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Can You File a Burn Injury Claim Against a Restaurant?

In the United States, you are given the right to sue anyone for almost anything. However, it is the burden of the victim to prove not only that they suffered injuries, but that they were due to the negligence of another party. This can be difficult to do at a restaurant, because there is the expectation that your food will reach a certain temperature, especially with hotter items, such as soup or coffee.

A restaurant may argue comparative negligence, suggesting that you had something to do with your own accident, or they may indicate that there was a level of assumed risk. West Coast Trial Lawyers has experience in burn injury law and can get you a maximized settlement. Contact us now for a free consultation or if you have any questions about personal injury law and burn accident claims.

Customer vs Employee Burn Injury Cases

Pedestrian Deaths in Los Angeles


Perhaps one of the first and most famous burn cases in a restaurant is the 1992 lawsuit, Liebeck v McDonald’s Restaurants. The case detailed 79-year old Stella Liebeck who ordered a coffee through a drive-through. While adding sugar to the beverage, Liebeck spilled the hot liquid over her lap, thighs, buttocks, and groin area, receiving various third-degree burns. During her eight-day stay at the hospital, Liebeck lost 20 percent of her body weight and was left permanently disfigured and partially disabled.

While popular opinion proposed that Liebeck was to blame for her own injuries, the court system felt differently. Though McDonald’s was serving their coffee at the industry’s standard temperature, they had already collected over 700 reports of guests getting burned by their coffee and had done nothing to change that although reports spanned over a decade. Therefore, McDonald’s was proven negligent because they did not exercise a responsible duty of care to their customers.


Although many accidents can happen that will result in injury to a customer, a restaurant is generally more dangerous for its workers than its customers. In a fast-paced environment, such as a restaurant, an employee can come in contact with a hot plate or burning liquid. In most cases, employees are protected under workers’ compensation insurance.

An employer’s insurance policy should cover an employee’s illnesses and injuries. This program usually compensates the employee for injuries that occur while at work. Typically, injured employees do not sue their employers unless their employer was overtly negligent and the negligence directly led to the accident.

Available Damages

Accidents happen. If you were injured as a result of someone else’s negligence, you may be entitled to compensation for your losses. Below is a brief explanation of damages. Damages are a type of monetary award that is determined by a court of law to help compensate an aggrieved individual for any losses or injuries sustained as a result of someone’s negligence.

Economic Damages
Economic damages are intended to compensate a plaintiff for losses that a dollar amount can readily be attached to. Economic damages are calculated by determining the amount of out-of-pocket losses an aggrieved individual has or will expect to incur as a result of their injuries.

A few examples of economic losses include:

  • Loss of Earning Capacity
  • Medical Bills
  • Lost Wages

Non-Economic Damages
Non-economic damages are essentially intended to cover losses that are thought of as subjective and will not necessarily cover out-of-pocket losses. Non-economic damages may include compensation for:

  • Emotional Distress
  • Pain and Suffering
  • Loss of Enjoyment of Life

Punitive Damages
The third type of damages a California court may award are known as punitive damages. Punitive damages are intended as punishment and are only awarded when a defendant’s behavior is especially harmful. Punitive damages are relatively rare and in fact were only incorporated in 5 percent of all verdicts.

Furthermore, there is no real set standard for calculating and awarding punitive damages. Punitive damages are awarded at the court’s discretion and will vary depending on the specific circumstances of a case.

Limitations for Damages in California 
For the most part, there is no real cap on compensatory damages following a personal injury claim. This means that courts are able to award any amount they feel is appropriate and reasonable.

However, the only exception is regarding medical malpractice cases. In these cases, the limit for pain and suffering and other non-economic losses is $250,000.

West Coast Trial Lawyers Is Here to Help

If you have sustained injuries in the city of Los Angeles as a result of a burn accident, an attorney at West Coast Trial Lawyers can help you recover compensation for the losses you have suffered, including medical bills, property damage, lost wages, and pain and suffering.

Contact us at (213) 927-3700 or email [email protected] to schedule a free consultation with our experienced, caring, and compassionate legal team.


If you have been injured in an accident, you can count on the legal team at West Coast Trial Lawyers to fight for your rights every step of the way. Contact us today to schedule your free case evaluation with a personal injury attorney.
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