If you are injured in a restaurant accident, you can file a personal injury claim for damages. Lawsuits for compensation can be filed against:
- The restaurant owner,
- The restaurant parent company,
- Supplier or distributor of food and restaurant equipment,
- Restaurant staff, or
- Other patrons or customers.
Compensation in a restaurant accident lawsuit allows you to get money damages for
Injuries in a restaurant accident can include:
- Slip and fall injuries,
- Food poisoning,
- Burn injuries,
- Assault and battery,
- Workplace injuries, or
- Knockdowns in the parking lot.
Note that restaurant accidents happen to both customers as well as the cooks and waitstaff. In 2019, restaurant workers throughout the U.S. incurred 93,800 nonfatal injuries and illnesses.1
Below, our restaurant injury lawyers discuss the following frequently asked questions about restaurant accident injury lawsuits:
- 1. Can I file a personal injury lawsuit for an injury in a restaurant?
- 2. What damages can I recover in a restaurant injury settlement?
- 3. Who can I sue if I am injured in a restaurant in California?
- 4. What can I do if someone assaulted me at a restaurant?
- 5. Can I sue the restaurant for food poisoning?
- 6. Can I file a lawsuit if I was partly at fault for my injury at the restaurant?
- 7. Can I sue my employer if I was injured working in a restaurant in California?
If you have further questions after reading this article, we invite you to contact us at Shouse Law Group.
When you are injured because of the negligent actions of a restaurant or restaurant worker, you can file a lawsuit for damages. Even if the restaurant was not negligent, you may still be able to file a lawsuit if you were injured while on restaurant property.
In order to win a personal injury claim based on negligence, you must prove the following elements:
- The defendant owed you a duty of care;
- The defendant breached the duty of care through negligent action or inaction; and
- The defendant’s negligence was a substantial factor in causing your harm or death.2
Under premises liability laws, property owners and occupiers owe a duty to you to keep their property in a safe condition. Restaurant owners have a duty to keep the restaurant in good repair, follow state and local safety regulations, and warn customers about any dangerous conditions.
If you are injured in a restaurant because of unsafe conditions of the property, you may be able to file a personal injury lawsuit against the owner. You have to show:
- The defendant owned, occupied, or controlled the property;
- The defendant was negligent in the use or maintenance of the property;
- You were harmed; and
- The defendant’s negligence was a substantial factor in causing your harm.3
The restaurant owner is responsible for keeping the
- dining room,
- waiting area,
- entrance, and
- restrooms in a safe condition.
The restaurant may also be responsible for parking lot safety and walkways to the entrance.
Example: Luther is restaurant manager who fails to clean up some water he spilled. Soon a customer slips on the spill and breaks his leg. If the customer files a lawsuit, the restaurant may be liable for failing to clean up the hazard and for failing to warn customers about the spilled drink.
- Medical bills,
- Costs of continuing medical care,
- Lost income,
- Lost earning capacity,
- Compensation for scars or disfigurement,
- Loss of consortium,
- Pain and suffering.
In a serious accident, the injury victim may pass away, leaving them unable to file a personal injury lawsuit. However, a surviving family member may be able to file a wrongful death lawsuit after the death of a loved one.
Damages in a wrongful death claim can include funeral and burial expenses, and loss of earnings the deceased would have provided.4
Family members who can sue for damages include:
- Spouse or domestic partner;
- Children (or grandchildren if there are no surviving children); or
- Anyone else who is eligible under California intestate succession laws.
When filing a personal injury lawsuit, you will include as defendants anyone who may have some liability for the accident. This may include individuals and companies, and may involve multiple defendants who share some responsibility for causing the accident.
In a restaurant accident claim, defendants may include:
- Restaurant owner,
- Restaurant manager,
- Parent company,
- Third-party supplier of food or supplies,
- Restaurant employees,
- Other restaurant patrons, or
- Security staff.
Example: Jake is a bartender who accidentally spills a flaming drink on Jason, burning his arm. Jason can file a personal injury lawsuit against Jake for violating his the duty of care by spilling the drink on him.
You may not think it is worth it to sue a waiter or bartender for an injury because the employee may not have enough money to pay for the damages. However, employers are vicariously liable for the negligence of their employees. This means you can file a lawsuit against the restaurant when the employee negligently caused the accident.
Under “Respondeat Superior” laws, the restaurant owner or employer may be liable for your damages caused by an employee’s negligence.5
To win a claim against the employer, you have to prove the following elements:
- You were harmed by the employee’s negligence; and
- The company is responsible for the injuries because the employee was acting within the scope of his or her employment when the incident occurred.6
In the example above, Jason could also file a lawsuit against the restaurant. The restaurant is vicariously liable for Jake’s negligence and may be liable to Jason for his injuries.
Not all restaurant injuries are caused by accidents. When someone intentionally injures or harms you, the person who caused the harm may be responsible for assault & battery. If you are harmed by the unprovoked threat or use of force, you can sue for damages.
