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Restaurant Accidents and Injuries

It’s date night with your spouse. You got a sitter for the kids, and you have reservations at a nice restaurant that got a great review in the newspaper. You don’t get out as a couple very often with the pressures of work and family, so you’re both really looking forward to some time just for yourselves.

You get to the restaurant and are seated at a nice table. Your dinner is fantastic. While you’re waiting for the check, you decide to visit the restroom. You have to walk down a hallway where the overhead light has gone out. It’s dark, and your attention is distracted by a loud crash from the kitchen so you don’t notice a big crack in the floor. The crack causes you to trip, and you hit the floor hard. You dislocate your shoulder when you land, and you’re in serious pain. You also twisted your knee and tore your meniscus on the way down. Now your date night is ending in the emergency room, and you’re going to be stuck with a lengthy recovery time and a big stack of medical bills.

If your injuries were the result of negligence on the part of the restaurant owner or operator, you may have a premises liability claim. Premises liability is the area of personal injury law that addresses injuries sustained because of unsafe conditions on someone’s property. We suggest that you consult with an experienced Chicago personal injury lawyer to see if you have a claim.

Liability for Restaurant Injuries

In Illinois, the Premises Liability Act, 740 ILCS 130, governs when a property owner or occupier is liable for your injuries. In general, the restaurant owner or operator has an obligation to keep the premises in a reasonably safe condition. When the owner or operator knows about defects, such as the broken light and the crack in the floor in the example above, the problem should either be fixed or visitors should be warned about the hazard. Failure to either fix the problem or provide a warning may be considered negligence when the problem results in injuries that could have been foreseen, such as someone tripping over the floor crack and getting hurt.

If your injuries were the result of negligence, then the restaurant owner or operator may be liable to pay for your:

  • Medical bills
  • Lost wages
  • Pain and suffering
  • Disability and disfigurement
  • Loss of normal life

However, you may find that an insurance company will refuse to settle, and that a jury may not find in your favor, if any of the following are true:

  • You knew about the unsafe condition before your accident and should have taken care to avoid it
  • The unsafe condition was open and obvious, and you should have noticed it and taken care to avoid it
  • The restaurant owner or operator had no prior knowledge of the unsafe condition and couldn’t have reasonably foreseen it
  • You caused the unsafe condition through misuse of the premises

Ultimately, whether the restaurant owner or operator is liable for your injuries will come down to the specifics of what happened, the conditions inside the restaurant, how you were hurt, and how much the owner or operator knew in advance. Some facts may work in your favor, such as the hallway being dark so you couldn’t see the crack, or your attention being distracted by the loud crash in the kitchen. To determine whether you might have a successful claim, the best course of action is to consult an experienced personal injury attorney who has successfully settled or tried claims involving restaurant injuries.

Common Types of Restaurant Injuries

There are several ways that someone might end up injured at a restaurant because of negligence on the part of the restaurant owner or restaurant employees.

  • Slip and Fall Injuries — Slip and fall injuries are commonplace, and can occur when the owner of a property or business, such as a restaurant, or the owner’s employees fail to properly inspect and maintain the premises. Inadequate lighting, torn carpet, cracks in flooring, loose or broken rails in stairways, and failure to clean up spills are all common conditions that can result in restaurant patrons slipping, tripping, or falling and being seriously hurt.
  • Foodborne Illnesses — If equipment such as refrigerators, freezers, stoves, or ovens, are not properly maintained, food may not be chilled to the proper temperature when stored, or cooked to the proper temperature before being served. When food is stored at temperatures that are too warm, or isn’t heated sufficiently when cooked, harmful bacteria such as salmonella or E. coli present in food can survive and make people sick when they eat the food. Foodborne illnesses such as noroviruses can be transmitted when employees don’t engage in proper hand-washing hygiene after using the restroom. An employer who doesn’t have proper hygiene policies in place or fails to enforce policies or properly train employees may be negligent if a sick employee causes customers to become ill.
  • Burns — Sometimes food or beverages are heated to scalding temperatures beyond those needed to keep food safe from bacteria. When a scalding bowl of soup or pot of coffee is spilled on a person, painful and serious burns can result.