Slips and Falls at Virginia Restaurants : A Personal Injury Attorney’s View
Americans are eating out more than ever. The restaurant industry especially the new fast casual segment, like Chipotle’s, Shake Shack and Subway are doing huge business. It is very common that customers going into restaurants will encounter slip and fall hazards as they walk through the restaurant, go to the bathroom, or come through the entrance and exit to the restaurant.
In my 25 years of handling personal injury cases I have seen many situations where somebody ends up breaking an arm, a leg or requiring ankle or knee surgery as a result of a fall at a restaurant, bar or other eating establishment. One reason that so many slip and falls occur at restaurants is the nature of the business. Whether it is ketchup, soda or grease, there are lots of substances which can be spilled that can create a slippery floor and unsafe walking conditions. It’s almost an expected part of the business that food and drink will be spilled on the floor even in nicer restaurants but especially in restaurants where there is a degree of self-service like a Chinese buffet restaurant. People are going to drop their plate or miss their mouth and even occasionally the waiters will drop a whole tray catching the attention of the entire establishment.
When you have a business that you know is going to cause a certain amount of slip and fall hazards you have to have some kind of a system for inspection and clean up of those hazards. That’s why restaurants typically have some kind of a log for inspection of the restrooms and other parts of the facility. The staff is responsible to make sure these areas are kept tidy and free from spills and slip and fall dangers. The management’s responsibility includes making sure that the staff does the inspection and clean up that they are required to do. When these systems are not followed or otherwise break down then you have a recipe for customer injuries.
The law in Virginia does not mean it’s automatic that if you get hurt at a restaurant by slipping and falling on a foreign substance it’s the responsibility of the restaurant to pay for your medical bills and lost wages. Rather you have to prove that the restaurant did something wrong that caused your injury. Typically the question is what was it that caused you fall and what should have the restaurant done differently to prevent it. Often this is hard from the perspective of customer to know without someone from the restaurant telling them through an admission of responsibility.
That’s why it’s especially important in this kind of premises liability situation for the injured person or their dining companion to make an effort to try to document what exactly it was that was on the floor that caused the fall and to try to get whatever information is available about how it got there and how long it had been left there. It’s hard when your friend or loved one has just broken their foot to keep your head about you and use your cell phone and interview other customers if they saw anything but that’s what is needed in some of these cases in order to be able to show that the restaurant was responsible. Unfortunately if that kind of information is not collected the restaurant and its employees are more likely to deny everything or say that they don’t know anything when the personal attorney comes calling to the insurance company for the restaurant.
I deal with slip and fall injuries in the new book I wrote with my colleague Bill O’Mara Top Ten Tips If You Are Injured at a Store, Hotel or Restaurant in Virginia. Call us at 757.455.0077 for a free consultation.