The Fourth of July is a time to celebrate our nation’s independence and recognize the contributions of men and women both at home and those serving our country abroad. Fourth of July celebrations are often marked by cookouts, family gatherings, and of course fireworks. Fireworks can be a great display of patriotism, but also can be very dangerous, causing injuries or death. Until last year, fireworks in Georgia were not legal. Concerns of serious injury and improper use had prevented Georgia from allowing its residents to use fireworks, leaving fireworks displays solely to licensed professionals.
Georgians Injured by Fireworks
Even though fireworks have been legal in Georgia for only one year, there have already been multiple reports of people suffering severe burns and other injuries from the misuse of fireworks. Shortly after the beginning of 2016, a Douglas man was killed by a firework that went off and lacerated his neck. Recently, an Omaha man lit off a firework that exploded in his hands, requiring a trip to the emergency room. Unfortunately, despite fireworks often having extensive warnings, many individuals fail to carefully follow instructions on the packages of fireworks and end up receiving catastrophic injuries.
National Firework Injuries
The problem of firework related injuries extends well beyond the state borders of Georgia. As fireworks are often sold on roadside stands, they are relatively easy to buy. In 2014, the most recent year that data is available there were 10,500 fireworks-related injuries. Of these 10,500, nearly 7,000 were serious enough to merit a trip to the emergency room. It is alarming enough that almost two out of every three fireworks-related injuries resulted in a trip to the ER, but a more startling statistic comes from the amount of these injuries that happened to children under the age of 15. Approximately 35 percent of the total number of firework injuries happened to children 15 years old or younger, and nearly 50 percent of all firework injuries happened to individuals who were under the age of 20.
Legal Claims Resulting from Fireworks
If you have suffered an injury from a firework you may have a claim to legal compensation. Whether you are in someone’s backyard or at a large scale display put on by a city or county, your ability to prove liability may vary greatly. There are a number of factors that determine your ability to recover including where the fireworks were set off, what you were doing at the time of your injury, and if the fireworks were properly being used.
Backyard Fireworks Shows
When you are injured on private property by a firework, you’re most likely claim will be one of negligence. Negligence is when a person fails to use ordinary care. Firework misuse may also be classified under a principle known as an inherently dangerous activity, which imposes liability on a property owner even if they took on reasonable care. If the host of a backyard party is negligent in their operation or use of fireworks, they may be liable to guests for any injures the guests sustain.
Additionally, it is negligence per se if you sell a minor fireworks in the state of Georgia. Negligence per se means that an individual is negligent because they violated a specific law or statute.
Public Fireworks Displays
While backyard injuries resulting from the mishandling of fireworks are far more common than large public injuries, these types of injuries can still happen. A notable example of this is from 2013, where 39 people were injured at a California fireworks show when a shell exploded. Public fireworks displays are often presented by the city or county. Suing a state or government agency that represents a state can have many more difficulties than suing a neighbor for negligence. Generally, those who launch a public fireworks display have a duty to protect observers from injuries, but a city may be protected by a limited liability statute.
Unlike when you sue a private individual, when you sue the state of Georgia or another government entity you must act quickly. If your injury was caused by the negligence of a city, you must file a claim within six months of your injury to give the government entity notice. If you are suing the state for injuries you must give notice within 12 months. If you have been injured by a fireworks display put on by a city or the state, figuring out the proper timeline and who to actually sue can be an incredibly complicated process. This process can be made easier with the help of an experienced attorney who is familiar with the laws governing the different government entities.
Claims Against Manufacturers
It is possible to recover damages from a fireworks manufacturer if the firework itself is actually defective. Unfortunately, a significant portion of fireworks are manufactured in foreign countries so suing the manufacturers can be difficult, or very expensive.
How to Prevent Fireworks Injuries
Many fireworks injuries can be prevented simply by following commonsense behaviors. Some best practices to follow include never allowing children to play with fireworks. Even something that seems harmless like a sparkler can cause serious burns. Some sparklers burn as hot as 2,000 degrees.
Another thing to do to ensure the safer use of fireworks is to not use them under the influence of alcohol or drugs. Being impaired can greatly increase your chances of getting injured by fireworks.
Other safety tips include not pointing a firework directly at another individual and only lighting one firework at a time. It is also a good idea to have a bucket of water nearby or a hose that you can quickly put out any fires that may cause burns or other injuries.
Have You Been Injured by a Firework?
The last thing that someone wants to think about while celebrating Independence Day is to taking a trip to the emergency room. However, at the Law Office of John B. Jackson we realize that accidents, and injuries, can happen. If you or a loved one has been injured by a firework, you may have the right to compensation. Don’t delay and contact our dedicated personal injury attorneys in Georgia to see if you have a claim. Have a safe and happy Fourth of July.