As we wrap up another July 4th celebration, most of us are a little sluggish the next day due to fireworks continuing late into the night.
For others, the long term consequences of their July 4th celebrations are far more serious with long lasting injuries.
The vast majority of fireworks injuries occur where an individual inadvertently injures him or herself while attempting to light or shoot the fireworks. Sometimes a firework may malfunction, and legal claims may be available for a faulty product that causes injury.
There are also scenarios where you are injured as a spectator. What if you weren’t doing anything at all, completely innocent, but still injured by fireworks shot by your neighbor or at some event you attended?
A 2013 study by the United States Consumer Product Safety Commission reviewed deaths and injuries attributable to fireworks for the previous calendar year. It concluded there were 6 deaths and approximately 8,700 injuries which involved fireworks. The number of average yearly deaths is consistent with the year 2012, showing an average of 6.6 firework deaths per year.
However, the available remedies for fireworks injuries will depend on each specific circumstance.
If a person is injured while personally handling a firework, there may be a remedy if the firework was defective, or malfunctioned (commonly referred to as products liability). One particular hurdle with this type of claim is that the majority of the fireworks are manufactured and built in China. Suing a foreign manufacturer can be difficult and costly, but there is the possibility of bringing suit against downstream sellers of the product, which shifts the burden on the seller to file suit against the manufacturer.
Innocent bystanders may also have a legal claim. Finding out who is responsible for the fireworks, the display, and the promotion of the fireworks show is the first step in evaluating the various remedies. Injury claims by spectators will generally fall under a negligence or strict liability theory. However, if the defendant is a municipality or governmental body (such as a town or school), your claim may be subject to the Oklahoma Governmental Tort Claim Act (OGTCA). Our attorneys are well versed in the OGTCA and the claims presentation process.
Spectators who suffer injuries by fireworks may also have a negligence claim against an individual fireworks company contracted to provide the pyrotechnic display. Often times, proper protocols, permits, and inspections are not followed or ignored. Know your rights as an injured person.