Insurance and Fireworks
4th of July weekend is often seen as the kickoff of summer fun - boating, beaches, fireworks, picnics, swimming all with family and friends gathering. And while we don’t want to dampen anyone’s fun, the SCDOI does want to address fireworks and how insurance matters when it comes to setting off a claim in the event of an injury or property damage.
As a whole, people in America love fireworks. According to the American Pyrotechnics Association, revenue from firework sales in the U.S. reached $1 billion in 2019, that’s up from $333 million in 1999.
With the impact of COVID-19, many large firework shows have been cancelled this year, which means people will be shooting them off, more than likely, in their backyards. Just before 4th of July celebrations, many South Carolina firework sellers are seeing huge spikes in sales.
According to the National Fire Protection Association, fireworks were responsible for 19,500 fires in 2018 with most of these fires being labeled as “outside and other fires.” But this figure also accounts for 1,900 structure and 500 vehicle fires.
Fireworks can also cause minor and serious injuries. Data from Pew Research Center shows that about 4,900 Americans end up in the emergency room during the first week of July because of firework injuries.
Here is a list of safety tips from the National Council on Fireworks Safety:
- Know your fireworks; read the cautionary labels and performance descriptions before igniting.
- A responsible adult should supervise all firework activities. Never give fireworks to children.
- Alcohol and fireworks do not mix. Save your alcohol for after the show.
- Wear safety glasses when shooting fireworks.
- Light one firework at a time and then quickly move away.
- Use fireworks outdoors in a clear area, away from buildings and vehicles.
- Never relight a “dud” firework. Wait 20 minutes to handle the firework and then soak it in a bucket of water.
- Always have a bucket of water and a water hose nearby.
- Never carry fireworks in your pocket or shoot them into metal or glass containers.
- Do not experiment with homemade fireworks.
- Dispose of spent fireworks by wetting them down and placing them in a metal trash can away from any building or combustible materials until the next day.
And let’s not forget the safety of our pets!
- Don’t bring your pets to a fireworks display, even a small one.
- If fireworks are being used near your home, put your pet in a safe, interior room to limit exposure to the sound.
- Make sure your pet has an identification tag, in case it runs off during a fireworks display.
- Never shoot fireworks of any kind (consumer fireworks, sparklers, fountains, etc.) near pets.
Legality of Fireworks
The legality of using fireworks depends on where you live in South Carolina. Be sure to check and make sure you know what your city or principality laws are. In the Palmetto State, you must be at least 16 years old to purchase fireworks. It is illegal in South Carolina to have fireworks containing pyrotechnic composition in excess of two grains, designed to produce a loud and piercing effect, including:
- "Ground salutes" or "cherry bombs"
- TNT salutes
- "Bulldog salutes"
- Small bottle rockets less than 1/2 inch in diameter and 3 inches long; all bottle rockets are not permitted.
Other than that, any other fireworks are permitted in South Carolina - mortars, spinners, cakes, aerial fireworks, etc.
Insurance & Fireworks
As long as you are shooting legal fireworks in your backyard, your homeowner’s insurance policy should cover the damages if say, your house or car is caught on fire by a misguided firework. If there is an injury to yourself or a guest, your home insurance policy should cover your guest (if that coverage is provided for in your policy) and your health insurance should cover if there is personal injury to someone who is on your health insurance policy.
If your house suffers damage caused by shooting illegal fireworks, then you may have to pay the damages out of your own pocket. It is always best to only set off fireworks that are allowed. It is also important that you read and understand what is or isn’t included in your policy so there are no surprises when it comes time to make a claim. You can read more about understanding your insurance policy, here.
Check out the following scenarios, as written in an article by Forbes, on how accidents and insurance coverage might playout in situations where fireworks have caused damage or injury.
Your neighbor shoots off legal fireworks and accidentally sets your garage on fire. In this case, your neighbor’s home insurance would most likely cover your property damage under the liability portion of the neighbor’s policy. Alternately, you could file a claim under your own homeowners insurance.
Your neighbor accidentally sets your garage on fire while shooting illegal fireworks. In this scenario, your neighbor’s home insurance might deny them liability coverage because it was an illegal act. Instead, you could make a claim under your own homeowners insurance or sue your neighbor in court.
Your child under age 13 intentionally causes damage while using fireworks. A standard homeowners insurance policy makes a distinction in both age and intentional acts. If your child is under age 13, puts fireworks under a neighbor’s car and causes a fire, you most likely would have coverage, even if it was intentional.
An unknown individual using fireworks on another property (or in the street) causes damage to your property. In this scenario, you could file a claim under your homeowners insurance.