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Drive Through Coffee Accident Attorney


Did you or your family member sustain a burn injury due to a drive through coffee accident at Starbucks, Dunkin’, McDonald’s, or any other restaurant? These injuries can have life-threatening complications, so it’s essential to seek medical treatment right away. In addition, please learn about your rights and legal options by contacting our office.

Many people are reluctant to go to a lawyer because they’ve heard about the infamous 1992 “McDonald’s hot coffee” incident. The victim, Stella Liebeck, became the butt of jokes for many years, as well as the poster child for frivolous lawsuits. However, the truth behind Liebeck’s injuries finally came to light in a 2011 documentary titled Hot Coffee. During the trial, it was revealed that McDonald’s deliberately served coffee at overly hot temperatures – around 190 degrees Fahrenheit – because it would take people much longer to drink it. This means there are fewer requests for refills, which saves McDonald’s a considerable amount of money every year. Let’s just say this explanation did not go over well with the jury, who awarded Liebeck $2.7 million in punitive damages.

After Liebeck’s victory over McDonald’s, you would think that coffee chains and restaurants are more willing to admit fault and make restitution when someone is injured on their premises. Unfortunately, this is not the case, and many victims end up with denied injury claims or inadequate settlement offers. We are here to protect you and bring you the compensation you deserve. Contact DTLA Law Group and speak to a drive through coffee accident attorney.

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Can I Sue for a Drive Through Coffee Accident?

Yes, you can sue the restaurant if an act of negligence caused you to be injured by coffee or another hot drink. By negligence, we are referring to the business’ failure to use reasonable care in order to prevent injuries to another party. Generally, there are certain precautions that servers have to take when they are working the drive through. These include, but are not limited to:

  • Making sure that lids are secure on the cups.
  • Using a cup sleeve to keep the customer’s fingers / hands from getting too hot, which can cause them to drop the cup and sustain a burn injury.
  • Placing cups securely inside a carrier so they don’t fall out or tip over as they’re being handed to a customer.
  • Not letting go of the drink cup or carrier until the customer has a firm grasp on it.
  • Safety warnings on cups / carriers, for example: “Caution: Contents Hot.”

Drive through servers can fail in their duty of care for a number of reasons. In most cases, they’re rushing to get orders out, which is common during the morning hours. Poor training can also contribute to a drive through accident, which is extremely important at places like Starbucks, where you can order the coffee “extra hot.” This means the coffee is heated to around 190 degrees F, when the standard temperature is about 150 to 170 degrees. People ask for this option if they’re not going to drink the coffee right away (for example, if they’re bringing it to someone).

Now, one can argue that the customer placed the order, so they’re responsible for making sure that they don’t spill it on themselves. However, a coffee chain that offers this option must ensure that they are taking all the necessary precautions to keep people from getting burned. Furthermore, California is a pure comparative negligence state, meaning a victim can sue even if they are partially responsible for the accident. Basically, each party is assigned a percentage of fault, which is used to determine what the victim is entitled to. Thus, you can still receive compensation from the restaurant, as long as there were actions they could have taken to prevent your accident.

As you can see, there are many elements that dictate liability in a drive through accident and your right to take legal action against the restaurant. That’s why you should speak with an attorney right away to discuss the legal options that are available to you.

How Serious is a Hot Coffee Burn Injury?

Burn injuries are not uncommon, and thankfully, most of them are minor injuries that heal over time. However, having a hot drink spilled on you can cause severe bodily harm. To understand the serious nature of a drive through coffee accident, let’s go over the categories of burns you can sustain:

  • First degree burn – These affect the outer layer of your skin, known as the epidermis. The site of injury will be red, dry, and painful, but you should not have any blisters. In some cases, there will be long-term skin damage, which will manifest as lightening or darkening of the skin.

  • Second degree burn – Also known as partial thickness burns, these injuries go below the epidermis and into the dermis, or lower layer of skin. Blistering is common with these wounds, along with redness, swelling, and severe pain.

  • Third degree burn – With third degree burns, both the epidermis and dermis are destroyed. The injury can penetrate the subcutaneous tissue, of the innermost layer of your skin, which will cause the burn site to look blackened and charred or completely white.

  • Fourth degree burn – These are the most serious burns, as they go all the way into the muscle and bone. Since the nerve endings are destroyed, you will have no feeling in the area where you were burned.

