As personal injury attorneys, located in Rock Hill, South Carolina, we know that the Fourth of July means cookouts, family gatherings, patriotism, and fireworks. Every year, we hear or read of someone who was seriously injured by fireworks. This not only includes neighbors setting off the explosives but professional shows, as well. In this article, we will discuss fireworks safety, the causes of fireworks injuries, how to reduce the risk of injuries, and what to do if injured this holiday season.
WHAT ARE THE CAUSES OF FIREWORK INJURIES IN SOUTH CAROLINA?
The majority of injuries caused by fireworks are the result of misuse and is usually accompanied by alcohol and the phrase, “Hold my beer and watch this!”. Common mistakes include lighting the fireworks improperly, lighting the fireworks too close to other people, or lighting fireworks while holding them. Even when used properly, fireworks are dangerous explosives that can cause severe injuries. However, the likelihood of a firework injury can become magnified by manufacturing or design defects in the fireworks or a lack of adequate warnings.
WHAT TYPES OF FIREWORKS MALFUNCTION INJURIES OCCUR IN SOUTH CAROLINA?
Malfunctioning fireworks can cause injury in several ways. For example, improperly manufactured fireworks can explode prematurely, before users have made it a safe distance away. In addition, a defective fuse may ignite the explosive powders in the firework in a way the manufacturer did not intend, causing the firework to explode in an unexpected way. Lastly, fireworks designed to soar through the air, such as bottle rockets, can take unpredictable flight paths, injuring onlookers or hitting nearby vehicles and buildings.
Whether the result of improper use or a product defect, firework injuries can be catastrophic. Reported fireworks-related injuries to include loss of eyesight due to sparks and debris flying into eyes, severe lacerations caused by debris and damaged firework shell casings, and third-degree burns.
Most fireworks accidents could have been prevented. Many may remember the incident involving fireworks in Rock Hill last year as reported by the Herald. A house fire was caused by improperly discarded fireworks. Investigators determined the fire was accidental, caused by fireworks that had been thrown into a trash can next to the home.
WHAT SAFEGUARDS CAN I TAKE TO REDUCE THE RISK OF FIREWORKS INJURY WHILE IN SOUTH CAROLINA?
The best safeguard to preventing fireworks injuries is common sense.
- Always follow the directions on the fireworks package, and never modify or experiment with homemade fireworks.
- Never let children use fireworks. Some manufacturers suggest allowing children to use the product only under strict adult supervision. Many are unaware that sparklers reach temperatures from 1800 – 3000 Even seemingly harmless fireworks such as sparklers still burn at high temperatures and can cause severe burns if used improperly.
- Only set off fireworks outdoors, away from houses and fire hazards such as tall grass, dry leaves, and other fireworks.
- Do not try to reignite used or malfunctioning fireworks.
- Keep a bucket of water nearby for emergency purposes, and soak any used or misfired fireworks before discarding to prevent fires or accidental ignitions.
WHAT ARE MY LEGAL RIGHTS REGARDING A FIREWORK INJURY IN SOUTH CAROLINA?
Whether a spectator at a firework’s show gone wrong or the user of a malfunctioning firework, victims may be able to recover damages for their injuries. Depending on the circumstances of the firework injury, a number of legal theories may apply.
If you are the property owner and someone is injured by fireworks, you have the duty to protect their guests from all known hazards: :
Invitee. An invitee is owed the highest duty of care. They are any individual who is either expressly or implicitly invited to another person’s premises for their mutual benefit. The most common example is a social guest.
Licensee: Any individual who enters the premises at the owner’s consent for a nonbusiness or commercial purpose.
In order to recover as a licensee, a victim must establish the following:
- The owner or possessor knew or should have known of the dangerous condition, and should have known that it created an unreasonable risk of harm, and likewise should have known that the plaintiff would fail to discover the dangerous condition
- The owner or possessor did not make the condition safe or failed to warn the licensee of the condition
- The licensee did not know of the dangerous condition or the risks involved.
Injured spectators may be able to hold the person or company setting off the fireworks liable through negligence. Even the person or entity that organized the show – including cities that hire fireworks companies – may be liable for failing to properly supervise such the activity. Even though a city’s liability may be limited by state law, entities hiring fireworks companies still have a duty to protect bystanders from injuries. Cities can fail in fulfilling this duty and open themselves up to liability by allowing the use of illegal fireworks or by failing to obtain the proper permits.
When fireworks are not used in a safe manner or malfunction and cause injury, victims may be able to recover damages from the manufacturer, the importer of foreign-made fireworks, and/or the local retail seller. Because all of these entities have a duty to sell products that function properly, they may be liable for any injuries caused by a defective firework.
However, the vast majority of fireworks are produced in China, so suing the local fireworks stand operator is often the only way for victims to recover damages. Even individuals who misuse fireworks may still be able to recover damages for their injuries if they can prove that a defect, rather than their negligent conduct, caused the injury.
Be it the Fourth of July, a birthday party or the celebration of summer, fireworks present a clear and present danger. If you have suffered a firework injury of no fault of your own, contact the Lewis Law Firm. We have the experience to hold those liable for fireworks injuries accountable. Let our team of experienced personal injury lawyers work for the compensation you deserve.