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  • Tom Manges


Firework display

On July 3rd, 2017, a 10 year old boy from Fort Wayne watching fireworks being set off by adults lost his eye when a bottle rocket hit it. His parent, and the adults at the party, underestimated the destructive power of fireworks, and what “safe distance” should have been. Knowing and following the basic safety rules could have saved this boy’s eye. We should all learn from this to avoid similar tragedies.

When you throw a July 4th party, you are a “social host”. You owe a “duty of reasonable care” for your guests. Any host that allows dangerous activity at the party could be legally liable for injuries that happen. Anyone who launches fireworks anywhere, even away from their home, could also be legally liable. If you plan to host a party where there will be fireworks, or plan to set them off anywhere, you need to follow the basic safety rules:

  1. Make sure there is enough distance between the launch area and any spectators. Industry standards say a minimum clear radius of 30 feet for fountains and other ground-based items and 100 yards for any aerial based firework is recommended.

  2. Make sure the fireworks are launched away from trees and houses.

  3. Alcohol impairs judgment. A sober adult should be in charge.

  4. Never light more than one firework at a time. Misfires can go into the crowd.

  5. The people lighting the fireworks should use eye protection.

  6. Fireworks should be launched/lit from a flat, stable, level surface;

  7. Have a bucket of water handy. Put spent fireworks and duds into the bucket.

  8. Aerials should be launched only from suitable devices. Bottles, ironically, should not be used to launch bottle rockets due to tip-over hazard. Never launch bottle rockets by jamming the stick into grass or soil, for the same reason.

  9. Read and follow the directions on the labels.

  10. Never aim or throw fireworks at another person.

If an injury happens due to firework use, it often involves a violation of one of the above rules. Depending on the facts, claims on behalf of the injured person could be made the social host’s homeowner’s insurance. Homeowner’s and renter’s insurance usually “follows the body” of the insured, even when that person commits an act of negligence away from his or her own property, providing a means of recovery for an injured person.

In Indiana, fireworks may only be used between 9 a.m. and 11 p.m. on days other than holidays. On holidays (which includes Memorial Day, July 4th , and New Year’s Eve) fireworks may be used only between 9 a.m. and midnight. Local authorities may limit use even further.

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