Michael Spencer, 21, asked the D.C. Fire and Emergency Medical Services Department to share gruesome photos of injuries he incurred to his hands in an accident involving fireworks. A firework detonated before flying into the air causing him to lose fingers and incur severe burns. Once posted, a caption was added that read “leave the fireworks to the professionals.”
Most types of fireworks are illegal in both Washington D.C. and Maryland; however, each year around the July 4th holiday stories surface of many preventable, often severe incidents with injuries. It is estimated that each year in the U.S. approximately 247,550,000 pounds of fireworks are purchased. Over 9,000 severe injuries are incurred each year from these accidents.
Recent South Carolina Lawsuit
Kelly Deffner and her husband went to watch a fireworks display at the Broadway at the Beach entertainment center. Deffner was struck in the head by a firework and incurred injuries. She has since brought a civil suit in the Horry County Court of Common Pleas against Burroughs & Chapin Company, Broadway at the Beach, and Pyrotechnic Fireworks following the incident. Her suit seeks unspecified damages and did not detail the current extent of her injuries. The allegations include a failure to maintain safety, a failure to warn of dangerous conditions, and failing to properly train employees.
Fireworks Safety Tips
The National Safety Council summarized the best practices in firework safety as follows:
- Understand how the firework should be handled prior to igniting by reading the label descriptions and warnings
- Adults should always supervise children who are near fireworks
- Those using fireworks should avoid alcohol consumption
- Always wear safety goggles to shield the eyes when handling fireworks
- Never try to “re-ignite” a firework that failed to work (“a dud”)
- Always have access to water nearby when handling fireworks
- Pets should not be exposed to areas where fireworks are being handled
- Maintain sufficient distance when using fireworks away from people, structures, and flammable items
- Fireworks are not to be transported into airports either in carry-on or in checked luggage
- Never attempt to make “homemade” fireworks or explosives of any kind
District of Columbia Laws
D.C. law prohibits manufacturing, storing, selling, igniting or discharging fireworks. A firework is defined as any explosive such as those referred to as cherry bombs, pinwheels, moon travelers, roman candles, bottle rockets, jumping jacks, buzzbombs and more. Fireworks that contain mercury, tetryl, phosphorous, magnesium, sulphocyanide, gallic acid and other similar agents are prohibited. It also prohibits “sparklers” that are longer than 20 inches.
Homeowners Insurance & Fireworks
A typical homeowner's insurance policy will not provide coverage resulting from acts that are illegal. This would clearly be the case in both Washington D.C. and Maryland where firework usage is prohibited. This exclusion will apply to fires that originate from fireworks and spread to the home. Your health insurance should be able to provide coverage for your bodily injuries. Children are the most likely to be severely injured from fireworks. Those between the ages of 10 and 19 are most likely to take risks and demonstrate carelessness around fireworks.