“Legal liability alone can serve as an economic signal to deter firms from producing unsafe food and… can also serve as an indirect regulator promoting food safety,” concludes a prominent law school. (2)

NYC Restaurant Incidents

Culinary industry accidents are not rare. They happen everywhere, even in New York City (NYC).

The most potentially serious injuries in restaurants are caused by slip and fall accidents. The rate of fatal occupational injuries in NYC during 2020 reached over 20% for slips, trips, and falls reports the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). (3)

The rate was even higher for exposure to harmful substances or environments — almost 29%. (4) Exposure could, for example, come from ingesting contaminated food.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) investigated online reviews by NYC restaurant patrons. It indicated 3 possible outbreaks of foodborne illnesses, leading to illness in 16 people, in less than one year. (5)

Causes of Restaurant Accidents

The reasons for these restaurant accidents vary. In the culinary industry, harmful accidents at restaurants are likely to result from:

  • Hot food or plates — Burns can result from cooking with oils. Steam burns can result from handling plates or consuming food that is too hot. For example, “a baby was scalded with piping hot water during a family dinner at a Queens Applebee’s.” It happened when the baby drank from a glass of hot water placed on the family’s table by a server. (6)
  • Food poisoning — The “CDC estimates that each year roughly 1 in 6 Americans (or 48 million people) gets sick, 128,000 are hospitalized, and 3,000 die of foodborne diseases.” (7) “The most common sources of food poisoning include raw or undercooked meat, poultry, eggs, shellfish and unpasteurized milk.” (8)
  • Foreign objects in food — These can get into restaurant foods in several ways. The objects could be in ingredients the restaurant purchased from suppliers or manufacturers. Perhaps the restaurant employees did not follow thorough cleaning procedures. Or there may have been foreign objects near the food prep areas. (9)
  • Slips, trips, and falls — In NYC, the total number of occupational fatalities due to these was 24 in 2019, according to BLS. (10) Uneven walkways, wet floors, poor lighting, lack of signage, or missing handrails can all pose fall risks. (11) The National Floor Safety Institute (NFSI) estimates 20,000 people die each year from falls; your odds of dying from an accidental fall are 1 in 158. (12)

If you or a loved one experienced an accident at a restaurant, contact us today to understand your legal rights.

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Types of Injuries

Restaurant accidents can lead to a wide range of injuries. The types of injuries suffered in restaurants include:

  • Burns — Burns can result when things are too hot. Or staff does not have the proper safety gear. For example, glasses and gloves may be necessary when flambéing a dish at tableside, or when cooking with hot oil. (13)
  • Fractured bones — Falls cause most bone fractures in restaurant accidents. Fractures occur in 20% of the cases of all older people who fall. (14) Falls on stairs and floors are among the top causes of the most injuries and fatalities for older people, says a Consumer Product Safety Commission report. (15)
  • Head injuries — “Falls are the most common cause of traumatic brain injuries (TBI),” says the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). The CDC also notes one in five falls causes broken bones or head injuries in older people. (16)
  • Neck and back injuries — The nature of restaurant work involves repetitive bending and lifting, especially of heavy trays of food. This can result in overuse or improper use of the muscles, tendons, ligaments, and joints of the back and neck. Along with pain, workers could suffer significant damage. Guests could also suffer these types of injuries if they fall at a restaurant.
  • Lacerations — Lacerations and cuts are skin wounds. Cuts can be caused by contact with broken glass, knives, or other sharp objects. Lacerations are caused by blunt trauma. (17) Such wounds can be serious, especially if they become infected. One study on laceration care found out of 2,663 patients, 69 developed infections. (18)
  • Sickness from food poisoning — “Researchers have identified more than 250 foodborne diseases,” says the CDC. (19) These illnesses, such as Salmonella, can cause serious long-term health problems like kidney failure, brain and nerve damage, or chronic arthritis. (20) According to a CDC report, in one year “814 foodborne disease outbreaks were reported, resulting in 14,481 illnesses, 827 hospitalizations, 20 deaths, and 14 food product recalls.” Of these outbreaks, 489 outbreaks were in restaurants. (21)
  • Sprained ankles — A sprain is a stretch or tear of the ligaments. “A sprain injures the bands of tissue that connect two bones together.” (22) Sprained ankles can result from turning your ankle the wrong way. For example, if you slip on a wet or uneven floor in the restaurant. Or maybe you landed on your ankle awkwardly while descending steps there.
  • Strained and sprained ligaments — “A strain involves an injury to a muscle or to the band of tissue that attaches a muscle to a bone.” (23) Restaurant workers can suffer back strain while lifting heavy trays of food. Patrons may suffer a strain if they attempt to brace themselves on an unsecured railing.
  • Twisted knees — A twisted knee is another term for a strained or sprained knee. Knees are held together by ligaments. These ligaments “keep everything in place, stopping the knee from sliding too much one way or another.” This injury can happen during a fall and often involves the ACL (anterior cruciate ligament) ligament. “The ACL limits the forward motion and the twisting motion of the shinbone and is thus prone to injury when the knee is extended beyond a normal range.” (24)

