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Fireworks Users Must Exercise Extreme Caution

Summertime in California is a time for celebration. The weather invites us outdoors and encourages us to enjoy the mountains, ocean, beaches, ballgames, and concerts. Celebrations and outdoor activities surge on and around the Fourth of July. As the Fourth of July comes and goes, hospitals will be packed with Californians who are injured by fireworks celebrations. In fact, hospitalizations for firework-related injuries are most common in the month of July. Data from the US Consumer Product Safety Commission indicates that nearly 11,100 injuries and 4 deaths were caused by fireworks in 2016. Firecrackers, sparklers, Roman candles, and bottle rockets were the fireworks that most frequently injured users.
Many injuries will be self-inflicted or caused by personal firework use. Fewer will be the result of official firework celebrations. In some cases, property will be damaged. If you have been injured by a firework display set off by another person you may be entitled to compensation. Contact an experienced California personal injury attorney at Glotzer & Leib, LLP today to learn more.

Negligence in California

Many personal injury lawsuits are based on the negligence of another person. A person may be found to be negligent if they breach a duty of care they owe to another person and an injury results. Normally, this standard of care is to behave in a way that an ordinary person would act under similar circumstances. For example, if you drive a car on California freeways you owe a duty to others to operate your car safely and abide by traffic regulations. Driving while under the influence of alcohol, speeding, and texting are all examples of ways drivers can breach their duty of care. These behaviors may cause them to be found negligent if their actions cause an injury.

Extreme Caution Required When Using Fireworks

California imposes a heightened duty of care for certain inherently dangerous activities. A person may be held to this heightened standard of care “in situations where the nature of the activity or substance is so inherently dangerous or complex, as such, that the hazard persists despite the exercise of ordinary care.”
California courts have found that the use of fireworks can be considered inherently dangerous. As a result, people who use fireworks are held to a higher standard of care because of the dangerous nature of the celebratory rockets. Rather than exercising ordinary care, people who use fireworks must exercise extreme caution.
What is extreme caution? Extreme caution is not explicitly defined, but California court decisions and jury instructions are helpful in figuring out this standard. The California Court of Appeals looked to Black’s Law Dictionary for guidance in the 2005 case Weaver v. Chavez. There, the court indicated that the dictionary defines “reasonable care” as the degree of care that an ordinary person would exercise under similar circumstances. They contrasted this definition with the dictionary’s definition of “extreme.” Extreme was defined as “greatest, highest, strongest, or the like.The court ultimately believed that “extreme caution” required taking the greatest possible precaution to prevent foreseeable injury and harm. In the context of fireworks, this heightened duty could require a person to set off fireworks in a remote and/or rural property and/or warn others in the area of the use of fireworks.  The appropriate behavior in each case, however, will vary on its specific facts and circumstances.

Comparative Negligence and Fireworks in California

If you are injured in a California fireworks accident your ability to recover compensation may depend on your connection to the dangerous activity. It is true that a person who uses fireworks has a heightened duty to prevent foreseeable harm. However, you may also have a duty to protect yourself from harm. You must take the proper precautions and not put yourself in a position where harm is possible or likely. If you do not, you may not be able to recover the entire amount of compensation you need. This compensation can help to cover medical expenses, lost wages due to time away from work, and other injury-related expenses. Under the rule of comparative negligence, your ability to recover compensation can be limited. This is true if you contribute to the accident that causes your injury.
For example, let’s say that you are standing five-to-ten feet away from a person who is setting off fireworks. You should know that standing so close to fireworks increases the possibility of being struck or burned. If you try to recover compensation from the person who bought and/or set off the firecrackers that person will try to shift some of the blame to you. If you encouraged them to shoot off the fireworks or refused to move away after being warned your ability to recover may be limited.
If you have no knowledge of the fireworks your duty to protect yourself is less. Let’s say you are walking down the street, minding your own business, and are struck by a firecracker that was set off down the block. Your ability to recover compensation would be greater because you had no connection to the dangerous activity. Your ability to recover compensation may not be compromised if you move away from the display, seek shelter, and/or protect others from harm.

Experienced California Personal Injury Attorneys

The Fourth of July can be a time for celebration. These celebrations, however, can sometimes lead to severe injuries and even death. It is important to exercise extreme caution when using fireworks in the summer. If you have been injured in a California firework accident you may be entitled to compensation for your injuries. Contact our experienced personal injury attorneys today to learn more about how we may be able to help you.

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