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Fast Food Leads to Death

I’m David Holub, an attorney focusing on personal injury law in northwest Indiana.

Welcome to Personal Injury Primer, where we break down the law into simple terms, provide legal tips, and discuss personal injury law topics.

Today’s podcast is inspired by a report of a McDonald’s customer killed in what police labeled a “freak accident”.

It happened while the customer was at the drive-thru window of a Vancouver McDonalds. Police stated the man opened his door to get something he dropped from his window while paying the restaurant employee.

As he opened the door and leaned out, the car rolled forward, the door hit part of the restaurant and the man was pinned between the car door and the window frame. The customer died on scene.

You might be thinking this is an isolated incident but it’s not. In 2018, almost the same scenario played out at a Jack In The Box in St. Louis. A motorist opened his door while at the drive-thru and while attempting to retrieve the food, he accidently accelerated and hit a tree. He did not survive.

Opening car doors while in a drive-thru is never a good idea. Sadly, it happens more frequently than reported. Even could happen at a drive-thru bank, or at a toll booth.

The ultimate question when this happens is, “who is responsible?” Is it the drive-thru business owner? The customer? Someone else?

Well, it depends. The answer is not always clear cut.

Typically, accidents that result while in a drive-thru are caused by the negligence of another driver (example: a rear-end collision or side collision if the drive-thru has multiple lanes). And in those cases, the collision causing vehicle owner and his or her auto insurance would be legally liable.

Now in regard to the aforementioned deaths as a result of opening of a door at the drive-thru can the restaurant be held liable? Perhaps.

Most restaurants that offer drive-up service very rarely have signage informing or reminding customers not to open their doors while in the drive-thru. Or why it’s important to keep a certain distance between cars. Nor do the drivers get reminded to stay in their cars from the order attendant. And if no warnings are given the restaurant could be held responsible. Or worse yet, if the attendant prompts or encourages the driver to put themselves in a dangerous position, liability could be clear.

Signs are important. Signs warn drivers on our highways of potential dangers constantly. For example, everyone is familiar with the following warning signs:

  • Traffic Signal Ahead
  • Stop Ahead
  • Left Turn Ahead
  • Sharp Curve
  • No Passing Zone
  • School Zone
  • Deer Crossing

And yet, when a driver pulls into a restaurant drive-thru he/she might only see…

  • Enter Here
  • Drive-Thru Open

Such signs convey a message, but they do not warn of a danger.

Even simple warnings like the below warnings could save a life:

  • Stay in vehicle
  • Put vehicle in Park when at attendant window

Without proper signage to remind drivers what is expected their turn into fast food drive-thru lane could lead to death.

I hope you found this information helpful. If you are a victim of someone’s carelessness, substandard medical care, a product defect, work injury, or another personal injury, please call (219) 736-9700 with your questions. You can also learn more about us by visiting our website at DavidHolubLaw.com – while there, make sure you request a copy of our book “Fighting for Truth.”