The Fourth of July is an occasion generally marked by families and community togetherness. It’s a day devoted to recognition of our shared American values. But there is perhaps no greater mark of the Independence Day holiday than fireworks. The bright colors, deafening noises, and intricate patterns created by these munitions draw the attentions of huge public crowds and intimate family gatherings alike. But fireworks pose an inherent danger, not just to life and limb, but also to personal property. Today we’ll be taking a deep dive on the dangers of fireworks. Reaching temperatures of up to 1,800 degrees Fahrenheit, fireworks pose an obvious danger of burn injury. But this is just one of a myriad of potential ways fireworks can be harmful.
It would be irresponsible to begin any deeper exploration of the potential dangers of fireworks without first making note of laws in our area restricting their use. Maryland, Virginia, and the District of Columbia all place tight restrictions on the sale, purchase, ownership, and detonation of fireworks by the public. In general; fireworks displays are only legal when conducted and overseen by licensed pyrotechnicians. These professionals generally ply their trade in the context of a large public event in spaces where rigorous safety precautions can be enforced. This includes examples such as DC’s public Fourth of July fireworks on the National Mall, or a display after a Washington Nationals baseball game.
However, for laypeople, the ownership and sale of unpermitted fireworks may lead to fines and criminal citations. These may include:
Residents of these areas should also be aware that their local county and municipal governments may have fireworks laws of their own.
Given the serious nature of these penalties, you may be understandably a bit worried about incurring them by accident. Fortunately, Maryland and Virginia both have fairly-easy-to-understand guides on what fireworks are permitted. Devices that generate explosions or launch projectiles into the air with explosive force are generally banned for consumer use. It should also be noted that trafficking fireworks purchased out of state will expose you to these same criminal penalties.
Despite the various laws against them, many residents of the DMW will likely still plan home fireworks displays as part of their Independence Day celebrations. We’ve already touched on the criminal penalties you risk by skirting the law in such a way but irresponsible use of fireworks can also expose you to civil liability. For instance; say your fireworks somehow result in the accidental destruction of your neighbor’s property. Your neighbor will at the very least be able to make a claim against your homeowner’s insurance to seek damages. They will also likely have a strong argument to claim negligence on your part. Which will help, should they seek to pursue a case in civil or small claims court. Disputes of this nature between neighbors can often drag on and become costly.
In addition, if your fireworks happen to injure an innocent bystander they may be able to sue for negligence. A claim of this nature requires the injured party to prove:
If you were using illegal fireworks when the injury occurred, it will be far easier to prove negligence. Homeowners insurance may offer coverage for injuries caused by fireworks, but will likely deny coverage if the fireworks are illegal.
Fireworks are a symbol of the July fourth holiday and a source of entertainment for many. But we hope this post has illustrated why home fireworks displays are a risky and illegal endeavor in our area. Malloy Law Offices would like to encourage residents of the beltway region to investigate municipal fireworks displays in their communities. These public displays provide the fun of fireworks without exposing you to legal liability or criminal prosecution. However, if you or a loved one have been injured by negligent detonation of illegal fireworks, Malloy Law Offices can help. We’re proud to employ the DMV’s personal injury specialists. Our experienced and diverse legal team will fight to secure maximum compensation on your behalf. Contact us today to get started.