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Fun With Fireworks Can Have Explosive Consequences

By Keith Stachowiak on June 21, 2016 // Leave a Comment

milwaukee-personal-injury-lawyers_firecracker_advice.jpgIndependence Day is almost here. The Fourth of July holiday is filled with parades, festivals, picnics and of course, fireworks. As you’ve probably noticed, stands selling fireworks have popped up along the highway and even grocery stores are selling sparklers in preparation for the festivities. But before you light off a firework, you should think about safety for yourself and for others.

As Milwaukee personal injury lawyers we understand that most people take caution when they use fireworks for recreational use. Everybody knows fireworks are dangerous and can cause property damage and injury to people. But accidents happen, and that is where protecting yourself and others through insurance comes into play.

Will Insurance Cover a Firecracker Accident?

When it comes to firecrackers and personal injury or property damage, one thing remains consistent - it all depends on if you are using legal fireworks and if you have obtained a permit. 

Most homeowner insurance policies will cover the use of legal fireworks, with a permit. If someone is injured and has medical expenses or there is property damange, you should have full converage. The issue arises, however, when you act illegally. Every homeowner insurance policy has exclusions.

These exclusions often include two main provisions - one for the use of illegal fireworks and one for firecracker use without a permit. Many but not all insurance policies exclude coverage for criminal acts, which you may be surprised to know includes lighting off illegal fireworks. 

Consider these homeowner policy exclusion examples:

  • In a Secura homeowner’s insurance policy for example, there is a provision that states that there is no coverage for personal injury “Arising out of a criminal act committed by or at the direction of an insured.” Therefore, if an insured lights off an illegal firework, there would be no coverage for personal injuries that result from lighting off the firework. Coverage depends on whether or not the fireworks are legal.
  • An exclusion in an Acuity homeowner’s insurance policy states there is no personal injury insurance for “Injury caused by a violation of a penal law or ordinance committed by or with the knowledge or consent of an insured.” This limitation is even more expansive because it includes a violation of an ordinance as another exclusion. Again, there will be no coverage if lighting off the particular type of firework is a violation of the law. 

To make sure you are covered if a firecracker accident occurs:
be sure the fireworks you are purchasing are legal, and determine whether your local city, village or town requires a permit for recreational firecracker use. 

How to Detemine if Firecrackers Are Legal or Illegal

Before lighting off fireworks, it is important to know which types of fireworks are illegal and which are legal. Under Wisconsin law, Wisconsin Statute section 167.10 governs the regulation of fireworks. Furthermore, each city, village, or town also creates rules for the use of fireworks. A violation of these laws is considered illegal and you can be fined up to $1,000. Therefore, you want to be careful to make sure the fireworks you purchased are legal in Wisconsin and in your area.

Legal Fireworks in Wisconsin:

Wisconsin Statute section 167.10(1) defines devices that are not considered illegal fireworks . Some of these examples include the following:

  • (i) A sparkler on a wire or wood stick not exceeding 36 inches in length that is deisgned to produce audible or visible effects or to produce audible and visible effects.
  • (j) A device designed to spray out paper confetti or streamers and which contains less than one-quarter grain of explosive mixture.
  • (k) A fuseless device that is designed to produce audible or visible effects or audible and visible effects, and that contains less than one-quarter grain of explosive mixture.
  • (l) A device that is designed primarily to burn pyrotechnic smoke-producing mixtures, at a controlled rate, and that produces audible or visible effects, or audible and visible effects.
  • (m) A cylindrical fountain that consists of one or more tubes and that is classified by the department of transportation as a Division 1.4 explosive, as defined in 49 CFR 173.50.
  • (n) A cone fountain that is classified by the federal department of transportation as a Division 1.4 explosive, as defined in 49 CFR 173.50.
  • (p) A novelty device that spins or moves on the ground.

If you are planning to use any of the above mentioned devices, make sure to also check local rules in your area on fireworks because in some areas there may be further restrictions.

In general,homeowner's insurance will provide coverage if the damage occurs after the use of a legal firework. If you are lighting off sparklers, for example, and an injury occurs, it is likely that your homeowner’s insurance will provide coverage for the injury because the exclusion for criminal acts would not preclude coverage. In addition, if you light off a firework that is approved under Wisconsin law and the ordinances in your city, town, village, etc., and the firework lands on your neighbor’s roof and causes property damage, it is also likely you will have coverage through your homeowners insurance.

Firework Lawsuits in Wisconsin

It is important to know the risks associated with lighting off fireworks, especially illegal fireworks in order to protect your safety and the safety of others. Just a few years ago, on July 5, 2009, two brothers were enjoying the holiday weekend when they decided to light off a military grade flare, an illegal firework. The flare landed on the roof of the Patrick Cudahy plant, caused a fire, and burned for three days. The fire caused millions of dollars in property damage to the Patrick Cudahy facility and hundreds of employees were out of work. What started out like innocent Fourth of July fun turned into a horrible event and led to criminal charges for the two brothers. Additionally, there was likely no insurance coverage for the millions of dollars in damages, which made the two brothers personally liable.

In conclusion, make sure that when you are out having fun on the Fourth of July, you are not only keeping safety in mind, but also using legal fireworks. Lighting off illegal fireworks may seem like fun at first because of the bigger and brighter explosion, but, the illegal fireworks can also have explosive consequences when persons are injured or property is damaged and there is no insurance coverage.

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