A restaurant is an extremely dynamic place that is constantly full of slip and fall hazards for workers and guests. For the workers, the kitchen and storage areas are havens for grease, cleaning solutions, and water. While restaurants work hard to keep slip and fall hazards out of the restaurant dining room, patrons are still exposed to spills near the kitchen, water on the floor, and cleaning solutions used to clean up spills. It might not be bad customer service, but could a slip and fall accident in a restaurant be cause for a personal injury lawsuit?
Restaurants experience many of the same hazards that other commercial workplaces do, but the difference is that those hazards in restaurants tend to occur in high traffic areas when there is a lot of people around. Restaurant owners who want to avoid possible personal injury claims need to be vigilant in identifying hazards and taking the necessary steps to prevent them.
Since water is a substance widely used in the restaurant business, it also tends to be one of the major sources of slip and fall issues. If the ice machine creates puddles of water on the slick floors, then the restaurant owner must take steps to prevent those puddles. If rainy weather creates a slippery entrance way for customers, then special rugs need to be put in place to take care of the problem.
The problems start when business owners try to take the easy and cheap way out when it comes to slip and fall prevention. For example, having someone mop up the ice machine puddle is a pointless venture when it is a constantly recurring issue. Each slip and fall hazard should be addressed individually until each area is made safe.
Restaurant owners and managers need to do regular safety training to make sure that their work areas are as safe as possible. The key topics of these training sessions should be:
- Wearing the proper footwear to reduce the chances of slipping and falling
- Being vigilant in reporting potential slip and fall hazards
- Using common sense when walking through areas that might have newly created slip and fall hazards
- Preventing spills and other incidents that can add to slip and fall accidents
- A complete understanding of all of the restaurant’s safety procedures
How Restaurants Protect Themselves
While restaurants can train employees and take extra safety steps to keep work areas safe, it is more difficult to train customers. Unfortunately, there are opportunistic people who will try to fake a slip and fall incident to cash in on a claim. Restaurants have enough experience with these types of incidents that they have found many ways to protect themselves from fake falls. These measures used to prevent scam artists from making false claims can also be used by customers who experience a legitimate slip and fall incident.
Restaurants are normally designed to create an ambiance, which means that the interior lighting may be darker and there will be plenty of decorations throughout the building. These two factors make it easier for restaurants to install surveillance cameras that scam artists may not see. The use of surveillance cameras in restaurants is becoming more prevalent and is used as a way to help verify slip and fall accidents.
If you have a legitimate slip and fall accident, then you should contract the services of an attorney who can immediately request a copy of the video surveillance of your incident. Just as video can prove a fall was fake, it can also show that an injury was legitimate.
Whenever someone is hurt in a restaurant in a slip and fall incident, managers are required by the restaurant’s insurance company to fill out accident reports. Many slip and fall incidents occur where there are no witnesses and potentially little or no video surveillance. An accident report can help get details from the victim the moment an incident occurs, and it also allows the manager on duty to make important notes on the site of the fall that could help when a claim is made.
Some personal injury claims against restaurants appear to show up out of nowhere. The victim never reported their fall to the restaurant management, and there was no contact with the restaurant immediately after the incident while the victim was getting medical attention. If you are involved in a legitimate slip and fall incident in a restaurant, you should seek out a manager and immediately ask to have an accident report filed. This documentation, and your insistence that it be created, can help to strengthen your case.
Sometimes slip and fall accidents occur because of building design flaws that the restaurant owner, who does not own the building, might not be aware of. These days, restaurants can call in outside experts who can examine a slip and fall case and determine if there was negligence. Technology such as 3D printing can create vivid depictions of slip and fall accident scenes that can give a very accurate and compelling picture of what really happened.
For a victim, their outside expert has to be their personal injury attorney. When restaurants begin to submit 3D renderings of an accident site to the insurance company, it is time for the victim to have an expert in their corner who can look at the evidence and give a credible assessment.
Are Restaurants At Fault?
It is always tricky to determine who is negligent in any kind of slip and fall accident. If the accident was the result of a flaw with the building and the restaurant owner does not own the building, then it could be the property owner who is negligent. When trying to determine if a restaurant is at fault for a slip and fall accident, the standard questions regarding these types of events must be asked. Those questions are:
- Did the restaurant staff create the situation that led to the slip and fall?
- Did the restaurant staff have ample time to recognize and potentially take care of the problem?
- Did the restaurant staff not act quickly enough to remove the hazard?
- Did the restaurant staff not take sufficient action to correct a long-standing issue that led to the slip and fall accident?
If you are in a restaurant and you are following a server carrying a tray as you walk to your table and salad dressing falls from the tray and creates a slip and fall hazard, the restaurant will more than likely not be liable because the situation happened immediately. But if a staff member mops a spill up and forgets to put down a warning sign for a slippery floor and you fall, then the restaurant would probably be found negligent for your injuries.
As with any personal injury case, you should be as cooperative as possible with the restaurant staff and seek out medical attention for your injuries as quickly as possible. You or someone in your party should take pictures of the accident site and collect the names and contact information from witnesses to help your case. But, in the end, you should never try to deal with this type of slip and fall case on your own. Hire an experienced personal injury attorney and make sure your interests and rights are protected.