It is that time of year again. People are dusting off their American Flags to hang on their porch, getting their barbecues ready, and stocking up on booze and fireworks. The Fourth of July can be a blast, but it can also end in tragedy. The Fourth of July is one of the few holidays where people often check there common sense at the door. When people don't use common sense then they can injure others or themselves.
People can be burned, maimed, or killed by fireworks. Both legal and illegal fireworks are equally dangerous if used improperly. When people are injured by fireworks, who is going to pay for the medical bills? Well, like most things in the law, that is not an easy question. However, there are some people or entities that may be responsible for the injuries caused by a firework. The list below is not exhaustive, but it may help you determine whether or not you should call a lawyer.
1) The person that lit the firework. Many times it is the same person that is injured. That is why I noted "injured person" as number two. However, if the person that lit the firework injured another, there home-owners or renters insurance may be responsible for paying your medical bills and compensating you for your injuries and lost wages.
2) The injured person. Many incidents involving fireworks are caused by a lack of common sense or judgment. Most people automatically want to blame the injured person for the injury. However, people should not be so quick to rush to judgment. This is based on a few factors. 1) The injured person may not done anything wrong, and it could have been a defective product; 2) The injured person may have been an innocent bystander that was simply watching the fireworks; 3) There may have been a lack of warnings on the packaging that may have helped prevent the incident; 4) Even if the person lighting the firework failed to exercise proper judgment and common sense, then there is comparative fault. It could be combination of all of the factors above that resulted in the injury.
3) The property owner where the injury occurred may have no fault insurance or "med pay." Many insurance policies have no fault insurance (usually $5,000.00) called "Med pay." This insurance can pay the injured persons medical bills up to the insurance policy limits. This is great insurance, because it doesn't matter who is at fault.
4) The property owner's liability insurance may be responsible for paying medical bills and compensating the injured person. Many property owners or renters have insurance that may cover injuries from fireworks. An attorney will most likely have to investigate the incident to determine if the home-owner or business had any fault, but it is possible. Maybe the homeowner supplied the fireworks? Maybe the homeowner knew or should have known the injured person was too intoxicated to be lighting fireworks, but kept serving them alcohol? Maybe the homeowner instructed the injured person to light the fireworks off in a certain area or in a certain way? Any of these issues may result in the homeowner's insurance being liable for the injured person's medical bills and compensation for the injuries.
5) The manufacturer. In certain cases it may be possible to show that the firework was a defective product. This defective product caused the injured person's injuries so the company that made the product should be liable for the injuries. These cases are not easy, but in certain circumstances, that may be a viable claim. Call a lawyer, if you suspect there was a defective product or an improper warning that caused the injury.
5) A bar, a homeowner, or other establishment that over-served the person that lit the fireworks. This is the "dram shop" liability rule. In Oregon, if a social host or a place that serves alcohol (bar, restaurant, concert venue, etc.) serves alcohol to a person that is visibly intoxicated then the bar or social host may be responsible for any damages the drunk person causes. This is a tricky legal theory that requires an attorney to promptly investigate the incident to figure out these facts.
This list is not exhaustive, there are others that may be responsible for your medical bills, lost wages, and compensation if you are injured by a firework. However, if you are injured by a firework, then you should call Personal Injury Attorney Jeremiah Ross at 503.224.1658 for your free personal injury consultation. Ross Law LLC is a Portland Personal Injury law firm that is happy to assist you hold the responsible parties accountable. If you want to read tips on what to do if you were injured by a firework, read this blog post.