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Fireworks Claims and Lawsuits

Written by: Debbie Merlino

As Americans, we enjoy celebrating our nation’s freedom with friends, family and the tradition of fireworks on July 4th.

The astounding truth is that many people are injured each year as a result of consumer fireworks accidents. The Consumer Products Safety Commission statistics show that an average of 7,500 people receives treatment due to fireworks related injuries using consumer grade fireworks.

Here are a few examples of injuries, released by the CPSC (Consumer Products Safety Commission) as they relate to safe and sane fireworks also known as 1.4G fireworks:

  1. Middle aged male fatally injured by an explosion during the illegal manufacture of homemade fireworks in his garage.
  2. Male in his twenties duct taped sparklers together to create his version of a sparkler bomb. When the device was lit, itexploded and the resultant injuries required surgery to remove skin and flesh from the man’s knee, leg and hip. 
  3. A child found an unexploded firework on the beach. He lit the device and it exploded in his hand. He lost his right index finger, middle finger and thumb. 

Adjusters will examine two areas when looking at fireworks claims and lawsuits. The first would be products liability and the second would be liability on the part of the person who ignited the fireworks

Next, let’s take a look at the type of lawsuit that is filed when a person is injured from professional fireworks, where they area spectators at a fireworks display. An example would be a resident suing its home town who is the host and sponsor of the fireworks show where the resident alleges injuries as “a direct and proximate result of negligent, willful and wanton act of the town in which the plaintiff suffered painful and personal injuries”.

He alleged the following against the town:

  1. Failure to oversee the discharge of the fireworks. 
  2. Failure to protect attendees from falling debris or faulty fireworks. 
  3. Failure to distance attendees from the area where the fireworks were being discharged. 
  4. Failure to warn attendees of the danger of faulty fireworks or falling debris. 
  5. Failure to ensure the safety of the attendees.

You will see from the above examples there are two areas to examine when looking at fireworks claims and lawsuits. One is the liability on the part of the person who ignited the fireworks and the other would be products liability.

When examining products liability, adjusters investigate if the product used or purchased caused injury or harm. If so, a claim could be asserted regarding potential defects in design, manufacture and marketing.

Other considerations that claims and litigation professionals should keep in mind is that most fireworks are imported, which creates a problem for parties to bring the actual manufacturer into the case, which removes a key party that could assume all or some of the liability.

In the end, the same principles apply as in any other type of claim, but the most important aspect of claims adjustment is that being prompt and thorough in the investigation is key.