Duty of Care: When A Hotel Is Liable for Injuries
Feb. 16, 2022
When you stay at a hotel, you have a reasonable expectation that it will do its best to ensure a safe and enjoyable stay. Did you know that this is not just an element of common courtesy but is actually a legal duty? And if you or someone in your party is injured on that hotel’s property, they may bear legal responsibility.
To understand why this is and how it affects your case, discover what you need to know about the hotel’s duty of care.
What Is a Hotel’s Duty of Care?
The legal concept of duty of care basically states that each person or entity is expected to act reasonably so as not to cause harm to others. A driver has a duty of care to act reasonably to avoid accidents, such as by not texting while driving and obeying the traffic laws. The pedestrian on the sidewalk also has a duty of care to act in a way that protects them from harm by nearby vehicles.
A hotel has a duty of care toward its guests, employees, and visitors. It must take steps to avoid injuries or accidents that can be reasonably foreseen. It must provide working locks for the guest rooms’ doors, for instance, so as to avoid the foreseeable consequence that an unlocked door would put guests at risk of theft or even assault.
How Is the Hotel’s Duty Breached?
A failure of one’s duty of care is generally known as a breach. Breaches of duty of care can be pursued within the court system to get compensation for the failure. A hotel can breach its duty of care in many ways — some obvious and some more subtle.
First, obvious breaches of duty of care occur when the building is not maintained or a safe environment is provided. This commonly includes improperly maintained stairs or sidewalks, unlit or badly lit areas, insufficient oversight of pools or spas, or broken furniture inside rooms. It can also occur if management doesn’t enforce staff following safety procedures.
Less obvious breaches are possible, too. Poor food-handling practices or quality controls could lead to food poisoning at the hotel buffet or diner. Guests may suffer from infestations of bedbugs or other nasty pests. Chemicals in cleaning, repairs, or maintenance could injure guests. And insufficient sanitation practices could result in guests becoming ill.
The hotel may even have a responsibility for the actions of both employees and non-employees. If a thief breaks into your room and injures you during a robbery, the hotel may be liable if its security procedures were inadequate. If a stalker manages to find out which room a guest is in, the hotel could be liable if employees gave out that information. And the hotel could be held responsible if a fight occurs.
What Can You Do to Help Prove a Breach?
Demonstrating that the hotel bears liability for your injuries begins with detailed documentation. If you tripped on a sidewalk that tree roots damaged, take photos of the area from many angles. You should report the incident to management and ask for a written incident report. Finally, gather contact information for witnesses and all hotel staff who were involved.
You should also promptly seek medical attention. Documentation of your injuries and medical treatment plans is key to seeking the right amount of compensation later.
Once you have sought medical care, consult with an experienced personal injury attorney. Because the hotel’s breach of duty can be difficult to spot or prove, you need qualified legal representation from the start.
The Law Office of Kevin R. Hansen has aided visitors to hotels in California and Nevada for 25 years. Call to make an appointment and learn more about your breach of duty case.