Firework accident compensation claims

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A guide to making a No Win No Fee bonfire and firework accident claim

According to the British Pyrotechnists Association, approximately 20 million people are estimated to attend either a public or private firework display over the November period.

Although fireworks and Bonfire Night events are heavily regulated due to the known dangers, around 1,000 burns injuries and other accidents are still reported each year.

What is the law regarding fireworks and bonfires?

A range of statutory controls are in place to protect people from fireworks, as well as the other dangers associated with Bonfire Night. These include The Firework (Safety) (Amendment) Regulations 2004 and the Fireworks Regulations 2004.

One of the main legal requirements is that adult' fireworks (categories 2 and 3) can only be purchased and used by persons 18 and over (category 4 only by professionals). During the bonfire period, fireworks can only be brought from registered sellers from 15 October to 10 November. In addition, Bonfire Night fireworks must not be set off between 12pm and 7am.

The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) has also published guidelines on holding private and public bonfire events. These offer advice on how to manage health and safety issues through organisation and planning. Key recommendations include:

  • Ensuring the display site is suitable, and includes separate areas with safe distances for spectators, fireworks and the bonfire display
  • Consideration of prevailing weather conditions, such as whether there will be strong winds and identification of overhead obstructions, such as power lines
  • Having adequate crowd control, emergency and first aid procedures in place
  • Not lighting the bonfire until after the fireworks display in case of stray sparks
  • Checking to make sure no-one is inside before lighting a bonfire

The Fireworks Code

In addition, the Fireworks Code offers further advice on the safe use of fireworks. This includes:

  • Only buying fireworks that comply with British Standard 7114 or its European equivalent
  • Keeping fireworks stored in a closed box
  • Following the instructions on each firework
  • Lighting fireworks at arm's length using a taper
  • Standing well back
  • Never going near a firework that has been lit
  • Never throwing fireworks or putting them in your pocket
  • Always supervising children around fireworks
  • Lighting sparklers one at a time and wearing gloves
  • Not giving sparklers to children under five years old

Why are firework accidents so common?

Firework rockets can reach speeds of 150 mph, sparklers burn at 2,000 degrees Celsius and fires lit on Bonfire Night are often large and tended by untrained and inexperienced members of the public. Given these dangers, the high frequency of firework and bonfire accidents is not surprising.

Burns are the most common types of injury, with the?hand injuries the most common, followed by?injuries to the eyes and face. These injuries can be superficial or they can involve nerve and muscle damage and permanent scarring.

The majority of injuries caused by fireworks are the result of misuse, including:

  • Handing a sparkler to a child without gloves or eye protection
  • Incorrect setup and discharge of a firework
  • Failing to maintain a safe distance between discharging fireworks and the public

Even when fireworks are used properly, they remain dangerous explosives. The likelihood of an sustaining a injury can significantly increase if the product includes inadequate or misleading instructions, or is faulty.

A?defective product injury claim could be made against a retailer or manufacturer under certain circumstances. A specialist solicitor will be able to confirm whether such a claim is likely to succeed depending on the facts of your case.

Are firework display organisers liable?

If an individual is injured by a firework or bonfire display, the organiser of the event is usually liable. This is because the organiser has a legal duty to ensure the safety of spectators and any staff. If the organiser failed to follow any of the statutory requirements or safety guidelines, their actions or inaction would likely amount to negligence, making a claim more likely to succeed.

An organiser of a public display should have insurance in place through which a claim can be pursued. Pursuing a claim against an amateur organiser of a private event may be more difficult. Your solicitor will be able to explain your options in such a case.

If a firework is illegally set off in the street or thrown at a person, the incident should be reported to the police. In these instances, the injured person might be entitled to claim compensation through the Criminal Injuries Compensation Authority.