Why is Hotel Liability a Public Safety Risk?
Hotel liability. What comes to mind when this term arises? Never heard of it? Keep reading! In many parts of the country Spring Break is upon us. Although most in South Florida see the state as a year-round vacation. Aside from the heat, Spring Break is the time of year when everyone has relaxation on their mind. Whether it’s taking a trip Walt Disney World, or to any of Florida’s beautiful beaches, we’ll be staying in a hotel. It reduces stress to think of hotels as clean, relaxing home-away-homes where everything is taken care of. Unfortunately, some hotels disregard the notion and allow health and safety to fall by the wayside.
What is hotel liability?
Hotels are responsible for the health and safety of their guests while they’re paying to stay on the property. Aside from Negligent Security, hotels have more stringent liability to guests who sleep and dine while on the premises.
In this article from the Shaked Law Firm, we present everything there is to know about hotel liability. This will be the first of several new, informative articles on vacation liability. Last summer, we published our first series of vacation liability articles. With more information available than ever, it’s important to provide our audience with the most up to date posting on staying safe traveling. Travel presents a wide array of liability challenges for the industry at large, so it’s best practice to inform ourselves of the problems that may arise anywhere from air to sea.
How do health violations pose hotel liability risk on the medical side?
One subject that comes up when it comes to hotel liability is bed bugs. These uninvited guests are more than just a nuisance. They can cause serious health problems for victims who unknowingly suffer their bites. Like any other bug bite, bed bugs pose the risk of serious and life-threatening allergic reactions. Furthermore, but secondary infection can set in from scratching itchy skin. The entire situation surrounding bed bugs leaves victims vulnerable to health hazards.
However, it’s not just bed bugs that pose a health risk. Hotels are responsible for maintaining a superior level of cleanliness throughout the entire property. Just because a hotel’s common areas appear clean and tidy, the same may not be true for guest rooms. It’s important to check rooms thoroughly before settling in, and use a phone to take pictures should anything look amiss. Taking these photos directly to hotel management prior to unpacking if anything looks unsafe means there’s a chance to rectify it. However, if hotel management refuses to rectify an unsafe situation, they put themselves at risk for hotel liability.
What is the legal side of hotel liability?
Taking pictures of a problem at a hotel helps hotel management assist in a resolution. Although, in the event of injury, it also aides in the burden of proof should legal action become necessary. It’s important to bring any unsafe situation to light with hotel staff as quickly as possible. This is the best way to reach a favorable resolution. No one should come to harm while on vacation, but sometimes injuries and health hazards occur. Whether the solution is a refund or a different, safe, clean room is a case by case basis and as per the policies of the hotel.
The headache of vacation litigation
There may be a time when hotel staff is unreasonable. This means they act in a manner that causes harm or health hazard to guests. This goes beyond refusing a refund simply because a guest expresses displeasure. Unreasonable according to the law usually means the hotel staff acts in a way that cases real harm. Slip and fall injuries, life threatening medical emergencies, and negligent security. It’s up to the hotel to prevent these situations from occurring as much as possible. “As much is reasonable”.
This means safety, health, and security measures must be in place. Not only that, but the hotel must maintain these measures and see to it they are in working order at all times. Liability occurs in situations where, if staff acts in an unreasonable manner, “negligently”, health, safety, and security are at risk.
Shaked Law Fact: Did you know many hotels have now issue signage notating stairwells in odd places? That’s because the location of stairwells in hotels is a hot topic. Many hoteliers now heed the warnings to assist in prevention of accidents. This helps them avoid the large fines and damages that could result should a slip and fall case end up in litigation.
How are hotels keeping guests safe and preventing liability claims?
There need not be a global epidemic for hotels to want to keep guests safe from harm. Below, we’ll offer some helpful tips and safety measures that can prevent accident, injury, and risk to the health and safety of hotel guests. The following tips are useful for any vacation, widespread health risk present or not!
- Maintain guest room cleanliness. This means staff needs to thoroughly clean each and every guest room, provide clean sheets and towels, and disinfect all surfaces. This cleaning process is necessary after each and every stay in each and every room. Hotels that fail to keep rooms clean, but still provide those rooms to guests, put the hotel at risk for serious liability. Not only is it risking liability, but the health and safety of guests should be the #1 priority.
- Regular pest control and other prevention methods to deter bed bug and other outbreaks that pose health hazards.
What is “reasonable” in the prevention of hotel liability lawsuits?
The following are just some aspects of how hotels can prevent liability litigation from affecting them. Maintaining the following in regard to public safety can go a long way in reducing the risk to all involved.
- Maintaining and updating security as necessary to prevent theft in both guest rooms and common areas. This goes as far as ensuring that any luggage left in the lobby to be brought to guest rooms is secure.
- Pool staff need training. They must act in a reasonable manner to prevent accidents. This means enforcing rules such as “no diving” and “no running” as well as any specific state laws.
- Thorough background checks and proper vetting of hotel staff prior to hiring.
- Regularly upgrading and maintaining locks in and around the property, as well in guest rooms. Theft and crime occur when security is lax.
- Properly securing stairwells, elevators, and pool areas with proper safety measures. Elevators should always be up to code and follow state regulations. Stairs require proper signage, and any wet floor signs must be clearly visible to guests.
What information is necessary during a hotel liability trial or mediation to obtain damages sufficient for the client’s injuries?
- Proof that the hotel did not inspect the premises in a reasonable manner. This could be the frequency of inspection as well as the thoroughness of the inspection. If either of these things are true, the attorney may proceed to the next step of the legal process.
- In the event of sustaining injuries on hotel property, several things factor into the burden of proof:
- Was the injured party (the “plaintiff”) a hotel guest? Non-guests do not have the same rights when on hotel property as paying guests. They should not be on hotel property unless invited by a hotel guest. Non-guests should be aware of their surroundings at all times, abide by the same hotel policies, and report injuries immediately to hotel management.
- Did the hotel cause the injury? This is a fairly straightforward point. If the hotel was negligent in preventing injuries, risk to life, health, or safety, and therefore injuries occur, a lawyer will be able to uphold the burden of proof. This provides maximum compensation for the client in light of their pain and suffering.
- Was personal property damaged? The guest’s property may sustain damage or was stolen due to lack of security. If the guest and/or their belongings became susceptible to bed bug infestation due unclean conditions on the hotel’s part, the hotel may be liable.
- Was harm caused? Did the guest suffer undue harm or physical injury because of the aforementioned points?
Hotel liability is stressful. Here’s how to prevent it.
All of the points within this article are things we should take into account when traveling. These points may assist in the prevention of additional stress should injuries occur on vacation. This is exceptionally true when the injuries are not the fault of the hotel guest! How does one properly handle a guest room with a bed bug infestation? (It’s gross, but take pictures immediately). What happens the event a guest become injured in a stairwell or elevator? (More pictures, report immediately, file police report if necessary). It’s important to know all rights as a hotel guest while traveling.
The most important thing to do in the event of a travel accident, is to retain a Board Certified Personal Injury lawyer as quickly as possible.