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Paul Benson April 1, 2021

When a restaurant is open for business, it invites customers to enter the premises. As a customer, you expect the premises to be safe. In fact, Wisconsin businesses have a legal duty to maintain their premises in a manner that keeps their customers safe.

Despite your expectations and the business’s legal obligation to keep you safe, many people are injured due to unsafe conditions while patronizing Wisconsin restaurants. If you are one of them, you may be able to file a personal injury claim against the business and its insurers to recover compensation for your injuries.  

At The Paul Benson Law Firm, I help clients injured while patronizing restaurants in Janesville, Beloit, and Rock County Wisconsin. When businesses breach the duty of care they owe their patrons under the law, I help those clients pursue their rightful compensation.

Premises Liability

Premises liability is a property owner or business owner’s negligence in maintaining their property in a manner that ensures the safety of its invitees. Businesses owe their customers a duty of care by properly inspecting and maintaining the property to minimize danger. Following are two examples in which restaurants failed to uphold their legal duty:

  • A customer slips and falls on a wet substance on the floor and suffers injuries requiring medical attention. The substance had been there long enough for employees to walk by it and they failed to either place cones or warning signs around the hazard or to clean up the spilled substance to make the walkway safe.

  • A customer standing at a counter to place an order is struck and injured by a falling sign above the counter that should have been safely secured.

Wisconsin Safe Place Law

Wisconsin Statute 101.11 is known as the “Safe Place Law.” It governs a business’s duty to maintain safe conditions for employees and customers.

The statute specifies that a property owner or business owner must use safety devices and safeguards, adopt methods and processes, and take all other reasonable and necessary steps to ensure the “life, health, safety, and welfare” of employees and patrons. This duty is nondelegable, meaning it cannot be handed off to someone else.

The law also states that employees and customers may not move or otherwise interfere with the safeguards the business uses to ensure safety.

Filing a Personal Injury Claim

The statute of limitations for a personal injury claim against a Wisconsin restaurant is three years from the date of the injury. This means you have three years from the date of the incident to either settle a claim or file a lawsuit.

To pursue a claim, you must prove that the restaurant was negligent, the negligence created an unsafe condition that the restaurant knew or should have known about, and that your injuries were caused by that unsafe condition.

Wisconsin law follows a modified comparative negligence rule in personal injury claims, which means you may not pursue a claim against a restaurant if you are determined to have been 51% or more at fault for the incident that caused your injuries. You can be held at fault for a lower percentage and pursue a claim, but the amount you are awarded will be reduced by your percentage of fault.

For example, it has been raining steadily for hours and you run from the parking lot into the restaurant and slip and fall while running through the front doors and injure yourself. The restaurant has a duty to maintain safe conditions at its entrance, but because it has been raining and you are moving too fast, you share some of the blame for your fall.

If you are assigned 20% of the blame and are awarded $50,000 in damages, you would receive $40,000. The $10,000 reduction reflects your share of liability for the slip and fall.

Call a Skilled Wisconsin Premises Liability Attorney

Premises liability cases are difficult to prove. Evidence can include everything from policies and procedures or employee and witness statements to video surveillance, weather conditions, and more. It can be quite complicated to substantiate a personal injury claim.

Hiring an experienced personal injury attorney who has successfully litigated premises liability claims offers you the best opportunity to pursue a claim. The restaurant’s insurance company and their attorneys will do everything they can to deny your claim. You need an attorney who will stand up to them.

At The Paul Benson Law Firm, I have been an aggressive, thoughtful, and experienced advocate for hundreds of personal injury clients in Janesville, Beloit, and Rock County Wisconsin. If you have been injured at a Wisconsin restaurant, call my office today to schedule a free case consultation.