need to obtain a permit.

Of course, injuries can happen whether the people shooting off fireworks have a legal permit for them or not.

Determining Responsibility When Fireworks Injuries Occur

Fireworks accidents can happen no matter how careful you are. When an injury or death occurs, who is responsible? The answer depends to a large extent on the specific circumstances of the injury. Here are some of the people who may be held liable:

The Municipality

If an injury occurs at a public fireworks display put on by your city or municipality, the local government may have some liability. The state’s fireworks laws are intended to keep residents safe. If the city was negligent somehow and someone was injured because of that negligence, injured parties may be able to recover damages.

For example, if the city didn’t establish safety barriers, didn’t obtain required permits, or was negligent in choosing a fireworks company to run the display, it may be responsible when injuries occur.

The Fireworks Operator

The person or company running the fireworks display may also be responsible for injuries. Even professional pyrotechnic operators can be liable if they didn’t keep their equipment in good working order, or if they shot off fireworks too close to the crowd.

The Manufacturer

Fireworks, just like other consumer products, can have hidden defects. If a firework explodes too early because of a manufacturing defect, explodes in an unintended or unexpected fashion, or doesn’t follow the expected “flight path” because it wasn’t made properly, you may be able to hold the manufacturer responsible.

The Property Owner

For private fireworks displays held at a friend’s or neighbor’s home, the homeowner may be responsible, or may share in responsibility for the injury. Often, homeowner’s insurance policies include liability coverage to pay for injured persons’ medical bills and related expenses. There can be extenuating circumstances that can increase the homeowner’s liability, especially when alcohol is involved.

Gingras, Thomsen & Wachs, LLP Can Help Determine Liability and Hold Responsible Parties Accountable

If a fireworks accident injured you or someone you love, contact one of the skilled personal injury attorneys at Gingras, Thomsen & Wachs, LLP. We will work hard to help you get the justice you deserve and to protect others from suffering the same types of injuries. Contact us today in Madison, Milwaukee, or Eau Claire for a free consultation.

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