Approximately 19 million people find themselves in a bar or nightclub every year. The combination of people and alcohol can be an accident waiting to happen, but sometimes the bar itself–or their employees–are to blame when someone is injured. Suing a bar for negligence involves several steps, but it is possible to hold someone accountable if you are injured in an accident on the premises. Let’s take a look at what it takes to file a bar negligence lawsuit.
A bar or nightclub is a business, and as such, is required to have liability insurance. The owners have a legal responsibility to make sure their patrons are safe while at their establishment.
When management does not provide a secure environment, and someone is injured, a lawsuit can be filed to seek compensation.
One of the key elements in suing for bar negligence is proving the management should have been able to foresee the problem.
Foreseeable just means a bar owner is aware of any situations that could cause injury to their customers. For example, if a drink is spilled on the floor, the bar has the duty to clean it up as soon as possible because they know that someone could easily slip and fall.
Another example of a foreseeable injury is uneven flooring or furniture, like a bar stool, that is damaged. If the bar owner is aware of a potential hazard and fails to fix it, they can be held liable for any damages or injuries that occur.
It isn’t just the bar itself that can cause a problem. The employees can also be the reason someone is injured. If a bar employee does not take appropriate action to keep a customer safe, the bar owner can still be found negligent.
When an employee notices any unsafe condition–wet floor, broken furniture/glass, etc.–they are required to report and/or fix the situation in a timely matter. Failing to do so holds the establishment liable for any resulting injuries.
A bouncer in a bar or nightclub is also an employee, but their role is different. If a bouncer becomes combative and actually pushes or aggressively touches a customer that results in an injury, this could be considered an assault.
In fact, the bouncer does not even have to touch the customer to be charged with assault. An assault charge can be applied if the person is in fear of imminent bodily harm or physical contact. A battery charge is applied if that contact is actually made.
The bouncer has no explicit right to have physical contact with a customer. If someone is being difficult to control, they are to ask that person to leave. If they refuse, the bouncer is to then call the police.
When they take it upon themselves to physically handle the situation by forcibly removing the patron and an injury results, the bouncer and the bar can be held responsible. The only time a bouncer, or another employee, is legally allowed to touch a patron is in self-defense or if that patron is committing a crime or assaulting another customer.
There is also the situation of negligent security. If it can be proven that the bar or nightclub did not exercise its due diligence in background checks, or if there is not sufficient security for the size of the venue, then that is also grounds for suing for bar negligence.
It is common for bouncers, and other employees, to not have the financial means to settle an injury claim, so the bar owner should also be named in the suit.
Proving Your Claim for a Bar Negligence Lawsuit
When filing a bar negligence lawsuit, make sure you are able to prove the bar or nightclub failed in their obligation to provide safe conditions. You will need to show how the actions or inactions of the establishment caused the injury. If someone who is drinking falls down on the dance floor, that was not caused by the bar or the employees. The injury had to be the result of a failure to maintain a safe environment.
You must also be able to prove damages. You will need documentation of the injury and all the bills associated with it. This would include medical bills, lost wages, and the replacement cost of any damaged belongings.
It is also a good idea to keep in mind your degree of responsibility for the incident. The bar owner and their lawyers will attempt to show that you may have been too intoxicated or acted in an aggressive or careless manner, which contributed to your damages. Even if you did not contribute to the incident, there are mistakes to avoid in making a personal injury claim.
Situations that Can Result in Injuries
In what situations can resulting the injuries be considered for a bar negligence lawsuit?
If you are injured as a result of a bar fight, you could have a claim. You don’t have to have been directly involved; perhaps you were hit with a flying object or broken glass.
When a venue is too crowded for code or does not have enough security, and an injury occurs, management can be found liable. If you slipped and fell on a wet floor, or one covered with peanut shells, your resulting injuries could also qualify for this type of claim. In addition, injuries resulting from a fall due to poor lighting falls under this category.
Further, any cuts, abrasions, or puncture wounds resulting from sitting or leaning on broken or unstable furniture–and even food poisoning–can be considered for a bar negligence lawsuit.
Also, under dram shop law, any establishment that serves alcohol has the duty to refuse to serve or stop serving an individual who is already visibly intoxicated. If a bar continues to serve someone who is intoxicated and any damage or injury results from that person’s actions, the bar owner can be held responsible.
As soon as you realize you are injured and believe the bar or one of the employees is responsible, you need to immediately begin collecting evidence for a pending lawsuit.
The first thing you should do is report the incident to the bar owner or manager on duty. Explain what happened and what your injuries are. If you were assaulted by either a bouncer or another customer, ask to have the police come and make a report.
Write down the contact information for the owner of the bar and also the person you talked to. You should also ask for their insurance company information so that you can follow up and confirm they made a report.
If you need immediate medical attention have someone call 911. Even if your injuries do not appear to be serious, you should still have the injuries and their apparent cause noted by the doctor.
You also make sure that photos are taken of the scene. If you are able to take them, try to get as much evidence included as possible. Have someone else take them if you are unable to.
The Next Step
A night out on the town is supposed to fun and memorable. When your evening is cut short by an injury due to the negligence of the bar or nightclub you are visiting, you may be entitled to compensation.
For more information on pursuing a bar negligence lawsuit or if you have any other legal questions; please reach out. Our experienced team is here to help.