Last summer in July 2021, two Pennsylvania children, ages six and eight, were involved in a fire caused by improperly discarded fireworks in York County. One child was killed, and the other suffered severe burn injuries. This was, unfortunately, not an isolated incident. It’s estimated that close to 10,000 firework injuries occur each year across the country.
Even worse, this number seems to be rising. It was reported that the number of firework-related deaths and injuries rose 50% from 2019 to 2020. The majority of these incidents occurred in July, close to the July 4th holiday. The cancellation of many public fireworks displays for reasons related to COVID-19 was cited as a factor contributing to the rise in home firework accidents.
Since the passing of PA House Bill 542 in 2017, more fireworks—and more powerful fireworks—have been available for purchase by the average consumer. Pennsylvania residents 18 and older can now purchase and use “Class C” or “consumer-grade” fireworks, including firecrackers, Roman candles, bottle rockets, and other fireworks that contain up to 50 milligrams of explosive material. These types of fireworks had previously been banned for consumer use since 1939.
Firework accidents, whether they happen in your backyard or at a large public fireworks show, can cause serious injuries. Some firework injuries are caused by defective explosives, while others may be due to the negligence of professional operators. In such cases, an injured victim may be entitled to compensation for the losses they suffered through negligence. There are still other accidents that occur because a person misused fireworks, and a personal injury claim may not be appropriate in those types of cases.
The Shrager & Sachs attorneys will examine different types of firework injuries in the following article. We’ll look at the restrictions for private firework use in Pennsylvania and what rights you have if you were injured in a firework incident.
If you have questions following an accident involving fireworks, a product liability attorney from Shrager & Sachs can evaluate your case at no cost to you. We have the experience to answer your questions about your legal options after a firework injury.
Fireworks Use Restrictions in Pennsylvania
Any person who is purchasing or discharging fireworks in Pennsylvania must adhere to certain restrictions as defined under House Bill 542. In order to be in legal compliance, they:
- Must be 18 years of age or over to purchase or set off fireworks
- May not be under the influence of drugs or alcohol when setting off fireworks
- May not set off fireworks on private property without permission from the owner
- May not set off fireworks from inside a vehicle or building
- May not discharge fireworks toward a building or vehicle
- May only purchase fireworks at a licensed brick-and-mortar location
- May not discharge fireworks within 150 feet of an occupied structure (even if a person is not actually present at the time)
- Must adhere to all county and local ordinances regarding the use of fireworks
Your Rights After a Firework Injury
Depending on the circumstances of a firework injury, there may be different avenues for financial recovery if negligence was involved. Let’s first look at an example of a firework injury that occurs at a public fireworks display.
Public Fireworks Accidents
There are few ways to ring in Independence Day that are more patriotic than watching fireworks explode over the banks of the Schuylkill River, the Philadelphia Museum of Art, or the Ben Franklin Parkway. The vast majority of public firework shows are harmless to viewers. But there have been rare instances in which onlookers were injured by improperly detonated fireworks.
Whether the fireworks were dangerously stored, improperly ignited, placed too close to where audience members were known to be standing, or unsupervised and ignited by unauthorized parties, negligence may have played a role in the accident. If you suffered injuries at a poorly-managed public fireworks display, there may be a liable party against which legal action can be taken. This may be the municipal government or a company hired to organize and conduct the show. Your attorney will be able to determine liability and what legal action should be taken.
Home Fireworks Accidents
Injuries that occur at public fireworks shows are rare. More often, firework injuries happen in yards, parks, and neighborhoods when amateur users detonate explosives. If it’s clear that the user was violating state and local fireworks regulations, detonating explosives while intoxicated, or improperly using fireworks against the manufacturer’s specifications, it’s likely that they are liable for their own injuries.
However, not every firework injury is the fault of the user. A defective firework can malfunction and injure the user, even if they are doing everything they should to ensure safety. When a design or manufacturing flaw is to blame, a product liability attorney can help you file a claim against the negligent party. This legal action works to hold the negligent party accountable and recover compensation for your financial losses resulting from the injury.
The at-fault party may be the manufacturing company, import company, or local retailer. Determining liability can be complicated in fireworks cases. As high as 99% of all U.S. fireworks are imported from China, the majority of which are manufactured in the rural area of Liuyang in Hunan province. It’s not always possible to file a personal injury claim against a small, foreign factory. However, it may be determined that the shop or temporary stand where you bought the fireworks was unlicensed and failed to verify the quality of the products they sold. In this case, it may be possible to hold the local retailer accountable for the accident caused by their negligent sales practices.
A Personal Injury Lawyer Can Help After a Firework Injury
We hope that all our neighbors in Philadelphia and the surrounding areas are able to enjoy safe summer holidays this year. Fireworks can be a wonderful way to celebrate momentous occasions with family and friends. But if something goes wrong because of another party’s negligence, we can be there to help support you in your recovery.
Call our Philadelphia office or fill out our online contact form to learn more about your legal options after a firework injury.
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