Hotel Accidents and Injury Claims: How to Seek Compensation

Is hotel management responsible for your injuries? Find out how to get the compensation you deserve for injuries at a hotel or resort.

Hotels are an oasis. We stay at hotels during vacations, when visiting friends and family, for business travel, and just to get away for a weekend.

Travelers have access to over 5 million rooms in more than 52,000 hotels throughout the United States.¹ Most hotel owners and staff try to create a pleasurable experience for all their guests.

While guests usually have a wonderful stay at their favorite hotel, accidents can happen any time.

Hotel owners are responsible for your injuries if you’re hurt because of their negligence. You have the right to expect fair injury compensation from the hotel or their insurance company.

Common Hotel Accidents and Injuries

Paying hotel guests expect to enjoy a safe and clean environment in their rooms and other areas of the facility. Unfortunately, that’s not always the case. Some of the most common causes of hotel injuries are:

Slip and fall accidents: Broken bones, head injuries, and severe sprains are often the result of slip and fall accidents in hotels. Worn carpeting, uneven flooring, icy walks, spilled beverages, and a variety of other hazards can cause a guest to stumble and fall.

Broken furniture: Many hotels save money by making in-house repairs to furniture, which breaks down from overuse. Some furniture is just too old. It’s only a matter of time before a customer’s weight is enough to make a chair collapse with the guest in it, resulting in injury.

Swimming pools: Most hotels aren’t required to have lifeguards on duty. However, the hotel is required to post warnings and rules, and to keep the pool, locker room, and jacuzzi areas clean and safe. Safety includes diligent pool and tub management to ensure proper temperatures and chemical balance.

Food poisoning: Hotels with restaurants and food service must maintain high food safety standards. Unsanitary kitchen conditions, employees with unclean hands, and improper food handling can all lead to serious foodborne illnesses.

Bed bugs: Bed bugs are very small insects that can infest hotel mattresses, pillows, furniture, and even light switches. They are hard to see and very difficult to eradicate. Contact with bedbugs can cause itching and other skin irritation, infections and sometimes severe allergic reactions. The guest can unwittingly carry them home in clothes and suitcases.

Burns: Guests may be scalded by extremely hot tap water from showers or sinks. Guests may also suffer burns from defective in-room appliances like irons, coffee makers, and hair dryers.

Criminal activity: The hotel must take reasonable steps to ensure guest safety. The hotel may be responsible for assault, robbery or theft when the hotel failed to provide adequate security or lighting, failed to maintain door locks and windows to prevent unauthorized entry, or was otherwise negligent.

Injured guests may also be eligible for Crime Victim’s Services in the area.

Your Legal Rights in a Hotel

Your rights to safety and security at a hotel aren’t limited to your room. The hotel’s obligation to protect guests extends to private and common areas including:

  • Shuttle bus
  • Parking lot
  • Meeting and banquet halls
  • Swimming pools
  • Public restrooms
  • Restaurants
  • Fitness areas

Laws can vary from state-to-state, but wherever you’re staying, the hotel always has an obligation to take reasonable steps to make their premises safe and to prevent foreseeable accidents. The rules may be different if you suffer a personal injury while abroad.

Reasonable means common-sense. Reasonable steps are actions the average sensible adult would take, like mopping up a spill.

A foreseeable accident is one that a sensible hotel manager knows or should know could happen under the circumstances. After an overnight ice storm, the manager knows the hotel sidewalks will be slippery if left untreated.

When you’re trying to figure out if the hotel is liable for your injury, it helps to understand some terms used by insurance companies and lawyers:

Duty of Care means the obligation to be careful and avoid causing harm to others.

Negligence happens when hotel management, or an employee, fails to act responsibly or does something no reasonable person would do.

Liability means responsibility. The negligent hotel owner is usually liable for the injured guest’s damages.

Damages for personal injuries include medical costs, out-of-pocket medical expenses, lost wages, and pain and suffering. Property damages can include the replacement cost of ruined or lost clothes, jewelry, luggage, or other items.

Although a hotel has a legal duty of care to protect you from harm, it doesn’t extend to all harm. The duty is to protect you from harm that could reasonably happen.

Icy walkways are a foreseeable danger for guests falling and getting injured. If the manager fails to have the walkways treated promptly, the failure is a breach of the hotel’s duty of care. If a guest is injured by falling on the ice, the hotel is responsible.

On the other hand, when the hotel has taken reasonable steps to clear the walkways, and an intoxicated guest falls and cracks his skull on his way to the entrance, the hotel will likely not be liable. The hotel cannot foresee or prevent the arrival of an intoxicated guest.

Hotel management must protect guests from reasonably foreseeable incidents that might harm them. It isn’t reasonable to have to protect a guest from injuries caused by the guest’s voluntary intoxication.

