A visit to a café or coffee shop is almost always a pleasant experience – the chance to meet someone for a quick morning coffee, to hold an informal business meeting or simply to take the children or meet a friend for a quick snack. The joy of being able to pop into your local café or coffee shop has, as the nation recovers from the covid-19 pandemic, become all the more poignant as restrictions are lifted and our freedoms to sit inside and eat and drink are restored once again.
But with these freedoms and opportunities come risks. Visiting a café – as with any restaurant or eatery – presents potential dangers, whether it’s slipping or tripping, knife injuries, scalding yourself or contracting a dose of food poisoning. The realities of the catering and hospitality industries are such that the dangers and opportunity for injury are, perhaps, greater than in other settings.
If you have visited a café and injured yourself in any way, however minor, you may be able to claim personal injury compensation against its insurance company. You are owed a duty of care when on their premises, and if they fail in that duty and you are injured as a result, you can make a personal injury claim.
Working as a barista – or in another role in a café – can also be highly rewarding, but this also carries risks because of the work involved. So-called ‘barista wrist’ for example is a repetitive strain-type injury that is increasingly being seen among baristas.
If you want more information about making a café injury claim, you can get in touch with a legal adviser for free on 0800 234 6438 – they will be able to let you know whether you have a case.
In most cases you can make a café injury claim on a no win no fee basis, which means if you don’t win you don’t have to pay any large legal fees. When you speak with an expert injury lawyer, they’ll be able to let you know whether they think your café or coffee shop injury claim will be successful. But if you don’t end up getting any compensation, a no win no fee promise means that you won’t have to pay your solicitor’s legal fees.
With no win no fee, there are no upfront charges or hidden costs. If you do win your case, your personal injury solicitor will charge you a ‘success fee’ as a percentage of the compensation you receive, but this will only take up a maximum of 25% – so you’ll still get to keep most of it. The exact percentage will be agreed before an injury solicitor takes on your case.
The common types of accidents involving visitors to coffee shops and cafés are slips and trips – which is no big surprise given the fast turnover of food and drink involved in these typically enclosed spaces.
Coffee shops can be busy places with staff milling around and customers regularly arriving and leaving. Ensuring the café is kept safe at all times can be difficult but that does not allow the management to enable an unsafe environment to arise. By their very nature, cafés tend to be more crowded environments with relatively little room between tables and chairs.
Spillages, whether coffee or greasy food, are an immediate slipping hazard. Items dropped or left on the floor can be a tripping risk as people move around. If glasses and crockery are dropped and smashed they can cause injuries.
And if insufficient care is taken by café or coffee shop staff, burns and scalds can be caused as hot drinks and food are transported from the kitchen area to the table.
It is uncommon for serious injuries to be sustained in cafés. By far the most common injuries are scalds and cuts and bruises. However, significant injury can happen if the individual hits their head or breaks a bone after slipping or falling over a hazard.
Food poisoning, such as salmonella or e-coli, is also an illness than could be directly linked to a particular café. Food that is out-of-date, or has not been cooked or prepared properly can cause serious illness and rightly lead to a personal injury claim against the café.
For those working in a coffee shop environment, the main injury risks are cuts and burns, electrical shock injuries and injuries involving the use of machinery. There is also, increasingly, the risk of repetitive strain injury from staff undertaking the same activity time and time again, such as ‘barista wrist’.
Cafés and coffee shops owe a legal duty of care to their customers and visitors under the Occupiers Liability Act 1957. If they breach their duty because they have been negligent or careless and someone is injured or falls ill as a direct result of their negligence, they will be held responsible for the suffering caused to the injured person.
This duty of care requires them to do all they reasonably can to ensure they run a safe environment for their customers, visitors and workers – an environment free from the risk of accident and injury.
A key part of this is the legal obligation to maintain effective safety policies and implementing appropriate measures to keep the risk of personal injury to a minimum.
Accidents and injury can never be completely avoided but cafés and coffee shops have a legal duty to assess the risks to visitors and employees, and ensure the café is fit for purpose and safe for its patrons and visitors, such as delivery people and other suppliers.
This may require the lighting in some areas to be improved, storage space to rearranged and counters to be cleared of crockery and other unnecessary items to minimise the risk to people ordering and paying for food. Food must be stored, handled and cooked correctly to minimise the risk of food poisoning.
The duty to ensure a safe environment is subject to reasonableness which means that the law recognises that it may not be possible for a spillage to be cleaned up immediately after it happens. But if it is not cleared within a reasonable time frame and an accident then happens, the café or coffee shop will be held liable. In the meantime, it would be reasonable for a warning notice to be placed around the area to warn of the risk before it is cleared.
Staff are expected to be properly trained and provided with supervision where appropriate, when serving hot drinks and food to minimise the risk of scalds and burns.
If you have been hurt while visiting a café or coffee shop, or when working at one, and it wasn’t your fault, you should make a personal injury claim. Even if you think you were to blame – and many people wrongly take the blame for their injuries – you must not assume you were. Always discuss it with a specialist legal adviser before deciding for yourself that you cannot make an injury claim.
To get your claim off the ground, you solicitor will need to gather as much evidence as possible so that they can build the case on your behalf. You should provide as much of the following as possible:
The first step is to get in contact with an expert legal adviser for free on 0800 234 6438 (or by submitting your name and phone number at the bottom of this page) to find out whether they think you can make a claim.
This depends on the nature and extent of your injuries and the wider impact on your life. Your claim will be made up what is known as ‘general damages’ and ‘special damages’.
General damages is the amount of compensation you can expect to receive to compensate you for your actual injuries, pain and suffering and is measured according to the nature of your injuries and how long it takes you to recover.
For example, minor injuries, such as cuts, that take up to three months to recover from may deserve compensation of up to £2,000 while an uncomplicated broken wrist could be compensated to the tune of £6,000.
Special damages means the amount you claim for your actual financial losses caused as a direct result of the accident. These commonly include:
It is important to take legal advice as soon as possible, and not delay. The law requires that personal injury claims must be started within three years, otherwise your claim may be ‘time barred’. However, most claims of this type are settled out of court and do not proceed to a full case in court.
Your personal injury lawyer will advise you on the merits of your claim and what evidence you need. For example, as part of your claim you will need to have expert medical evidence to support your claim but your lawyer will arrange this for you. You won’t need to worry about the cost of any medical report as it will be covered by your no win no fee agreement.
Nicola is a dual qualified journalist and non-practising solicitor. She is a legal journalist, editor and author with more than 20 years' experience writing about the law.
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