For many Americans, July Fourth is a day to lounge by the pool, barbecue, and watch fireworks. But before you celebrate with a bang this year, make sure you’re prepared if one of these explosives damages your house—or a neighbor—in the process.
According to the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA), people report more fires on the Fourth of July than on any other day in the year. From 2009 to 2013, fireworks started about 18,500 blazes.
Children are particularly at risk. Those between five to nine years old are the most likely to be hurt by fireworks. Kids 10 to 19 followed as the second most vulnerable group. In 2014 alone, firecrackers and similar explosives injured nearly 10,500 youths.
You may believe “kiddie” fireworks like sparklers or pop-pops aren’t dangerous. But even they can cause fires or serious injuries. In fact, sparklers caused more than one-quarter of fireworks-related damage in 2014. That makes a lot of sense after you hear sparklers burn at 1,200 degrees Fahrenheit.
Are you covered for fireworks damage?
While most people know fireworks can be unsafe, many assume homeowners insurance will cover any damage they cause. Although this usually is true—homeowners insurance policies cover most fires—there are exceptions.
Whether your policy covers damage tied to fireworks depends on your state laws. It also depends on your specific circumstances. The best way to find out if you’re in the clear? Check your policy or contact your agent.
Besides talking to an agent, check your local and state laws before attempting to file a claim. After all, these three states ban consumer fireworks on July Fourth and beyond:
- New Jersey
According to the APA, the following states allow only wire or wood stick sparklers and similar novelty items:
Federal guidelines for the other 43 states as well as Washington D.C. allow varying levels of consumer fireworks. Depending on where you live, you may need a permit to handle certain ones on July Fourth or on any other day.
Consult the Directory of State Laws for more detailed information.
Injuries caused by fireworks
Should fireworks hurt you while you’re on your own property, pull out your homeowners policy. It, not your health insurance, will pay your hospital bills.
Your homeowners policy also steps in when your fireworks injure someone else. Specifically, the liability portion of it usually will pay that person’s medical bills as well as legal expenses.
Keep in mind the information above isn’t always true. For example, if you use fireworks illegally and they damage property or hurt someone, your insurer won’t help.
Also, if an injury isn’t accidental, because you threw a firework at another person or did something similar, your insurer probably won’t pay your claim.
Damages to your house
If you light a firework on July Forth and it accidentally starts a fire in your house, your homeowners policy should cover you. But if you intentionally cause a fire by setting off a firecracker, don’t look for insurance to come to your aid. This also holds true if you’re using fireworks illegally.
And if a neighbor’s fireworks start a fire in your house? Your insurer likely will sue them for the loss.
Should you discover your standard homeowners policy doesn’t protect against fireworks damage, ask if an umbrella policy protects against it. This may be your best bet to get coverage.
On a related note, families.com says insurance companies often look at the following when a customer files a claim for this kind of damage:
- Type of fireworks used
- Experience and age of those using the fireworks
- Weather conditions
- Physical surroundings of where the fireworks were used
- Pyrotechnic safety precautions in place
Although pretty to look at, firecrackers and the like can cause serious injuries. So, if you’re going to celebrate this July Fourth with firecrackers or other explosives, consider taking the following precautions before the festivities begin:
- Always have adult supervision when handling fireworks
- Never use them while intoxicated
- Don’t let children play with fireworks, including sparklers
- It should go without saying, but don’t throw or aim them at other people
- Have a hose, bucket of water, or fire extinguisher nearby
- Always wear safety glasses when lighting fireworks
- Keep all spectators at a reasonable and safe distance
- Keep dogs and other pets away from them too
- Follow and read the directions carefully
- Allow used fireworks to stand for at least 20 minutes
- Later, cover them in water, then drain and put them in plastic bag before throwing them away
- Do the same with any “duds” that don’t go off after a few minutes
- Also, don’t try to relight these duds
- Never shoot fireworks from a metal or glass container
- Only use them outdoors on a flat, fireproof, hard surface that’s free from flammable material
- Don’t put any body part near a firework