How to Prove Your Injury Claim

What happens when the hotel breaches its duty of care and you’re injured? The insurance company won’t just write you a settlement check. Before you can succeed in a personal injury claim against the hotel, you’ll have to prove the hotel is liable for your injuries.

In legal jargon, that means you have the burden of proof. It’s up to you, or your attorney, to gather enough evidence to show:

  1. The hotel had a duty of care to protect you from harm.
  2. The hotel breached its duty by permitting you to be injured.
  3. Your injury resulted in specific and identifiable damages.

Begin collecting valuable evidence from the moment you’re injured:

Ask for the manager: You’ve heard the expression “Time is of the essence.” When it comes to hotel injuries, this is especially true. As soon as possible, you must link your injury to the event that caused it. The more time that passes before reporting your injury, the harder it will be to build a believable claim.

For example, if you are cut by a protruding nail in your room, you should call the manager before you leave the room. Unless you’re very seriously injured, don’t leave your room until the manager arrives.

Write down the manager’s name, title and contact information. Ask for the name and phone number for the hotel’s insurance company, and tell the manager you’d like a copy of the incident report written about your injury.

Rather than give you the insurance company information, you may be told that someone from the hotel’s corporate office will be in touch with you.

Prompt medical attention: If your injuries are serious, ask someone to call 911. If you aren’t taken by ambulance to the emergency room, you’ll need to have a medical evaluation right away. If you’re away from your primary care providers, ask hotel management to help you get to the nearest emergency room or urgent care center.

Refusing or delaying medical treatment can seriously undermine your injury claim. Wherever you are treated, be sure to tell the medical provider when, where, and how you were injured.

Talk to witnesses: Witness statements are building blocks in your injury claim. The more you have, the stronger your claim will be. Family and friend witness statements are helpful, although independent witness statements are best. Independent witnesses have no personal or financial interest in your claim, so the insurance company gives more weight to their testimony.

Example: Witness to Swimming Pool Accident

Let’s say you were out by the hotel pool. When you stepped down into the shallow end, your heel caught on something, and you fell, striking your head on the pool’s edge. Another guest happened to be sunning in a nearby chair. When she saw you go down, she jumped from her chair to help you out of the pool.

When you and the witness looked to see what caused you to fall, you both realized there was a step under the water, but because it had no marking or tread, it was virtually invisible beneath the water.

In this situation, ask the witness to write down what happened, including her discovery of the “invisible step.” Make sure she clearly explains how she saw you fall and hit your head on the side of the pool. Remember to have her sign and date her statement.

Take pictures and video: Use your smartphone or another device to photograph and video the cause of your injury and the injury itself. The audio can record witness statements, employee admissions, and your version of the events leading to your injury.

Example: Capturing Video Evidence

In this scenario, while sitting down at the desk in your hotel room the chair beneath gave way. You fall to the floor injuring your back. After you call the manager, take out your cell phone and photograph the broken chair. Use the video function to take a panoramic view of the room and the chair as it sits broken on the floor.

If a housekeeper is close by, ask her to come in to witness what happened. Ask her if she normally cleans your room. Ask her whether she knew the chair was weak or whether someone repaired it recently.

The housekeeper may say something like, “Yes, I reported the chair to my supervisor. I told her the chair’s leg was loose and a customer could fall.” Such a statement is an admission against interest, meaning the statement made by the hotel employee is not in the hotel’s favor.

Admissions against interest make very credible evidence.

Proof of damages: To complete your burden of proof in a hotel injury claim requires evidence of damages. If you don’t have any expenses related to your injury, then you don’t have a claim. You’ll need copies of your medical bills and records, and receipts for prescriptions, bandages, and transportation expenses.

It would help if you also had written verification of your lost wages. Ask your employer for a written statement itemizing wages you’ve lost, missed bonuses, and any vacation or sick days you used.

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 figure out a fair compensation amount by totaling the cost of your medical bills, out-of-pocket expenses, the value of ruined clothing or other personal items, and any lost wages. Add one or two times that amount for emotional distress.

Send a written demand with copies of your medical bills and records, receipts, and other evidence.

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

If you’ve suffered severe or traumatic injuries because of a hotel’s negligence, you’ll need the help of an experienced personal injury attorney to get the full amount of compensation you deserve. If the hotel’s negligence was particularly shocking, your attorney might seek punitive damages in addition to available insurance money.

You deserve expert representation for cases of rape, assault, wrongful death, or hard injuries like traumatic brain injuries, spinal cord damage, or permanent scarring.

There’s too much at stake to face the insurance company on your own. It costs nothing to find out what a skilled personal injury attorney can do for you.

Hotel Injury 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 >>