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Who Has Liability When Fireworks Go Wrong?

One of the tried and true traditions of summer is watching Fourth of July fireworks. However, whether you're attending a backyard party where the hosts are setting off their own pyrotechnics or a public event where a fireworks company is running the show, there is a risk of severe injury or worse.

On average, over 9,000 people are injured and four killed annually by fireworks gone wrong. People can be blinded, burned or lacerated by debris and sparks.

Our readers may have read news accounts of a fireworks show two years ago, in Simi Valley, California, that gave a crowd of about 10,000 spectators a show they didn't want or expect. Dozens of spectators at a local July 4th event were injured when one of the shells exploded inside its mortar tube, sending pyrotechnics into the crowd.

Fireworks can malfunction because of a defect in the design or manufacturing of the product itself. However, in most cases, user error is to blame. People don't ignite them properly, don't adhere to product warnings and instructions, rig them to do something unique or set them off too close to spectators.

Depending on the force of the explosion, even people not in immediate proximity to the fireworks can be injured. The Simi Valley explosion sent projectiles and debris flying hundreds of feet. That's why a residential area can be a particularly dangerous place to create your own fireworks show.

Florida residents who are injured by fireworks may have legal recourse to recover damages, as may those who have lost a loved one to a tragic fireworks accident. This is true whether the fireworks were set by an individual or were part of a sanctioned show organized by the city, some other government entity or a business.

If someone is hurt or killed because the people or entity organizing the event did not provide proper supervision, they may also be held liable for negligence. They have a responsibility to keep bystanders safe. Manufacturers and retailers also have a responsibility. If it's found that a defect caused the malfunction, either or both of these may be held liable.

To help ensure your safety and that of others, it's wise to limit your fireworks watching to events where you can enjoy the spectacle from afar, or maybe better yet, to enjoy the many televised Fourth of July events on a big HDTV screen.

Source: FindLaw, "Fireworks Injuries," accessed June 22, 2015

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