Beware unsafe fireworks use around the Fourth of July
There are many ways to make fireworks safer, but if you do get injured or burned, there are legal remedies if some else is at fault. (Photo by Aram-van/Wikimedia)
As the Fourth of July approaches, fireworks season and all its dangers are in full swing. Even though so many people are injured and some even killed during big holidays, people can’t seem to get enough of the pyrotechnical displays.
There are several ways to prevent such injuries, and there are legal remedies for poorly made or defective fireworks that result in injury. We will discuss both of these topics in this blog posting.
Here are some steps to enhance safety and reduce injury or death from fireworks use:
- Wear protective gear for your eyes and ears. Hardware and drug stores have protective eye goggles; and ear plugs that block much of the noise can be purchased at drug stores, dollar stores and grocery stores. These products do not cost a lot of money, and the value you get from the protection can be priceless. Nearly 40 percent of fireworks injuries are sustained to users’ and spectators’ (especially users’) head area.
- Dress in close-fitting, long-sleeve pants and shirts to protect from burns. Loose clothing, scarves and skirts can catch fire easily.
- If you buy fireworks before the day of the pyrotechnical show, store them where kids cannot get at them, on a high shelf, in a cabinet or locked in a lock box. Make sure the storage place is dry and cool because moisture or heat can ruin fireworks.
- In case of a fire occurring on a person’s clothing or to nearby vegetation, have water on hand when you set off the fireworks. Try to do your show near a water supply with a hose. If that is not possible, have several buckets of water plus a fire extinguisher at hand.
- Fireworks and little kids just do not go well together. Even sparklers are dangerous for youngsters. One study many years ago found that half of fireworks injuries to children age 5 and under occurred from use of sparklers. Make certain that children and all spectators stand back at least 50 feet (15.2 meters) from the launch or ignition area.
- Do not drink or take drugs before or during the time you set off the fireworks. This can alter your decision making and be very dangerous. Also, make sure you’ve had enough sleep so you are not drowsy and so your judgment and hand-eye coordination are as good as they can be.
- Don’t use fireworks that have been declared illegal in your area even if they are legal elsewhere. Never use illegal fireworks. They are just too dangerous because they are not made to safe specifications. Do not shop at any fireworks stand unless they have proper licensing, which should be posted or which you should be allowed to read without any protestation if you suspect something is wrong. If you suspect the operation does not have a license, ask to see it. If they do not produce a valid-looking license, do not buy from that stand. Some types of illegal fireworks are called M-80s, M-100s or quarter sticks and Fire Crackers. They may be tubular, with a wick and brown, red or silver. Do not buy fireworks from a friend or from people placing public advertisements because these fireworks could be in poor condition or even illegal.
- Never use fireworks indoors because they produce fire, sparks and smoke. These phenomena could set the building on fire or cause dangerous smoke buildup. Also, don’t set them off in garages, many of which contain flammable liquids or automobiles susceptible to ignition.
- Set off fireworks in an open area without overhead obstructions, far away from residences or other buildings.
- Don’t set off fireworks on or near dry grass or weeds. Never use fireworks in woodlands because there are so much fuel and tinder there that could ignite. Check media or with city or county hall to see if there is a fireworks ban in effect because of drought.
- Use punks or longer butane lighters to ignite them to keep hands and fingers away from sparks. Light the fuse at the tip to give yourself time to get away. If you are setting off pyrotechnics in the dark, which is often the case, use a flashlight or a headlamp to see better.
- Follow ignition instructions on fireworks packages to the letter.
- Keep your head away when lighting aerial fireworks because a wick can burn very quickly. Never look into a mortar tube if the rocket fails to launch immediately. People have died when they fail to use precautions.
- Never blow off fireworks while holding them in your hand. Don’t twist wicks together, and be sure light them one at a time. Step back the very second you have lighted the wick.
If you do get injured and the accident was not your fault, liability can be assigned to one or more parties. In other words, if you can prove another party was responsible for your injuries or your loved one’s death, you may be able to collect damages.
Defendants in fireworks lawsuits have ranged from manufacturers, importers, companies that perform the shows or municipalities that hire them, or homeowners setting off fireworks at parties, but user error is still the number one cause of accidents.
Fireworks injuries can be severe, and long-term recovery may be necessary. Both of these conditions may result in a lot of medical expense for multiple skin grafts and infections in case of burns. Also, injured people may need long-term physical therapy to regain limb or hand dexterity or use. Another consideration is mental trauma, for which plaintiffs bringing lawsuits may collect damages.
If you were injured in a fireworks accident, please call the lawyers at Krasney Law at (909) 380-7200. We charge nothing for an initial consultation and we don’t get paid unless you get paid. We work on a contingency basis so that we get paid only if you recover monetary damages for you.