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Slip and Fall Accidents in Restaurants: Who is to blame?

Written by Ankin Law Office

The combination of slick floors, spilled drinks and bustling people make restaurants a common place for slip & fall accidents to occur; according to “premises liability” law in Illinois, the restaurant owners may be liable for personal injuries occurring on their premises. Restaurants have the responsibility to make their business accessible and safe for their patrons, employees and guests. The National Restaurant Association recommends restaurants prevent slip & fall accidents by taking precautions to avoid personal injury claims by customers. When these precautions are not taken, personal injury can occur and customers may be able to seek damages under Illinois liability laws.

Slip and fall accidents are common cases of personal injury and are especially prevalent in restaurants. As a licensed business, restaurant owners are expected by law to make their premises “reasonably safe” for their customers or “give warning of the actual condition or risk” when an area may be hazardous. For restaurants, the obvious examples for keeping premises safe would be to warn customers of potentially slippery floors and to put proper signage in place when a spill has occurred. The National Restaurant Association recommends restaurants take certain precautions to prevent slip and fall accidents in their business. From the obvious suggestions (mop-up spills, use non-slip mats, place a caution sign over spills) to the less obvious suggestions (such as hiring a professional “certified walkway auditor” to examine the Coefficient of Friction rating of floors and identify potential hazards), the more steps restaurant owners take to prevent accidents the less their chances of being held liable for slip and fall accidents will be.

A customer entering a restaurant in Chicago, Illinois during business hours is considered an “invitee” of the restaurant. The restaurant, considered an “owner/occupier” in Illinois, is legally obligated to protect its invitees from harm. In other words, the customer was invited to enter the business owners’ premises and that business has a duty to provide them with a safe environment. If an accident occurs on the premises of the restaurant, then the business owner or occupier may be held liable for personal injury damages. For example, if the restaurant did not take the proper measures to ensure that their floors were clean and dry before opening, they could be held liable for any falls resulting from the slippery surface area.

Determining blame in a slip and fall case can be complicated. Sometimes, the business owner could have easily prevented the danger (like in the case of a wet floor from a spilled drink). Other times, the customer should have been aware of possible dangers by their own common sense. In this case, the restaurant owner may avoid liability. According to premises liability law, the customer (or “invitee”) has a responsibility to protect her or himself against possible injury. For example, if a steep stairway leads to the restaurant’s lounge area and a sign notifies patrons to “be careful and watch their step,” then the restaurant would not likely be liable for falls occurring in that stairway. The customer should have seen and acknowledged the potential risk. Their choice to assume the risk would relieve the restaurant of fault.

When restaurants fail to take proper precautions to prevent injury and a customer slips and falls, a Chicago personal injury attorney can assist in seeking damages for medical bills, lost wages and related pain and suffering of the injured party. Serious injuries can result from slip and fall incidents including sprained, fractured or broken bones, back injuries, concussions or head trauma and more. When an incident occurs, the injured party should seek medical help immediately. The victim or their loved ones should also be sure to have the restaurant document the slip and fall in detail, even taking photos of the slippery area. Security cameras and witnesses in the restaurant can help determine fault in slip and fall cases. An experienced personal injury attorney can help gather evidence for a slip and fall case, find witnesses and supporting documents and help the injured party seek damages for their resulting pain and suffering. A simple wet floor at a restaurant can quickly cause a dangerous fall and possibly a long-term injury to a once loyal patron. By using proper precautions, restaurants can avoid these dangerous situations. When cautions are not taken and businesses are to blame, they may be held liable for personal injury damages.

Categories: Personal Injury