Hotels are an oasis. We stay at hotels during vacations, when visiting friends and family, when on business trips and for a variety of other reasons. Hotels owners try to make the experience pleasurable for all their guests. Unfortunately, all guests’ experiences don’t turn out as planned.
Despite frequent inspections by management and strict supervision of staff, hotel accidents and other unpleasant incidents sometimes occur. When these events happen, guests can suffer injuries.
Common causes of hotel injuries include:
Swimming pools are exceedingly dangerous. When the perimeter area is too smooth, a guest can easily fall. Because the surface is often partially made of concrete, a fallen guest can suffer serious injuries, including broken bones and head trauma. Improperly marked steps inside a hotel pool can result in a guest losing his footing.
To save money, many hotels make in-house repairs to furniture, which breaks down from overuse. Some furniture is just too old. It’s just a matter of time before a customer’s weight is enough to make the chair collapse with the guest in it, resulting in injury.
Slip and falls
Slipping, tripping and falling frequently occur when there’s a difference in flooring from one place to another. Worn carpeting, and cracked or uneven flooring can cause a guest to catch a heel or toe, often resulting in the guest falling face first onto the ground. Bunched rubber matting at entries and exits are invitations to stumbling into glass and wooden doors.
If left unrefrigerated, or if meat or poultry is undercooked, hotel restaurant food can poison the customer. Unsanitary kitchen conditions, employees with unclean hands, and improperly sterilized utensils can all transfer bacteria to guests.
Bed bugs are very small insects that can infest hotel mattresses, pillows, furniture, and even light switches. They are hard to see with the naked eye and very difficult to eradicate. Bed bugs bites can cause small blisters on human skin that sometimes don’t appear for hours, or even days after contact. The guest can also carry them home in clothes and suitcases. It can cost thousands of dollars to erradicate the bugs from a private home.
Burns can occur when hotels set hot water thermostats too high. Showerheads can flow scalding water on an unsuspecting guest’s skin, resulting in first-, and sometimes second-degree burns. Irons with faulty gauges or switches that fail to shut down properly can easily burn a guest’s hands, resulting in scarring.
Guests, especially unsuspecting tourists and vacationers, often drop their guard while at hotels. They carry cash and credit cards on them instead of leaving them in their rooms or the hotel’s safe. Criminals know these guests are easy targets. When a hotel fails to provide adequate security, criminals can ply their trade, leaving guests physically injured and psychologically traumatized.
Hotel Liability and Negligence
Hotels have a very high legal duty of care (obligation) to do everything reasonably possible to make their premises safe for all guests, and to prevent hotel accidents wherever and whenever possible.
The courts define a hotel’s premises to include the hotel’s airport shuttle bus, the hotel parking lot as well as inside the hotel itself. This includes all common areas, meeting and banquet halls, swimming pools, guest rooms, and other areas where guests are free to move about. Guests are invitees and entitled to protection from all reasonably foreseeable harm.
The terms reasonable and foreseeable are two of the basics of liability. 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.
A foreseeable harm is one that a sensible hotel manager knows or should know could occur due to the hotel’s actions or omissions. When a hotel’s act or omission results in a guest’s injury, the courts consider it as the hotel’s negligence.
For example, a knowledgeable hotel manager understands, or should understand, that leaving ice to accumulate outside the hotel’s entrance in winter could result in a guest slipping and falling. The harm is foreseeable. Consequently, the hotel manager’s failure to have the ice removed is a breach (violation) of her duty of care to the guest who falls.
In the alternative, let’s say the manager had all the ice at the hotel’s entrance removed. A hotel guest who’s returning from dinner where he consumed an entire bottle of wine, trips and falls on a rubber mat outside the hotel, cracking his skull. The guest’s voluntary intoxication makes his slipping and falling unforeseeable.
The hotel manager has a duty to protect her guests from reasonably foreseeable incidents that might harm them. It isn’t reasonable for a hotel manager to have to protect a guest from injuries because of the guest’s voluntary intoxication.
Burden of Proof
What happens when the hotel breaches its duty of care, and you’re injured? Before you can succeed in a personal injury claim against the hotel, the law requires you to meet a burden of proof. To meet your burden of proof, you must have sufficient evidence to show:
- The hotel had a duty of care to protect you from harm.