Intentional assault or battery could occur between restaurant patrons, a patron and an employee, or an employee assaulted by a co-worker. Assaults in a restaurant often involve intoxicated patrons or overzealous security staff.
Example: During a bar fight, William punches Mark and breaks his nose. Mark could file a personal injury lawsuit against William for damages since William used willful and unlawful force or violence against Mark.
You may be able to sue the restaurant if you are injured because of food poisoning or contaminated food. If the restaurant was negligent in handling the food, the restaurant may be liable for damages. If a supplier or third-party seller provided the restaurant with contaminated food, the supplier may also be liable for damages.
If the restaurant was negligent in training and supervising employees in food safety and food handling, the restaurant may also be liable for any damages based on negligent hiring.7
Example: Restaurant-owner Diane hired Simon as a prep cook even though he had no food safety training. Soon several people get ill from chickens he prepared with unclean knives and hands. Diane may be liable to her sickened customers for negligent hiring, training, and supervision since she knew Simon was not trained and did not supervise him.
If you are injured in a restaurant, you may still be able to receive damages even if you were partly at fault for the accident. Under California’s comparative fault laws, you can still receive damages based on your comparative fault. The jury or judge will allocate fault in the case, and you can have your damages offset by your level of fault.8
Example: While Michael runs out of a restaurant to get his phone which he left in his car, he trips on torn carpet and sustains $10,000 in damages. A jury determines the restaurant is at 80% fault for the torn carpet, and Michael is 20% at fault for running. Michael may be able to recover $8,000 from the restaurant ($10,000 x 80% = $8,000).
If you are an employee who was injured in a workplace accident, you may have to go through the workers’ compensation claim process instead of filing a personal injury lawsuit.
A workers’ comp claim does not require you to show the employer was negligent. However, in exchange, you may not be able to recover pain and suffering or other non-economic damages.
Compensation in a workers’ comp claim may be limited to medical bills for injuries and wage replacement for the time you are unable to work.
In some cases, you may be able to file a lawsuit if the injury was caused by a third party or someone other than the employer. You may also be able to file a personal injury lawsuit for intentional injuries, such as an assault by a coworker.
Example: A food supply delivery truck accidentally runs over the foot of a waitress taking a cigarette break behind the restaurant. Even though the waitress was injured on the job, she may be able to file a personal injury lawsuit against the driver and the food supply company for damages.
Call us for help…
For questions about restaurant accident lawsuits in California or to discuss your case confidentially with one of our skilled California personal injury attorneys, do not hesitate to contact us at Shouse Law Group. For cases in Nevada, please visit our page on restaurant injury lawsuits in Nevada.
We have local law offices in and around Los Angeles, San Diego, Orange County, Riverside, San Bernardino, Ventura, San Jose, Oakland, the San Francisco Bay area, and several nearby cities.
- 93,800 nonfatal injuries and illnesses in full-service restaurants in 2019, The Economics Daily, U.S Bureau of Labor Statistics (December 4, 2020).
- California Civil Jury Instructions (“CACI”) 400. See also California Civil Code section 1714(a) (“Everyone is responsible, not only for the result of his or her willful acts, but also for an injury occasioned to another by his or her want of ordinary care or skill in the management of his or her property or person.”)
- California Civil Jury Instructions (CACI) (2017) 1000. Premises Liability. Essential Factual Elements. See also Sprecher v. Adamson Companies (1981) 30 Cal.3d 358.
- California Code of Civil Procedure 377.60 (“A cause of action for the death of a person caused by the wrongful act or neglect of another may be asserted by any of the following persons or by the decedent’s personal representative on their behalf: (a) The decedent’s surviving spouse, domestic partner, children, and issue of deceased children, or, if there is no surviving issue of the decedent, the persons, including the surviving spouse or domestic partner, who would be entitled to the property of the decedent by intestate succession.”)
- Perez v. Van Groningen & Sons, Inc. (1986) 41 Cal.3d 962, 967 (“Under the doctrine of respondeat superior, an employer is vicariously liable for his employee’s torts committed within the scope of the employment.”)
- See, for example, California Civil Jury Instructions (CACI) 3701 — Tort Liability Asserted Against Principal–Essential Factual Elements. See also Lisa M. v. Henry Mayo Newhall Memorial Hospital (1995) 12 Cal.4th 291, 296–297 (“The rule of respondeat superior is familiar and simply stated: an employer is vicariously liable for the torts of its employees committed within the scope of the employment.“)
- California Civil Jury Instructions (CACI) 426 — Negligent Hiring, Supervision, or Retention of Employee. See also Doe v. Capital Cities (1996) 50 Cal.App.4th 1038, 1054 (“California case law recognizes the theory that an employer can be liable to a third person for negligent hiring, supervising, or retaining an unﬁt employee.”)
- California Civil Jury Instructions (CACI) 405. See also California Civil Jury Instructions (CACI) 406. (“… you must then decide how much responsibility each has by assigning percentages of responsibility to each person listed on the verdict form. The percentages must total 100 percent.”).