Injury Claims for Chair Accidents at Restaurants and Other Businesses

Get the compensation you deserve for injuries caused by a broken or defective chair. Here’s what you need to know to build a strong chair injury claim.

Each year, thousands of adults end up in emergency rooms after serious chair accidents. People fall when chairs collapse, fingers are severed by chairs with jagged edges, and hands get crushed between seats and their bases.

Additionally, more than 18,000 children are injured each year in high-chair accidents, often caused by an unstable chair tipping as the child attempts to climb on or off the chair. ¹

Whether you and your family are at a restaurant, barber shop, casino, or any other public establishment, you have a right to expect safe seating.

Where Chair Injuries Happen

Chair accidents and injuries happen in restaurants every day, both at nationwide chain restaurants and small “mom and pop” eateries. Chair accidents are somewhat less likely in national chain restaurants due to strict quality control policies.

Most chains closely regulate the purchase and maintenance of customer chairs. Managers in these restaurants are trained to regularly inspect tables, bar stools, chairs, cutlery, and other items which might injure a patron. Broken items will either be repaired or discarded.

Privately owned restaurants are less likely to have the same rigid inspection and maintenance policies as a corporate-run establishment, so chairs may not be replaced until they break.

Unfortunately, chair accidents happen at every kind of restaurant, resulting in painful and expensive injuries.

Common Injuries from Broken Chairs

Defective or broken chairs injure customers of all ages. Chair injuries may be mild and temporary, or severe and permanent, such as:

  • Pinched fingers and hands
  • Amputated fingers or hands
  • Head, face and scalp injuries
  • Broken bones in the arms, wrist, and shoulders
  • Neck injuries, including whiplash injuries
  • Spinal injuries, including herniated discs and fractured tailbones

Case Summary: Serious Neck Injuries from Broken Chair  

In March 2012, Karen Metalonis was dining in a Ruby Tuesday restaurant when another patron picked up a dining room chair that began to fall apart. The seat cushion detached from the broken chair, striking Metalonis in the head.

Metalonis suffered a neck injury that required surgical and medical treatment.

The attorney for Metalonis filed a lawsuit against the restaurant alleging the restaurant and the server were negligent because “they knew the chair was broken and yet still allowed it to remain in use on the dining room floor of the premises.”

Despite the efforts of the Ruby Tuesday defense team, who were successful in keeping the restaurant’s incident report out of evidence, the jury found in favor of Melatonis.

Karen Melatonis was awarded a total of $340,000 that included an award of $40,000 for pain and suffering.

Chair accidents also occur in beauty salons, arcades, casinos, movie theaters, public libraries, bars and nightclubs, and many more businesses. Any of these businesses can be held responsible for paying for a patron’s injuries when a chair breaks.

No matter how much attention is paid to make sure chairs are safe, there are occasions when chairs will break or otherwise malfunction. A screw may loosen, or a chair leg may develop a hairline fracture. A nail may begin to protrude, or a seat may break away from its base.

Who’s legally responsible for hazards like these?

Proving Liability for Chair Injuries

Restaurants, casinos, clubs, and other commercial establishments are not automatically to blame if a patron is injured in a chair accident. When it comes to injuries that happen in a restaurant or other type of business, it helps to understand some terms used by insurance companies and attorneys.

Important legal terms:

Premises liability is the body of law which makes the person or company in possession of property responsible for injuries suffered by individuals on the property.

Duty of Care is the obligation of a person or business to avoid causing harm to others.

Negligence is when a person or company does something wrong or fails to do what a reasonable person would do to prevent harm to others.

Liability means the negligent party is responsible for the injured person’s damages.

Damages are the personal and financial losses suffered by the injured person.

To win an injury claim or lawsuit for a commercial chair injury, you’ll need to show:

  1. The business knew or should have known the chair was in disrepair or otherwise defective.
  2. The business negligently failed to repair or remove the chair.
  3. Their failure to repair or remove the chair was a breach of their duty to keep customers safe.
  4. That negligence was the direct and proximate cause of the patron’s injury.
  5. Your injuries resulted in real damages, such as medical bills, lost wages, and pain and suffering.

When You Share the Blame

Although you have every right to seek compensation for traumatic chair injuries, your compensation may be reduced or denied if you share some of the blame for the circumstances that caused your injuries.

The insurance company will always look for a reason to put the blame on you.