- The hotel breached its duty by permitting you to be injured.
- Your injury resulted in specific and identifiable damages.
Damages include medical and therapy bills, out-of-pocket expenses for such things as medicines, crutches, etc., lost wages, and pain and suffering (emotional distress).
Evidence to Prove Your Claim
To meet your burden of proof requires evidence. Here’s what you need to do:
Contact the hotel manager
You’ve heard the expression “Time is of the essence.” When it comes to hotel injuries, this is especially true. You must link your injury to the event that caused it, and do so as soon as possible. The more time that passes between your injury and your reporting it, the greater the chance the hotel manager can deny it.
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. When she arrives, ask her to write a report. Hotel policy probably requires her to do so anyway, but make sure she completes the report in your presence. Be sure to show her the nail and your injury.
Tell the manager you need the name of the hotel’s insurance company. If she doesn’t have that information, she may tell you someone from the corporate office will contact you. That’s fine.
Ask for medical assistance. Some of the more upscale hotels can summon a doctor to your room. If a doctor isn’t available, ask for someone in management or the paramedics to take you to the closest emergency room or medical clinic for treatment.
If paramedics take you to the ER, they will write their own patient transfer report. You can get a copy of it for a nominal charge. Be sure to ask the hospital for copies of your admitting chart and the emergency room doctor’s written diagnosis and prognosis. The doctor’s diagnosis will specifically link your wound to the treatment you required.
Talk to witnesses
Witness statements are building blocks in your injury claim. The more you have, the stronger your claim will be. Eyewitnesses, especially those with no personal or financial interest in your claim are the best. The insurance company will take their version of events seriously.
For example, let’s say you were out by the hotel pool. When you stepped down into the shallow end, your foot slipped on a small step. As your foot slipped, you fell, striking your head on the pool’s edge. Another guest happened to be sunning in a chair close to where you fell. When she saw you slip and fall, she jumped from her chair to help you out of the pool.
You were sure there wasn’t a step inside the pool. You didn’t see one. When you and the witness looked closer, you saw there was a step, but because it had no marking or tread, it was virtually invisible beneath the water.
While waiting for the manager to provide medical assistance to treat the cut on your head, ask the witness to write down how she too couldn’t see the “invisible step.” Ask her to confirm that in her written statement. 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.
Don’t rely on just one witness. Ask other witnesses, including friends and family, to write their statements as well. Grab any piece of paper. Even the back of a lunch napkin will do.
Get photos and video
Cell phones can multitask. Your cell phone can photograph and video the cause of your injury and the injury itself. The audio can record witness statements, employee admissions, and your own version of the events leading to your injury.
For example, when sitting down at the desk in your hotel room the chair beneath gave way, and you fell 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, or a statement made that’s not in the speaker’s favor. In this case, it’s an employee’s statement against her employer’s interest. 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 real damages (costs relating to your injury), then you don’t have a claim. You need to make copies of your medical bills, receipts for prescriptions, bandages, doctor’s office parking lot fees, and even receipts for the gasoline you used for all the trips.
You also need written verification of your lost wages. Be sure your supervisor sets out on company letterhead a detailed itemization of the wages you’ve lost. Include any missed bonuses, and any vacation or sick days you used. It all counts as compensation.
Contacting the Hotel Insurance Company
When you first speak with the insurance company, you’ll receive a claim number. Write it down. You’ll use that number in all future correspondence. By the time you speak with the claims adjuster, it’s likely he already spoke with the hotel’s management and has his version of events.
Tell the adjuster you have evidence supporting your claim. Agree to send her copies of your medical bills and out-of-pocket expenses, medical records, witness statements, photographs, and video and audio recordings.
The adjuster will want to wait until your medical treatment and physical therapy have run their course. At that time, she’ll begin settlement negotiations. Be sure not to enter into settlement negotiations until your treatment has ended, and the adjuster has copies of all evidence of your damages.
When to hire an attorney
If your injuries are soft tissue, including minor cuts and bruises, sprains, etc., you can probably handle your own claim. If your injuries are the more serious hard injuries including second- or third-degree burns, broken bones, head trauma, etc., you need a personal injury attorney.
