Businesses’ Initial Reactions to Personal Injuries Can Mean a Lot

When someone is injured on a premise, there can often be two components to an injury claim. The first is, of course, the event that caused the injury. The second is the property owner’s reaction to the injury, which can often exacerbate or make an injury worse.

Hot Coffee at a Fast Food Restaurant
Such was the case at a San Francisco fast food establishment, In-N-Out Burger, where a woman was scalded by searing hot coffee. Much like the infamous McDonald’s “hot coffee” case, the victim spilled coffee on her lap, which was so hot that she couldn’t hold the cup. That was the injury.

But the injury was compounded by the fact that the restaurant employees allegedly refused to call 911, despite the victim’s screams, saying that doing so was somehow “against policy,” a claim the company now denies. The employees did kindly hand her ice (ignoring the fact that ice on a burn can make it worse) and politely asked that she drive forward so other customers could continue to be served.

The Aftermath Matters

It’s unknown whether that the failure to call 911 contributed to, or made the burn injury worse. The victim’s injuries were likely caused entirely by the scalding hot coffee. But just because the insensitive reaction to her injuries may not have a legal significance, they may have a factual one.

Personal injury claims are tried by juries. Juries are people, with emotions and feelings and opinions on what proper conduct should and should not be. A jury hearing about a liable or negligent party refusing to aid a victim, or acting rude, callous, or insensitive, can mean a lot, and can often lead to a jury entering an award when it otherwise may not have.

Certainly, victims who are injured are occupied with more than remembering what is being said by witnesses around them. As a result, many times insensitive reactions to injury go unnoticed by victims. But sometimes victims can recall the unwillingness of a property owner to provide assistance, or remember hostile comments. That information can be powerful testimony.

The Decision to Sue

Many businesses underestimate how important an initial reaction is to an accident victim in deciding whether or not to sue. Often, accident victims will say that if a business had helped them at the scene, if the manager of the store had been nicer, if the company had paid for her medical treatment, or taken any other common sense and humanitarian action, the victim may have refrained from suing.

Many businesses fear that being kind and providing aid may somehow be used against them. They may fear that calling 911, or providing ice, or paying for a doctor visit, is somehow admitting liability. That’s a choice those businesses make, in their discretion. That decision can make a good claim into a very good one, and in some cases, may be so emotionally persuasive, that liable defendants may opt to make generous settlement offers to avoid a jury hearing about how they acted towards someone injured on their property.

Facts matter when you’re injured, and you want attorneys that can gather them and know how to use them. If you’re injured in Maryland, contact the attorneys of Brassel, Alexander & Rice, LLC today for a free consultation to discuss your rights.