The subject of compensation claims for restaurant injury and illness is one which appears on a regular basis. While the vast majority of restaurants across the UK are diligent in their duty of care towards their customers, there are situations when accidents and injury can occur as well as illness. There will be occasions where incidents occur where there is no negligence attributable to the restaurant and as a consequence no liability, if the restaurant owner is able to demonstrate they took reasonable actions to ensure the safety of their diners. However, there are situations where negligence has played a part which may leave the restaurant liable to being sued for injury compensation.
Regulations Covering Restaurants
Aside from the array of health and safety regulations pertaining to business owners the Occupiers Liability Act 1957 deems a restaurant operator to have a common duty of care to all visitors. They must ensure that the restaurant is fit for purpose and a safe environment for those invited or permitted to be there. It is worth noting that this legal obligation also takes in any surrounding premises for which the restaurant owner is responsible.
Failure to comply with the Occupiers Liability Act 1957 may result in criminal action from the authorities although this would be separate from a personal injury compensation claim. However, any criminal charges may strengthen any case for compensation.
Common Restaurant Accidents
While many of us automatically assume that regulations and duty of care only relate to the internal premises, this is not the case. If any incidents were to occur in the restaurants car park or the entrance to the restaurant this might also leave open a potential case for negligence and compensation. However, the vast majority of physical injuries occur within a restaurant and often include:
- Slipping on wet or greasy floors. It is imperative that any spillages or food remnants on the floor are cleaned up as soon as possible. Warning signs should be placed over the affected area which alerts customers to the problem and can also limit restaurant negligence and liability claims in the event of injury.
- Falling or tripping. Falling accidents are commonplace in many restaurants and are often brought on by poor lighting, badly maintained stairways and faulty floors. This type of accident can lead to serious injury and potentially significant compensation payments. More detailed advice on slip, trip and fall claims can be found here.
- Badly maintained toilet facilities. It sounds inconceivable to suggest that restaurant owners, who build their business on preparing and handling food, would fail to maintain the toilet facilities. However, wet or flooded restaurant toilets are a common causes of injury in restaurants.
- Burn injuries in restaurants. Staff training and safety guidelines come into play when handling hot food and hot drinks. Spilled food or hot drinks can lead to significant burn injuries and personal injury claims.
There may be some instances where restaurant customers find themselves in areas of the premises where they are not allowed. It would depend upon the precise circumstances but if they were injured, even in areas where they were not generally allowed, there may well still be a case for restaurant negligence compensation. Did the restaurant owner make clear customers/ diners were not allowed in a particular area of the restaurant? Were safety guards in place such as locked doors? Was the area in question safe?
It is not difficult to see that while slipping, falling and burn injuries are the most common accidents in a restaurant, there are many different areas of the premises where accidents can occur. Restaurant operators need to been vigilant, display clear warning signs and not only abide by the Occupiers Liability Act 1957 but also their duty of care to customers and those invited onto the premises.
Illness From Food Poisoning In Restaurants
Restaurants must serve food that is fit and proper and prepared in the correct manner so that customers do not end up with food poisoning. Any food served must be labelled with no false or misleading information which could potentially prove fatal to those with allergies. There are also basic hygiene requirements for businesses preparing and serving food to not only ensure the food is edible and safe but also avoid cross contamination.
In 2016 an Indian restaurant owner was jailed for manslaughter after swapping traditional food ingredients for a cheaper variety. It turned out that the cheaper variety of ingredients contained peanuts and a customer with a peanut allergy died as there was no relevant labelling. This is a perfect example of recent regulations regarding allergies and the obligation for those serving food to display detailed information for their customers. Failure to abide by the new allergy notice regulations could not only lead to restaurant negligence food allergy claims being started but also criminal prosecution.
While the vast majority of UK restaurants abide by the health and hygiene regulations, illness from food poisoning can occur for a variety of reasons including:
- Unhygienic and badly maintained kitchen facilities;
- Outdated and ill maintained equipment;
- Untrained restaurant staff;
- Unclear procedures;
- Inexperienced staff handling food.
All premises preparing and serving food will receive at least one visit per annum from their local authority health and safety department. They will undertake a number of checks on the premises, review labelling and storage facilities as well as warnings to restaurant customers. Any minor discrepancies will be highlighted and time given to correct them, while major problems could lead to the restaurant being temporarily or permanently closed. If the owner of a restaurant was the recipient of action by the local authorities on health and safety grounds this would likely strengthen the case for those claiming compensation for accidents or illness.
Claiming Compensation For Restaurant Food Poisoning
Restaurant food poisoning can take many different forms from extremely minor to major gastric problems. Unlike allergic reactions due to food, which tend to occur immediately after eating contaminated food, food poisoning can take some time to work through the system and cause illness. It can therefore be difficult to prove beyond all reasonable doubt the origins of food poisoning but it is still worthwhile investigating a restaurant food poisoning illness claim. It is highly likely that an outbreak of food poisoning in a restaurant would affect more than one person. So, if there are a number of instances of food poisoning from individuals who visited the same restaurant this would effectively prove negligence beyond reasonable doubt of the original source.
In a perfect world the authorities would be able to visit the restaurant and check for health and hygiene issues together with residue connected with the specific food poisoning incidents. However, in all likelihood by the time the authorities were alerted and visited the restaurant, any incriminating evidence would likely be long gone.
Making A Claim For Restaurant Injury And Illness Negligence
Bearing in mind that all restaurant owners have a duty of care to ensure the safety of their customers, any injury or illness which originated from the restaurant may be negligent which would make the operator liable for compensation. If you feel you have a valid restaurant negligence claim it is vital that you make a note of all details, the restaurant, the time, food intake where relevant, witness statements and pictures of where the incident took place. It is obviously vital that medical attention is sought as soon as possible and this can also be included in your restaurant claim documentation.
Even customers “under the influence” who suffer injury on the restaurants premises because of negligence may still be entitled to compensation. Each claim will be reviewed on a case-by-case basis although if you have the relevant background, a solicitor (should you appoint one) will be able to undertake a relatively quick analysis of your claim. Where there is a particularly strong restaurant injury claim the defendant may well decide to settle out of court to save costs, and in the case of food poisoning, avoid any detrimental publicity.