In Broward County, Florida, a young couple was sitting next to a cabana near a pool at a hotel when a drunk driver veered off the road and slammed into the cabana. The wall of the cabana fell on the pregnant wife and killed her. The husband sued the hotel claiming that it was not properly equipped to protect its guests. The courts ruled that the cabana met all building codes and the accident was not something the hotel could foresee and protect against.
When people go on vacation, they expect their hotels to be a sanctuary from the rest of the world. In the legal field, a hotel guest is considered to be an “invitee” to the property and must be protected at a high level. But the personal injury laws in every state have their limits, and those limits are always tested whenever there is a slip and fall case involving a hotel property.
The Ongoing Responsibilities Of The Hotel
In a slip and fall case, hotel liability depends on whether or not the hotel neglected its responsibilities to its guests. Not only is a hotel expected to maintain its grounds to make them safe for guests, but a hotel is also expected to do routine inspections that prevent potential personal injury incidents before they occur. Some of the ongoing responsibilities of a hotel include:
- Inspecting for and eliminating pests
- Making sure linens are clean and do not present health hazards
- Making sure each room is presented to a guest in a clean state
- Offer a reasonable level of security for guests at every part of the hotel
- Making sure areas such as the pool and health spa are kept safe
- Inspect stairways and hallways regularly to make sure they are safe
The hotel is required to carry out routine inspections and have processes in place that keep their facility safe and clean for guests. When a hotel does its job, most slip and fall instances can be eliminated. But there are plenty of instances where a hotel staff has to be on its toes to monitor its facility and prevent injured guests.
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Keeping The Facility Free Of Slip And Fall Hazards
Personal injury laws vary from state to state, but there are some common guidelines that every state includes in their statutes. In most cases, hotels have the same responsibility for maintaining safety as any other retail facility. Hotel management and staff must be given a reasonable amount of time to take care of issues as they arise. If slip and fall safety issues are allowed to persist and there are injured guests, then the hotel could be found negligent.
Two examples can help guests to understand when there is a hotel liability issue and where there may not be. It starts to rain outside, so the hotel management decides to have safety rugs put down in the lobby to prevent people from slipping on the slick floors. In the process of putting down the rugs, the corner on one rug folds over and presents a safety hazard. A guest notifies a staff member of the hazard, but the staff member does not immediately react. A minute or two later, a guest falls over the rug and is injured. In this instance, the staff did not react to a hazard and the hotel could be considered liable for the accident.
For another example, let us say that it is a cold evening and rain starts to fall which puts a coat of ice over everything. Almost immediately, a guest slips on the ice and gets injured in the fall. In this case, the hotel management and staff did not have time to prevent the fall and would not be held liable. However, if action is not taken to make the walkways safer within a reasonable amount of time, then the hotel could be considered liable for future injuries.
What Should Guests Do If Injured?
Every hotel has security cameras in place that record what happens around the clock. The problem is that the data from those cameras is not stored indefinitely and could be deleted by the time your case comes to court. If you are injured in a hotel, your first step should be to secure the services of an experienced personal injury attorney who will know how to request the video before it is deleted. Each hotel has a protocol when it comes to deleting surveillance video, which means that you should have enough time to request the video to possibly be presented in your case.
If you are able, you should take plenty of pictures of the accident site to be used in your case. Get pictures of what caused your slip and fall, and get pictures of any warning signs that were or were not present at the time. Try to make your pictures as broad as possible to show that there was no way to avoid your accident and that the staff neglected to take any protective measures.
You will need to capture information such as the manager on duty at the time of your accident, the names of as many employees as possible who were working at the time, and the official contact information for the hotel. If you are giving any assistance by hotel staff, be sure to get their contact information as well. If you are able to get the names and contact information for any witnesses, then that would also be helpful. Remember to get complete contact information as your witnesses could be guests from out of town.
As you get treated for your injuries, be sure to keep copies of all of your medical paperwork. This includes any medical attention you are given at the hotel before emergency personnel arrives. Ask any doctors who treat you to put their information in writing so that you have it for future use. It is important to act as quickly as possible when collecting information in case the hotel attempts to alter your accident scene in any way.
Always Be Careful
When it comes to slip and fall accidents in hotels, there is never anything that can be taken for granted. The area where you slip and fall might have signs all around it, but you just happen to walk in the one place where the signs are difficult to see. Hotels are filled with potential hazards such as slippery floors, tripping hazards, and slip and fall accidents in construction areas. Guests in hotels should always be very careful where they walk and be mindful of all warning signs.
A hotel or resort should be your refuge away from the real world for a short period of time. But even in the paradise of a five-star resort, there can still be instances where a slip and fall accident could cut your vacation short. If you do find yourself being one of the injured guests that hotels and resorts attempt to prevent, then you have to be proactive in gathering information and caring for yourself. Get the emergency medical treatment you need as soon as possible, but also be prepared to collect the information you will need to get the compensation you deserve.