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The Ooh, Aah and Ouch of Fireworks

Published on June 26th, 2020

Recent reports show firework displays are increasing significantly in many small neighborhoods across the nation — including Chicago and surrounding areas. While sparkling colorful displays in the sky are entertaining, we should also be reminded that even a simple sparkler can melt metal by burning at almost 2,000 degrees Fahrenheit. In this article, learn about Illinois firework laws, firework injuries and what to do if you’re injured by fireworks.

Fireworks Are Illegal In Illinois 

Because fireworks are dangerous, they are heavily regulated. The Pyrotechnic Use Act (“PUA”) in Illinois bans the sale, possession, and use of all “consumer fireworks” (devices you can buy legally in some states, like firecrackers, bottle rockets, and roman candles, and similar devices). There are no true fireworks that are legal in Illinois. If you’re 18 or older you can buy sparklers, snake/glowworm pellets, smoke devices, trick noisemakers, and plastic or paper caps. . . all more appropriate for a 5-year old. 

Simply stated, it is illegal to bring any fireworks into Illinois. If you cross the border and buy fireworks legally in another state and then bring them back into Illinois, police can ticket or arrest you. As indicated above Illinois has the PUA in effect. Also every town or village might have its own laws prohibiting fireworks. In Illinois if you’re caught with fireworks the penalty can range from a small fine to nearly a year in prison.  If lucky, violators will only get charged with an ordinance violation from the village where they were arrested. But, there’s always the chance that violators can get hit with a misdemeanor and risk paying fines of up to $2500 and spending up to a year in jail time.

Fireworks Are Beautiful But Dangerous

To reiterate, safety is the biggest concern and why Illinois has a strict ban prohibiting use of fireworks as they can cause very serious injuries and even death in some cases if not used cautiously. Common mistakes people make while lighting any type of firework include igniting improperly, lighting too close to others and holding the firework in hand while lighting fuse.

The Consumer Safety Commission reports over 10,000 firework accident injuries were treated in hospitals in 2019 (9% increase over 2018). Almost 60% of firework injuries were related to burns. Body parts most injured by fireworks include hands, fingers and legs.

Here’s how firework injuries break out by body part for accident cases in 2019:

  • 30% of injuries hands or fingers
  • 23% of injuries involved legs
  • 16% of injuries head, face and ears
  • 15% of injuries involved eyes
  • 10% of injuries involved the arms
  • 6% of injuries involved the torso or other body parts

Determining Liability For Firework Injuries

If a firework injury occurs then it’s important to clearly understand what happened before the firework was ignited to the time the injury was sustained. If the person injured misused the product then nothing much can be done to seek compensation for any type of injury. If the injured party followed all the instructions for using the product and was injured, then it’s possible that the design, manufacturing and/or distribution of the product could come into question regarding liability.

Cases are much stronger if those who got injured were not lighting the fireworks (bi-stander) and it was the result of someone else’s actions. This is especially important in the state of Illinois if those igniting the product brought it in illegally and they were not licensed to perform the action. In this case, the operator can get sued for personal injury or a homeowners claim might be made against their insurance. However, the operator could also have a criminal charge brought against them for use or just possession of the fireworks.

Lawsuits filed due to an injury sustained at a public fireworks show are much more difficult because of municipal tort immunity laws. In these cases, the injured must prove that either the fireworks operator or the government agency acted recklessly and therefore caused the victim’s injury.

Pinpointing firework accident and injury liability is often complex and requires an experienced personal injury lawyer to diagnose what happened and to assign proper liability. And, it’s not uncommon to find multiple parties responsible in a personal injury claim. 

Get Legal Help For Firework Injuries

If you’ve suffered an injury from fireworks, contact a personal injury lawyer to learn more about your legal rights and options. Peter Wachowski has over 25 years practicing law in the field of personal injury and can help you evaluate your claim and to determine the right course of action.

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