As we approach big events such as Guy Fawkes, Christmas day and New Year’s Eve, all of which may involve a firework display, it’s important to consider the consequences for accidents. What happens if you injure someone with an explosive? Are they covered under your household insurance? Medical Aid?
Before we get into all of that, I’d like to share with you my personal experience.
On 31 December 2011, a 17-year-old threw a firecracker at a group of my friends. His prank went south when the explosion was so forceful it threw me over backwards and left us all stunned. The smoke blanked the event, and the power of the bang left our ears ringing.
Only when the smoke had cleared and I was no longer running on adrenaline, I realised the severity of the situation. I had been hit by the firecracker.
That was the beginning of a very long healing process that included multiple doctor appointments and visits to the hospital during my matric year. Not only did I suffer from grievous bodily harm (GBH), but I underwent emotional damage and trauma, and far too many missed classes which put me behind greatly at school. My life had forever been changed, and I now wear a deep cavity of a scar on my leg. A reminder of the shrapnel, burn, ambulance lights, anti-biotics, injections, crutches, medication, lack of sleep, unbearable physical pain that lasted 3 months and years of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Not to mention, the injury is the reason I was asked by the U18 KZN Equestrian Team to step down for under attendance; I lost the chance to earn my South African colours for horse riding.
So, what does this mean for the young man? Is paying medical bills enough? What are the consequences of a joke gone wrong? Well, for the first time in my life (and hopefully the last), I had someone’s life in the palm of my hand. I could sue him, I could force him to pay medical bills, I could have him imprisoned for GBH. I, an 18-year-old at the time, become the master of his fate.
Luckily, for him, I dropped the charges laid against him after hearing he had turned 18. I decided that seems I had medical aid, there was no need in asking him to pay bills that accumulated to over R100,000. I also decided not to sue him for putting me through all that he had. I had to give him a chance at life.
But what if I had decided he needed to be taught a lesson? What if I had chosen the consequences to his actions?
There would have been two possible outcomes for two different types of people.
A: he’s the kind of person whose parents have homeowners’ insurance.
B: he’s the kind of person whose parents don’t have homeowner’s insurance.
The outcome is very different for both.
Unfortunately, he fell under the latter. This meant he and his parents carry everything. The medical bills, transportation, ambulance fee, parking fees, medication, civil damage and the list goes on. Every cent the injury cost me would be on his or his parents’ shoulders (he was under 18 at the time of the event). He and his parents would also be responsible for paying what the court decided a reasonable amount is in the case of being sued.
Now, for those who do have homeowners’ insurance, the outcome is very, very different, because lawsuits filed against one for firework-related issues are covered under the liability section of a homeowner’s policy. Whether the firework-related issues are with medical treatment or even property damage, it still falls under the personal liability section of the policy.
Generally, most homeowners’ insurance policies provide a minimum of R1 million worth of liability insurance, but as the best brokers in Durban, we don’t think this is nearly enough, because R1 million is swallowed up so quickly after a few bills. There are higher amounts available, but for a higher premium, of course. We suggest purchasing as least R20 million worth of liability protection or as much as one can afford.
With this in mind, those of you celebrating Guy Fawkes on 5th November be careful. Rather avoid using fireworks at all.
We’d like to hear from you. Did you know that you were protected against firework damage under your homeowner’s policy or is this new to you? Do you have personal liability insurance? How much coverage do you think one needs to protect themselves from unpredictable accidents?