Contributory Negligence rules are used in Alabama, Maryland, North Carolina, Virginia, and the District of Columbia. If the insurance company can put as little as one percent of the blame on you, they will use a pure contributory negligence argument to deny your claim.

Comparative Negligence is the rule in most states. Under comparative fault rules, you have the right to pursue an injury claim even if you truly are partly to blame for your injuries.

The amount of compensation you can get is reduced according to your share of the blame. In modified comparative fault states, your claim may be denied if you are equally to blame (called the 50% rule) or more to blame (called the 51% rule) for the circumstances leading to your chair injuries.

Don’t take “No” for an answer. If you don’t agree with the insurance company’s decision, contact a personal injury attorney to discuss your claim.

What to Do After a Chair Accident

To win a personal injury claim based on a chair accident, you must collect as much evidence as possible. Building a strong injury claim begins at the scene of the accident:

Notify management: When you’ve been injured, even if you landed on the floor, don’t drag yourself up and leave from embarrassment. If you are unable to call for a manager, ask a friend or another customer to do it.

It’s important for management to know immediately of your injury and its cause. If your injury is serious, ask someone to call 911.

Prompt medical attention: Never refuse or delay medical care after a traumatic chair injury. If an ambulance is called, let the paramedics treat you. If you aren’t taken directly to the hospital, you must have a medical evaluation of your injuries as soon as possible.

Your injury claim can be sunk by a delay in medical treatment. The insurance company will argue your injuries happened later and aren’t related to the chair accident.

Photographs and videos: Photographs are crucial to most personal injury cases. Use the camera on your cell phone to capture the scene and your injuries. Take multiple photographs of the chair itself, the part of the chair which caused your injuries, and the surrounding area. Take photographs of chairs next to yours for comparison purposes.

You can use the video function on your phone to record statements made by the servers, the manager, and even the busser.

Hopefully, one or more of them will make an “admission against interest” which is a statement made by an employee admitting the chair was faulty, or that it had previously caused an injury.

Witness statements: Witness statements made by people who saw how the chair injured you can be very helpful to your case.

Independent witnesses, other than your family and friends, are good because the independent witness has no personal interest in the outcome of your claim. Try to get the contact information of witnesses at the scene. If they are willing to write down what they saw and heard, have them sign and date their written statement.

What you’re hoping to find is a witness who had some knowledge about previous negative experiences with the restaurant, particularly regarding broken chairs, chairs with screws sticking out, seats which came apart, or anything else involving patron injuries.

Medical records and bills: Simply falling off a broken chair, or being scratched by a protruding screw, is not enough to win a personal injury claim. You must have a verifiable injury resulting in medical bills. If you don’t have proof of medical treatment, winning a claim will be difficult.

Pain and suffering alone are usually not enough to win a claim unless your injury required medical attention. Gather copies of your medical records and bills, receipts, copies of invoices, and other proof of payment for medical treatment related to your injury.

Lost wages: If you lost time from work because of the chair injury, you’ll need a written statement of lost wages from your employer. Be sure the statement includes lost opportunities for overtime, and any vacation or sick leave you had to use.

Maximizing Your Compensation

If you’ve fully recovered from relatively minor injuries like scratches, bruises, small cuts, or sprained muscles, you can probably negotiate a fair settlement directly with the insurance company, without hiring an attorney.

You can calculate a fair settlement amount by totaling the cost of your medical bills, out-of-pocket expenses, and any lost wages. Add one or two times that amount for pain and suffering.

Send your demand in writing with copies of your medical bills and records, receipts, and other evidence.

We’ve made it easy for you with a sample Personal Injury Demand Letter.

If you’ve suffered severe injuries because of a faulty chair, you’ll need the help of an experienced personal injury attorney to get the full amount of compensation you deserve from the business owner or their insurance company.

Insurance companies are notorious for offering lower settlements to claimants who aren’t represented by an attorney. They may even try to blame you for contributing to the accident, especially if alcohol was being served.

Don’t settle for less. It costs nothing to find out what a skilled personal injury attorney can do for you.

Chair Accident Claim Questions & Answers

Charles R. Gueli, Esq. is a personal injury attorney with over 20 years of legal experience. He’s admitted to the NY State Bar, and been named a Super Lawyer for the NY Metro area, an exclusive honor awarded to the top five percent of attorneys. Charles has worked extensively in the areas of auto accidents,... Read More >>