These injuries can be very serious. They can require lengthy hospital stays, and expensive treatment. You want to hold those responsible accountable. An attorney can help you determine who should bear responsibility for your injuries.

Who Is Responsible for the Accident?

Restaurant owners and operators have a duty to provide a safe and clean establishment for both employees and customers. When illness or injury occur on the restaurant premises, owners and operators can be held liable if their action or failure to act — negligence — caused your illness or injury. (25)

For example, lack of proper signage is a safety hazard. Say a restaurant employee fails to post signs warning patrons of wet floors after mopping up a spill in the dining room. When you walk across the wet floor, you slip and fall. You seriously injure your back. The restaurant owners and operators can be held liable because no signs were posted.

The key factor in your case is to show the court the owners knew of the hazardous conditions or should have known about them. You need to prove they did not take reasonable steps to prevent harm. (26) In other words, they did not act with the same level of care as any reasonable person might have, given similar circumstances. (27)

Negligence can also fall under premises liability. Premises liability laws vary by state. Owners or operators of properties can be held accountable if they created or allowed a dangerous condition to exist on their property. (28)

If you or a loved one suffered a serious injury at a restaurant, contact us today for a free case evaluation.

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Filing a Lawsuit

To file a lawsuit against a restaurant where you were injured or became ill, you should hire an attorney. An attorney can help you determine who should be held accountable. A knowledgeable attorney can help you file your lawsuit.

In New York, you must file a lawsuit in the proper county. You can file your lawsuit in the county where either you (the plaintiff) or the party you are suing (the defendant) reside. (29)

“If no party resides within the City, the action can be brought in the county where either party has employment or transacts business, provided the defendant has some connection to the City. If no party has residence, employment, or transacts business within the City, the action must be filed in the county where the cause of action arose.” (30)

Once your attorney files the appropriate application for your lawsuit — and the fee is paid — the clerk of the court issues a summons and complaint. The clerk then assigns an index number to your case. Next, your attorney has the summons and complaint served to the defendant in your case. (31)

Defendants have 20 days to file an answer to the summons and complaint. Afterwards, a court date is set. (32)

In the meantime, your attorney may negotiate a settlement with the defendant in your case. If not, your attorney goes to trial on your case.

Compensation Options in Restaurant Accidents

Monetary compensation (damages) for restaurant accident claims can come in several forms. You may be awarded damages for:

  • Lost wages.
  • Medical bills.
  • Pain and suffering.
  • Property damage.
  • Punitive damages

“Punitive damages are considered punishment and are typically awarded at the court’s discretion when the defendant’s behavior is found to be especially harmful.” (33)

An experienced attorney can help you obtain the best possible financial outcome for your case.

How W&L Can Help

If your case goes to court, the court reaches a verdict and may award damages. However, many cases are settled out of court.

Restaurant accident cases are personal injury cases. W&L has a team of attorneys who focus on personal injury cases, like yours. We are proud to represent our client’s interests and help you obtain compensation.

Here are some examples of our successful cases: