Hotel Liability in Personal Injury Claims
By Lynn Fugaro, Staff Writer
As spring break for students all across the country winds down, hotel staffs are dealing with the aftermath of partygoers enjoying sun, sand, surf, and shenanigans in hotel rooms, on balconies, in pools, and on beaches. With summer break right around the corner, families are Googling “best vacation spots,” “best travel destinations,” “best beaches,” and “best family fun” hoping to find great deals for the long-awaited summer vacation.
But what happens when spring and summer fun results in some type of serious injury in a hotel room, parking garage, swimming pool, restaurant, or lobby? If you’ve been injured in a hotel, the hotel, itself, may be liable for the losses you’ve incurred as a result of that injury. If a loved one has died in a hotel, an experienced personal injury attorney who handles these tough cases can tell you whether or not the death would be considered a “wrongful death.”
Hotel Liability Scenarios
While there are a whole host of scenarios under which a hotel may be liable for someone’s injury, there are basically two ways a hotel can be held legally responsible for a personal injury or death: First, hotels can be held liable for injuries to guests, and second, hotels can be held responsible for negligent (or criminal) acts of hotel employees.
Injuries to Guests
To prove a hotel was negligent, you must prove the hotel breached a duty owed to someone injured on the premises, and that the breach of duty caused said injury. A hotel has a duty to exercise reasonable care in operating its business and protecting guests. Under premises liability law, a hotel guest is considered an “invitee” and is entitled to protection by the hotel. The most common hotel “duties” include keeping a clean, safe environment for guests; controlling insect infestation; maintaining proper security; exercising reasonable care when hiring hotel staff; maintaining locks on hotel room doors; and maintaining stairs, elevators, and other structures within the hotel.
A hotel may be guilty of breaching its duty to guests when it does not inspect the premises on a routine basis, fails to warn guests of dangerous conditions on the premises, or fails to keep the premises safe. Also, in order for negligence to occur, the hotel must have caused the person’s injury. If a guest slips on spilled juice in their own individual room, they may not be able to sue the hotel for negligence, but if the guest was walking through a restaurant in the hotel and slipped on water that had been spilled and not cleaned up, the hotel would most likely be liable for any injury sustained.
Negligent or Criminal Actions of Staff
Under a legal theory known as "vicarious liability," a hotel may be liable for the harmful actions of employees, but the hotel’s liability depends on whether the employee’s actions were performed “within the scope of employment.” The hotel may be liable for a staff member’s actions even if it didn’t sanction the conduct, was unaware of the incident, or didn’t have direct control or supervision over the employee when the incident occurred. For instance, if an employee attacks a guest after work but while still on hotel property, the hotel would most likely be liable for injuries the victim suffers.
Most Common Hotel Injuries
Any number of injuries may occur in a hotel, but some are more common than others:
- Slip and falls; trip and falls
- Food poisoning
- Staircase or stairwell incidents
- Elevator/escalator accidents
- Insect infestations
- Criminal attacks
If the hotel was negligent, you may be able to collect compensation to cover:
- Past and future medical bills
- Loss of wages
- Loss of future earning capacity
- Physical pain and suffering
- Any other expenses resulting from the accident
If you’ve suffered an injury in a hotel through no fault of your own, please contact a personal injury attorney in your area today to schedule a no-cost consultation.