The stakes are too high with serious injuries to risk handling the case on your own. Most personal injury attorneys offer free initial visits to review the details of your case. Take advantage of this offer and meet with a licensed attorney in your area.
See an example of a hotel injury demand letter here.
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A honeymoon in New York goes wrong for the 2 plaintiffs in this unique case. The liability of the hotel is in question since this is a novel cause of action.
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Visitor Questions on Business Liability for Injuries
Hotel room infested with bed bugs… I went with my family of four to The Hard Rock Hotel in Cancun Mexico to celebrate my 20th Wedding Anniversary and my daughter’s Sweet 16. I went with my husband and two teenage daughters. On the first night there there was a baby crying in the next room. The baby cried all night. The... Read More >>
How to calculate compensation after slip and fall in a hotel shower? My wife commented the night we arrived at a hotel how clean and shiny the bathroom was. It looked as if the shower/tub had been recently refinished as it had an extremely shiny surface. There was a rubber mat leaning in the corner of the raised shelf in the bathtub. There were no signs indicating... Read More >>
Motel room door broke my vertebrae… I have been living in a motel in Brooklyn, NY for over a year with my wife. The entry door to my room is quite heavy and slams closed. The motel hallway has windows that bring a strong breeze and the door slams faster. The bathroom is to the right or the door. My wife... Read More >>
Surgery needed for broken leg from slip in a motel shower… I am a WI resident who slipped in KS motel tub. I broke my leg and needed surgery once I got back home. Bills are adding up quickly. I feel the motel should be liable for some costs. The tub had no anti-skid strips to prevent slipping. Injury occurred on 7/19. An incident report was... Read More >>
What types of medical bills must an insurance company cover? In Nov 2015 I fell in a shower at a hotel adjacent to the swimming pool after swimming. In Minnesota it’s very difficult to establish liability for this type of accident, so no attorney would take the case. The hotel did have a $5,000 insurance policy to cover medical expenses, as so far have been.... Read More >>
Tripped and fell on ripped bed skirt… I was staying in a hotel room. Within the first hour of being in the room I sat on the bed, and upon standing up my foot got caught in a ripped bed skirt. I fell, breaking my arm and elbow. I needed surgery and therapy to recover. I had loss of work and lots... Read More >>
Motel guest poked by hypodermic needle needs extensive blood tests… I was poked by a used hypodermic needle at a Motel 6 in San Jose California on May 2, 2016. It happened when I went to put my curling iron away up on top of the shelves they have in the bathroom. I brought the needle down to thee office after calling them first, and... Read More >>
Cut my foot on metal sticking out of the hotel bed frame… On Friday, the 15th of April, at approximately 10:50pm I was getting out of bed and cut my foot on a metal piece that was sticking out of the middle section of the bed. I called down to the front desk for assistance, and I asked for them to send someone to help me. Thirty... Read More >>
Compensation for broken foot at out-of-state hotel? I was in Dania Beach Florida, on business from Minnesota for the dates of Feb 22 – Feb 24. On the night of Feb 23 I was getting out of the courtesy shuttle at the hotel, there was no handle to hold on to in the shuttle and the driver placed a very small plastic... Read More >>
Severely cut leg on a metal bedframe… Upon entry to our hotel room, I walked past one of the queen sized beds and felt terrible pain in my left shin. I sat down on the bed to see how bad it was and when I lifted up my pants leg, I saw that I had cut my leg so severely that I... Read More >>
Hotel insurance refusing to cover medical bills from head injury? A hotel’s wooden window valence and associated blackout & sheer curtains fell on my head and knocked me to the floor. I crawled to the phone and had the hotel call paramedics and bring me ice. The paramedics found a head abrasion and second bump. A later visit to ER found the head abrasion healing,... Read More >>
Hotel slip and fall incident while taking a shower in my room… While driving through New Hampshire in Sept. 2015 we stayed at a hotel. The next morning, while taking a shower, I slipped and fell. When I fell I did not land in the tub, but I fell backwards out of the shower/tub and the center of my back (half way between my neck and waist)... Read More >>
