How Does Hotel Liability Keep Vacationing Guests Safe?
Summer is officially upon us, and most of us in Florida are already feeling the sweltering heat of the season reaching the triple digits. Regardless of the scorching heat, Florida is where many tourists choose to spend their summer vacation. Whether it’s a trip to Walt Disney World, one of our dozens of beautiful white sand beaches, or the nightlife of Miami Beach, it’s more than likely we’ll be checking into a hotel for the duration of our stay. While we like to think of hotels as safe and clean, with adequate safety measures in place so as not to worry about anything while we’re vacationing, that isn’t always the case. Unfortunately, some hotels have let customer service standards slip, resulting in dissatisfied guests as well as serious injuries.
When faced with a hotel that leaves much to be desired after we’ve already checked in, we can find ourselves at a loss for what comes next; the money is spent, the flight is booked, and the trip has begun, what can be done to remedy an unsafe situation? After saving, planning, booking, and traveling, only to end up disappointed or worse, severely injured by no fault of our own it’s difficult to understand where to go from there. When we plan a summer getaway we don’t always consider what can go wrong (because a vacation is meant for relaxation!). However, it’s in our best interest to stayed informed about any necessary safety information necessary to avoid an accident in the event that one unfortunately occurs.
- What happens in the event of unsanitary conditions during a hotel stay?
- What’s considered adequate documentation?
- What’s considered “reasonable” customer service during a hotel stay?
- What happens after an accident at a hotel?
- Why is hotel liability important?
In this writeup, we’ll present even more of what you should know about vacation safety and hotel liability. In 2018’s “What is Hotel Liability?”–our first of several informative articles on vacation-related liability topics, we brought to light important information tourists looking to check in to a hotel and out of work mode should consider prior to booking. We looked at how summer presents a wide array of liability challenges for the travel industry, how they do their best to combat those challenges, and we presented a whole picture of what liability means to property owners and hoteliers.
What happens in the event of unsanitary conditions during a hotel stay?
Bed bugs are something that is often brought up in guest complaints after a hotel stay. These uninvited guests are not only a disgusting nuisance while at the hotel, but they can travel home with unsuspecting guests and worst of all, they’re known to cause serious health problems. Bed bug bites can cause serious health complications in minors, the elderly, and anyone with a compromised immune system. For everyone else, bed bug bites itch and pose a severe allergy risk. In extreme cases, secondary infection can set in from scratching the bites, leaving victims vulnerable to an endless list of medical problems they wouldn’t have ever thought they’d be dealing with simply from going on vacation.
Hotels are responsible for maintaining a high level of cleanliness and maintaining sanitary conditions throughout the property, as well as in every guest room. It’s important to know that just because a hotel’s common areas appear clean and tidy and the appearance of cleaning staff is present, the same cannot always be said for the guest rooms.
What’s considered adequate documentation?
It’s important to check all assigned rooms thoroughly before settling in and unpacking. Use a cell phone or tablet to take pictures of anything unsanitary or unsafe, such as a bed bug infestation, broken furniture, leaking pipes, or doors that won’t lock. These unsafe conditions are not an exhaustive list, but still pose a serious risk to the safety of hotel guests and should be promptly reported, then rectified by staff.
Taking pictures of a problem can help prove unsanitary conditions exist to hotel staff, as well as prevent an argument when asking for a room change or even a refund in the event the hotel is completely uninhabitable. It’s important to bring any problems to hotel management ASAP so that the unsafe conditions can be taken care of and guests can be moved to another room or refunded.
What’s considered “reasonable” customer service during a hotel stay?
There may be a time when hotel staff acts unreasonably (lazy, refuses to acknowledge a problem even if photographic evidence is provided, dismisses guest concerts, refuses to refund or change guest rooms), and acts in a manner that can or does cause harm to their guests. This failure to uphold duty of care goes beyond merely refusing to refund the guest in the event they’re dissatisfied with the advertised amenities. “Unreasonable” according to the law usually means hotel management acted in a way that resulted in harm (to the guest’s health or caused physical injuries, or both), and had they not acted in such a manner, rather upholding their duty of care to the service injury, injury could have been avoided.
There are several examples of what can be considered “reasonable” hotel management:
- Regular pest control and other prevention methods to deter bed bug infestation
- Maintain and update security as necessary to prevent theft in both guest rooms and common areas (on carts while luggage is waiting to be brought to the guest rooms)
- Pool staff should be trained in a reasonable manner to prevent accidents and enforce rules such as “no diving” and “no running” as well as any specific policies involving lifeguarding in that specific state
- Thorough background checks and proper vetting of hotel staff prior to hiring
- Regularly upgrade and maintain locks in and around the property, as well in guest rooms
- Ensure that slip and fall accidents are prevented by properly securing stairwells, elevators, and pool areas with the most up-to-date safety measures. Elevators should always be brought up to code and follow state regulations
What happens after an accident at hotel?
After an accident or property damage occurs as the result of a hotel’s negligence, retaining a Board Certified lawyer is a must, as it is with any Personal Injury related accident, property damage, or negligent security claim. However, the proof necessary to recover compensation on behalf of a client differs in each area of Personal Injury law. That’s why not every accident lawyer is suited to take every kind of claim. Some lawyers will present themselves as willing and able to take on a complex liability case such as one against a large hotel chain, but fail to follow through during mediation, or during trial should presenting the case to a judge become necessary. This lack of experience can leave a client with injuries they cannot afford to seek medical treatment for, as well as physical damage to their personal property they cannot afford to replace.
A vacation should never turn into a legal nightmare!
What does an experienced Personal Injury lawyer need to present to the judge, during trial, to recover damages on behalf of his or her client?
- Proof that the hotel did not inspect the premises in a manner that’s considered reasonable; this could be the frequency of inspection as well as the thoroughness of the inspection. If either of these things are shown to be true, the attorney may proceed to the next step of the legal process.
- In the event of an injury sustained on hotel property, several things must be proven:
- Was the injured party (the “plaintiff”) a guest of the hotel? Non-guests do not have the same rights when on hotel property as paying guests. Non-guests should not be on hotel property unless invited by a hotel guest, and should be aware of their surroundings at all times, abide by the hotel policies, and report any injuries immediately to hotel management.
- Did the hotel cause the injury? This is a fairly straightforward point to be made. If the hotel was negligent (lack of inspection, lack of proper stairwell or elevator maintenance, no lifeguard on duty, or lack of pool safety measures), and therefore an injury such as a fall, drowning, or assault occurred on the property, the attorney will be able to provide the judge and jury with the necessary proof to obtain damages.
- Was personal property damaged? If the guest’s property was damaged or stolen due to lack of security, or if the guest and/or their belongings became susceptible to a bed bug infestation due to lack of cleanliness on the hotel’s part, the establishment may be liable.
- Was harm caused? Did the guest suffer an undue harm or physical injury because of the aforementioned points?
Why is hotel liability important?
All of the points made within this writeup are things we should take into account before traveling, and have on hand in the event we find ourselves in a situation that requires litigation. Our tips can help prevent added stress should a situation arise for which we were not at-fault. Knowing how to properly document a guest room with a bed bug infestation, or what to do in the event injuries occur in a stairwell or elevator can help return some peace of mind and not deter those who have a love for travel from doing so again in the future. It’s important for hotel guests to know their rights while traveling, and to retain legal representation as quickly as possible should an accident occur while away from home.