My neighbors are setting off fireworks at all hours of the night. Do I have any legal rights? – John, Clearfield
Thank you for your question. Inevitably, with the Fourth of July, there is an increase in fireworks and explosives.
While we all enjoy a nice fireworks display on a warm summer night, many times fireworks can feel more like a punishment than a summertime spectacle.
With the new Pennsylvania Fireworks Law enacted, the sale and setting of fireworks is now legal – but that does not mean that you do not have rights.
However, there are a couple of things that you need to ask yourself before taking legal action against your neighbors.
First – has any damage actually been done? Unfortunately, a loss of sleep or being startled by the unexpected explosion of fireworks will not necessitate taking legal action.
However, if you find yourself involuntarily spending your own money as a result of these infractions, you might have a case. Some common damages that can occur with fireworks include:
– Physical damage to you or a family member;
– Loss or damage to personal property (including your residence); and
– Physical or mental damage to a pet that warrants veterinarian bills.
Additionally, you may have certain rights if your borough or neighborhood has rules or laws regarding the use of fireworks.
It should be known that even in the event that damage occurs as a result of fireworks, you still may find it difficult to take legal action.
Additionally, it should be known that just because you take legal action, it does not mean you will end up better off than when you started.
If the guilty party has no money or assets, then suing them will effectively just be time and money out of your own pocket. A won lawsuit by itself will not do you much good.
So, what should you do if you do find yourself the victim of a fireworks-related grievance?
As soon as the event occurs, it is important to log the time and date of the infraction. Secondly, it is important that you know who is actually responsible for the fireworks.
Just because you may have a strong disliking for your neighbor, that does not necessarily mean that they were the ones responsible for the damage.
Due to the nature of ?reworks, it can be difficult to ascertain exactly who it was that set off the firework. So, before you start making accusations, it is important to know who is actually responsible.
It is also important that you be familiar with the laws of your township, borough or community in regards to fireworks.
If you have the exact time and date of the infraction, know who was responsible for the firework that did the damage and can show evidence of the damage caused, then you likely have a good case to take further action.
If the damage is done to your home or personal property, insurance will cover the cost of damages the majority of the time. But – in the event that there are costs that insurance does not cover, a lawsuit may help you recoup some of your lost assets.
On that note – I would like to take a moment to talk to everybody here. Throughout the summer, if you choose to buy and set off fireworks, it is absolutely within your legal rights to do so.
But, before doing so, you should make every effort to be considerate of your neighbors. Just because you stay up until 1 a.m. most nights, does not mean your neighbors do.
So, setting off fireworks at 11 p.m. might not seem like a big deal for you – but many people are already fast asleep by that time.
Additionally, many people have pets that become skittish and panicky at the sound of explosions and loud bangs, ultimately upsetting both pet and owner.
If you are going to set off fireworks, it is best to do it in a location that is safe. That means away from houses, buildings, and forests. Any type of neighborhood setting with houses nearby is not a safe environment to set off fireworks.
If you have any questions, or have been affected by fireworks, we always encourage you to call our law firm, and we’d be happy to talk through it with you.
Our Clearfeld office can be reached at 814-765-9611, and our DuBois office can be reached at 814-299-7697. And as always, you can visit us online at www.clfdlaw.com or check us out on Facebook at facebook.com/clfdlaw.
If you have a question that you would like us to answer in our next column, please send your questions to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Attorney Eric E. Cummings, Esquire
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