Is the hotel liable for my son’s injury? This injury incident happened 11/29/2014 at major national chain hotel in San Diego. My 10yr old son was asleep and rolled out of bed. His left eyelid struck the sharp edge of a night stand as he was falling to the floor. The edges on this nightstand are really sharp. An open wound on the... Read More >>
Slip and fall in motel shower… I slipped in the shower at a motel. I fell onto the ceramic tile soap dish which broke off. I have a large deep laceration of my hip and also fractured my clavicle. I was hospitalized for 3 days for my injuries. The pain from my hip wound was excruciating. I now have to have... Read More >>
My son tripped on the carpet, fell and hit the corner, needing stitches… My 3 year-old son was playing in the hotel room with his sister and cousin. My wife and I were at dinner at the time and my kids were with my mother-in-law. We were almost done with dinner when we received a call from my mother-in-law, saying my son had tripped on the carpeting and... Read More >>
Hotel pool water slide injury… I went down the 95′ water slide at a hotel. The force of the water twisted me onto my stomach, so I ended up going quickly down the slide feet first on my stomach. My toe (apparently or I think) hit or got stuck in one of the slide joints and I had immense pain.... Read More >>
Sliding glass shower door broke and injured my son… My 4 year old son knocked into a glass door that slides open to the shower. When he knocked into it, it shattered and left small cuts on his arm. The hotel staff were not happy about the situation or the door being broken, which is fair enough. But should I be paying for this,... Read More >>
Cut leg on metal bed frame… My daughter was injured in a hotel room in California on a bed frame. Her foot got caught in bed skirt. She cut her calf (leg) on the metal bed frame which required an ER visit and 6 stitches. The hotel didn’t even offer to pay for a cab to the ER. When we returned... Read More >>
Hotel Manager Refused to Complete an Incident Report… My husband fell at a hotel because the manager had mopped and not put out a sign warning of a wet floor. When we requested an accident report the manager refused and told us to write the incident down on a blank piece of paper. After my husband wrote down what occurred the general manager... Read More >>
How long do I have to file a personal injury claim against a hotel? I stayed at a hotel in New Jersey. I went into the bathroom and slipped on water that had leaked from the toilet. Management sent someone to the room to fix the leak. The next day I was in pain, my mom gave me her pain pills and they seemed to work. I ran out... Read More >>
Slipped and fell getting out of the shower in a hotel… I was taking a shower in a hotel and when I went to get out I felt myself slipping back. I did not have anything to grab to stabilize myself and fell backwards. My wife tried to help me up, but I’m a pretty big guy and had to call the front desk for help.... Read More >>
Fractured Foot on Hotel Steps… At 5:30am I was walking out of my hotel to go to a local store. I got dressed and I walked out the hotel door. When I stepped down, I forgot how steep the step was to get to my car in the parking lot. My foot twisted outward and it popped. I couldn’t walk... Read More >>
Faulty Elevator Door Knocked 75 Year Old Woman to the Ground… In September 2011 my mother, sister, daughter and myself traveled from Iowa to a hotel in Alabama. As we were going to our room on the 4th floor, my sister exited the elevator first, I was standing by the area where the buttons were holding the door so my 75 year old mother could get... Read More >>
Third Degree Burns from Hot Water in a Bathtub… While staying at a well known resort, I went to bed but got up later to go to the bathroom. I tripped or fell into a jacuzzi tub in the powder room. Falling into the tub, I hit the hot water faucet – turning it on and landing in the tub. I either passed out... Read More >>
Stepped On a Nail in a Hotel… I was staying at a large hotel in Las Vegas last week. As I was getting ready in front of the mirror I stepped on a nail with a stopper at the end of it which had come out the hotel chair leg. My boyfriend pulled the nail out, which was almost an inch through... Read More >>
Back Injury from Slip and Fall at a Pool… On October 8th, 2010 I was sitting by a pool at a motel in Clearwater Beach, Florida talking to my cousin. I got up to go into the pool. I took a few steps toward the pool which was about three feet away and my feet came out in front of me. I went down... Read More >>
Slip and Fall Case on Hotel Grounds… I was walking on a footpath on hotel grounds. The path had a puddle in which I slipped and fell, breaking my wrist. (It was caused by a faulty irrigation system). I was taken to a hospital where I underwent reconstruction of my arm. I had severe swelling and pain and they put my arm... Read More >>