If you noticed a bit more flash and bang in your neighborhood this 4th of July, there’s a good reason for it: On July 1, a new law took effect allowing Ohio residents to shoot off consumer-grade fireworks on selected holidays.
Those holidays are:
- July 3, 4 and 5
- The Fridays, Saturdays, and Sundays immediately surrounding July 4
- Labor Day and the Saturday and Sunday immediately preceding it
- New Year’s Eve and New Year’s Day
- Chinese New Year
- Cinco de Mayo
- Memorial Day and the Saturday and Sunday immediately preceding it
If you plan to take advantage of this new freedom, do your homework. On some days, specific hours apply. And local governments still have the option of prohibiting fireworks or imposing greater limitations than the state law does.
It’s also important to be aware of the risks associated with fireworks–even those marketed to consumers.
Firework Injuries and Property Damage
According to News5 Cleveland, the Cleveland Division of Fire took about 300 emergency calls on the 4th of July, including 19 grass and field fires, several structural fires, and many emergency medical calls.
That’s just one local sample, but national statistics also reveal significant risks. According to the National Fire Prevention Association (NFPA), fireworks start about 19,000 fires each year. That includes nearly 2,000 structure fires, 500 vehicle fires, and thousands of others. These fires result in about $100 million in property damage and injure or kill dozens of people each year.
That’s just the damage and injuries caused by fire. In total, the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) says firework-related injuries sent about 11,500 people to emergency departments around the country in 2021. 15%, or about 1,700, required hospital admission or transfer to another hospital for additional treatment. A handful of Americans are killed by fireworks each year, including nine in 2021. (This count excludes those working professionally with fireworks.)
74% of reported firework injuries took place in the 30-day period surrounding the 4th of July.
How Do Firework Injuries Happen?
CPSC investigators followed up with some injury victims to learn more about how their injuries occurred and the extent of the harm. Among the small sample of respondents, just over half reported that the injury was caused by a firework malfunction, while the remainder of the injuries were attributed to misuse.
Some of the specific incidents reported included:
- Errant flight paths: In one case the firework landed in the lap of a teenager who was sitting 40-50 feet from where the firework was shot off, resulting in third-degree burns and permanent scarring. In another, the firework “began shooting in random directions,” striking a three-year-old child in the face.
- Early detonation: Two incidents were reported of mortar-style fireworks exploding without launching.
- Tipping over: A firework tipped over after lighting and launched toward the victim, who attempted to run, tripped, and was struck in the head.
Other incidents involved fireworks being dropped after lighting, inadvertently kicked over, or shot off while pointed toward another person.
This is just a small sampling of the things that can go wrong with consumer fireworks.
Important Firework Safety Measures
If you choose to take advantage of Ohio’s more permissive new law, be sure to take safety measures, including:
Do not let small children handle fireworks. Many parents think sparklers are a relatively safe option for their young children. However, sparklers can burn at temperatures up to 2,000 degrees Fahrenheit. In 2021, sparklers were responsible for 62.5% of the firework-related incidents that sent children aged 0-4 to emergency rooms.
Make sure older children are supervised. 1,700 kids aged 5-14 were treated in emergency rooms for firework-related injuries in 2021–about 400 of those injuries were caused by firecrackers.
Never lean over or pick up a firework that was lit or activated and hasn’t detonated. Delayed detonation can launch a firework into your face, or mean it explodes in your hand if you attempt to investigate its apparent failure.
Wear safety goggles when setting off fireworks. Nearly one in five firework injuries is to the eyes.
Never point a firework toward another person. Even a small firework can cause serious injury if it hits a person directly.
Take precautions to avoid fire. To start, that means not aiming fireworks toward homes and other structures, vehicles, or anything flammable–including dry grass. After use, douse fireworks with water. Some types of fireworks remain hot enough to start a fire after you’ve tossed them in the trash or left them lying in the grass.
Liability for Fireworks Injuries
If the firework that caused the injury was defective or non-compliant with consumer safety regulations, the manufacturer or distributor may be liable for injuries caused by the firework. In 2021, the CPSC reported that 31% of consumer firework products they tested were not compliant. These violations included fuse violations, fireworks overloaded with pyrotechnic materials, and fireworks containing prohibited chemicals.
The individual or entity shooting off the fireworks may also be liable if the injury was caused by their negligence. Some examples might include an adult aiming a firework at another person when lighting it or throwing a lit firework into an area where people were sitting or standing. A parent or other adult providing fireworks to children might also be responsible for injuries that occurred due to inadequate supervision, or simply because they entrusted the firework to someone who was too young and inexperienced to handle it safely.
The best way to learn more about your rights after a firework-related injury and find out whether someone else may be responsible for damages is to talk with an experienced Cleveland personal injury attorney like Plevin & Gallucci. To schedule a free consultation right now, just call 855-4PLEVIN or fill out the contact form on this page.