Depending on the extent of your injuries, a variety of treatments may be needed, such as antibiotics, surgery, tetanus shot, skin grafts, and plastic surgery. The cost of treatment and the recovery period afterwards can be very costly; some injuries can even cause permanent disability. Maximum compensation from a burn injury lawsuit is the best way to protect your finances, as well as your physical and mental health.

Losses you can Recover from a Hot Coffee Lawsuit

As the victim of a drive through hot coffee injury, there are several forms of compensation we can recover on your behalf. Injury claims filed by our attorneys typically include the following:

  • Medical expenses
  • Lost wages / lost earning potential
  • Pain and suffering
  • Emotional distress
  • Property damage
  • Attorney’s fees

At the beginning of this article, we mentioned punitive damages, which were awarded to Stella Liebeck for the burns she sustained from a drive through coffee order at McDonald’s. Punitive damages are not something you ask for as a victim. Rather, they are an additional sum of money that’s awarded by the court as punishment for a defendant’s outrageous or exceptionally harmful conduct. In the Liebeck case, McDonald’s admitted that they purposely served their coffee at dangerously high temperatures in order to reduce the number of refill requests.

As you can see, medical expenses are not the only losses you can recover if negligence by a restaurant caused you harm and suffering. During a free case review, we can explain all the damages you are entitled to and our methods for bringing you maximum payment from a drive through accident lawsuit.

Average Case Value of a Drive Through Coffee Accident

Due to the variations in burn injuries and how they impact a victim’s life, there’s no way to quote an average case value for a drive through coffee accident. But we can give you a range of values that are based on the degree of burn you sustained. First degree burns, which are the least serious injuries, may be worth around $10,000 or less, unless the victim is expected to have long-term complications. The site of injury is important as well – burns to the face, for example, may cause scarring and discoloration, which can increase the value of your case.

However, the vast majority of drive through coffee accidents cause serious burns – second to third degree – which means the damage goes deeper than the upper layer of your skin. Permanent scarring is definitely possible, along with skin discoloration and nerve damage. These cases are worth $25,000 to $75,000 on the lower end, and between $100,000 to several million dollars on the higher end.

The variations in case values goes to show how each accident is different, with its own set of circumstances. To learn what you can potentially receive from a drive through coffee injury lawsuit, please schedule a free case review with one of our attorneys.

Deadline to File a Drive Through Injury Claim

All civil lawsuits in California have a statute of limitations, which is the amount of time that you are given to seek monetary damages from a negligent party. Usually, the SOL starts from the date of your accident, though exceptions can be made if your injury is not discovered right away. The discovery rule allows you to file a lawsuit within two years from the date that your injury is discovered. There are a few other circumstances where extra time may be granted, but these cases are extremely rare. Thus, it’s in your best interest to call our office right away. We will take immediate action on your claim and fight tirelessly to recover your settlement.

How long will it take to get Paid on my Case?

In some cases, a burn injury claim may be settled in just a few months. However, some cases can take up to several years due to a number of factors, such as the extent of the injury, the amount of losses suffered by the client, and the restaurant’s willingness to take responsibility for the accident. As you have probably figured out, these places will try to shave as much off your settlement as possible, so negotiating a payment can take anywhere from 6 to 18 months. If the defendant continues to lowball their offer or engages in other bad faith tactics, we will proceed with a lawsuit to protect your right to compensation. Once that happens, it can take 2 years or longer to settle your case.

Speak to a Lawyer Experienced in Drive Through Burn Accidents

Here at Normandie, we are aware of the stress that injury victims are under when they are trying to recuperate from a burn injury. Legal advice is essential to the recovery process, which is why we offer free legal services to our clients. When you choose one of our attorneys, you are protected under the Zero fee guarantee. That means you pay nothing upfront, nor will you pay us a single penny unless we win your case. At that point, our fees are paid by the coffee chain or restaurant that has wronged you.

You can also turn to us if you need a second opinion on an existing injury claim. It’s your right to speak with another lawyer if you’re not sure about your attorney’s recommendations. You may also be unhappy with the quality of service from your current lawyer and wish to transfer your case to another law firm. We are happy to offer advice on any issue that is troubling you, so don’t hesitate to call us for a free second opinion. If you decide to continue your case with us, you are covered under the Zero fee guarantee, which means we don’t get paid unless you get paid.

A burn accident injury lawyer is ready to assist you, so contact us right away for a free case evaluation.


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