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Outdoor Dining Car Accident Legal Considerations

Posted by Emily Ruby | Jul 07, 2024 | 0 Comments

Dining outdoors has always had its own charm. People enjoy having a meal in the open air. But, along with its perks, there are some serious risks and legal considerations due to outdoor dining car accidents which can and do occur.

Car crashing into outdoor dining

Sadly, we are seeing a rise in accidents involving outdoor dining setups. This makes it crucial for both restaurant owners and patrons to understand the legal side of things. So, let's unpack the key outdoor dining car accident legal considerations you should be aware of.

Table of Contents:

Understanding Premises Liability and Outdoor Dining

When a restaurant decides to set up outdoor seating, they take on a big responsibility to make sure that space is safe for their customers. This legal responsibility is often referred to as premises liability.

What Does Premises Liability Mean for Restaurants?

Premises liability means that property owners have a legal duty to maintain a reasonably safe environment. This applies to anyone legally on their property, including sidewalks in front of businesses, parking lots, and outdoor dining spaces. For restaurants with outdoor seating, this means taking specific steps like providing adequate lighting and making sure tables are stable.

They also need to be spaced out properly. Additionally, restaurants are responsible for dealing with any potential hazards like uneven pavement or obstacles. Think about it - restaurants with outdoor seating basically become an extension of their indoor space.

And, with this extension comes the responsibility to look out for their customers' safety, just like they would inside. This includes protection from negligent security, slip and fall accidents, and motor vehicle accidents.

Can a Restaurant Be Held Liable for a Car Accident Involving Outdoor Dining?

This is where things get really interesting, and it's important to understand the nuances of legal considerations. While restaurants have a duty to provide a safe environment, it doesn't mean they are automatically at fault if a car crashes into their outdoor seating area. Liability often depends on whether the accident was foreseeable and if the restaurant took reasonable precautions.

This is a critical distinction. For instance, if a restaurant sets up its outdoor dining area without any barriers in a high-traffic zone with cars speeding by constantly and a car veers off the road, a court might find that the restaurant should have foreseen this possibility. They could be considered liable for the injuries suffered by injured diners.

But, if a restaurant has implemented barriers, visible signage, and proper lighting, and a drunk driver still loses control and crashes into the dining area, the driver's actions might be seen as the primary cause. It's not always black and white. It's often a gray area.

Why Restaurants Need to Prioritize Safety Measures in Outdoor Seating Areas

We've already touched on the legal duty of restaurants but there's another important aspect: their ethical responsibility. While laws outline the minimum requirements, ethical behavior calls for going beyond the bare minimum to prevent an accident case.

Implementing Barriers and Design Considerations

Imagine sitting down to enjoy a delicious meal on a lovely evening. Suddenly, a car veers off the road, heading straight toward you. It's a terrifying thought and a horrific reality for others. Physical barriers between the dining area and traffic, like sturdy planters, bollards, or even concrete barriers, can provide a much-needed buffer zone.

Restaurants can install those nicely designed barriers that not only provide safety but also complement the aesthetics of the outdoor dining space. I've even seen places with blooming flowers or decorative elements added to them, which not only makes customers feel safe but also adds to the ambiance. You can enjoy your meal without constantly looking over your shoulder.

Inadequate Lighting, Slippery Surfaces, and Other Hazards

Dim lighting might set a romantic mood for an indoor dinner date, but imagine trying to navigate a dimly lit outdoor dining area with uneven pavement. Or, worse, spilled drinks making the floor slippery. A recipe for disaster, right? It's not just about cars; other hazards can also lead to serious accidents.

Restaurant owners should make it a priority to regularly check for things like spills. They also need to make sure any outdoor heaters are properly secured and address any other hazards promptly. Remember, we are talking about preventing someone from potentially slipping, falling, and ending up with a broken bone — or worse.

What Happens When a Driver Crashes into a Restaurant Outdoor Dining Area?

In my professional experience, I have seen the unfortunate consequences when drivers, sometimes under the influence of alcohol, lose control and cause injury or even death. Imagine a scenario where a car crashes into a restaurant's outdoor dining area.

What follows is usually a flurry of activity - emergency services rushing to the scene, police trying to piece together the events and, sadly, injured diners needing immediate medical attention. The legal process that unfolds next can get pretty complex.

Determining Fault in Outdoor Dining Accidents

Determining who is at fault in such a situation is absolutely crucial because this impacts things like who is held liable and who pays the damages. There's often a rush to point fingers – was it the driver's negligence for driving under the influence, or did the restaurant not take proper safety measures?

It's often a multi-faceted process involving witness testimonies, police reports, and accident reconstruction specialists. In situations like this, evidence is king. Establishing the sequence of events, road conditions, driver behavior, and restaurant safety precautions become absolutely essential to determine if the restaurant owner is liable.

The Role of Insurance Companies

Each insurance company involved is going to fight tooth and nail to protect its own interests, potentially minimizing payouts and deflecting blame. They might claim the injuries sustained were minimal or that there was legal malpractice by your personal injury attorney.

This is where having an experienced personal injury lawyer in your corner makes all the difference. We can cut through the legal jargon and help you receive what is rightfully yours – fair compensation for medical bills, pain and suffering, and other related costs. Don't underestimate the importance of documenting everything thoroughly.

Take pictures of the scene, gather contact information from any witnesses, and keep track of all communication and medical expenses. This information is especially important in cases of traumatic brain injury, spinal cord injuries, wrongful death, and other serious injuries. These pieces of information can become extremely valuable. This all goes toward making sound outdoor dining car accident legal considerations.

FAQs about outdoor dining car accident legal considerations

What type of accident accounts for most accidents in restaurants?

Slips, trips, and falls. Based on a database of more than 13,000 analyzed auto accidents, the Storefront Safety Council found the leading cause of cars crashing into restaurants and other buildings include operator error such as putting the vehicle in drive instead of reverse and pedal errors including pressing the wrong pedal and foot slips.

What are two common types of accidents in a foodservice operation?

Spilled liquids are one of the leading causes of restaurant injuries. Cuts are very common, particularly when patrons take off sturdy shoes and wear open-toed shoes.

Outdoor Diving Car Accident Attorneys

By understanding outdoor dining car accident legal considerations, we are taking proactive steps to make sure these spaces are safe, secure, and most importantly, enjoyable for everyone involved. From clear signage to adequate lighting and sturdy barriers, there are multiple ways to make a difference.

Those who have suffered injuries in an outdoor dining car accident are encouraged to contact an attorney they trust as soon as they're able. For those injured in California, give us a call or engage with our chat, our experienced team will provide you with a free consultation. We've held restaurants and at-fault drivers accountable in situations like this in the past, and would be happy to assist you.

About the Author

Emily Ruby

2022 "Women in Law" Award Winner, Emily Ruby, specializes in complex cases, many of which involve catastrophic injuries and deaths. Mrs. Ruby has personally obtained more than $100 Million in compensation for her clients with an impressive 97.4% success rate and is a graduate of the prestigious CAALA Trial Academy. She was selected as one of Forbes' Best Wrongful Death Lawyers and is a writer for Advocate Magazine.


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