Accidents in which individuals slip and fall are quite common. They often occur in parking lots and supermarkets, and on sidewalks, in the area where we live. But, what happens if you are injured in a slip and fall accident while you are vacationing and staying in a hotel? This article spotlights a few key issues to keep in mind.
The Hotel's Duty of Care
The fact that you slipped and fell while staying in a hotel has no effect whatsoever on the property owner's responsibility to provide a safe place to stay. An "innkeeper" (as hotel owners historically were called) owes a duty to invitees -- patrons that pay to stay there -- to exercise reasonable care. That means the owner must take reasonable steps to ensure the safety of its overnight guests and other customers.
Examples of steps hotel owners can take to keep customers safe might include placing a "Caution - Wet Floor" sign in a freshly mopped lobby, placing prominent "No Running" signs around the hotel pool, or placing mats in bathtubs to prevent people from slipping in them.
Also, once a hotel and its staff become aware of a safety hazard -- such as a torn carpet that presents a tripping hazard -- they must take reasonable steps to remedy the situation, and must do so within a reasonable amount of time. Not only that, but part of the hotel's duty of care is to spot such a hazard within a reasonable time. In other words, if there is a broken handrail on a staircase, and two days go by before a guest falls on the stairs, the hotel can't avoid liability by saying they weren't aware of the hazard. Part of the duty owed to guests is the obligation to inspect the premises regularly.
If the owner of a hotel (whether an individual or a corporation) fails to fulfill this duty of care, the owner might be considered negligent if a slip and fall occurs.
What to Do After a Hotel Slip and Fall
If you slip and fall at a hotel, the first thing to do after getting proper medical attention is to report the incident to the hotel's management. Tell them exactly what happened and document it. Taking pictures to document your injury, if it is visible -- and of the area where you fell -- is always a good idea. If the manager makes an incident report, as he/she should, ask for a copy of it. If the manager or other hotel employees apologize to you or make any comments about someone being negligent, write those down. Make sure to get the names of any witnesses.
Next, you should consult with an experienced personal injury attorney. If the accident did not happen in your home state or city, you can either directly consult with a lawyer in the area where it happened, or consult with a local lawyer who can then get assistance from a lawyer in the jurisdiction where you fell. Legal rules differ depending on the location, so it is helpful to have a contact where the accident happened.
One thing to bear in mind, however, is that the premises owner may try to demonstrate that you too were negligent. If you did not exercise reasonable care, that might reduce your recovery or even prevent you from recovering anything. Those rules vary by jurisdiction. However, whether someone exercised reasonable care is almost always a question that a jury decides. Learn more about how your own conduct affects a slip and fall case.
Recovering for Your Losses in a Slip and Fall Case
Your attorney can help you determine whether you have a strong case and, if so, what kinds of damages may be available to you. Typically, people can seek compensation for lost earnings if their injury caused them to miss time from work, and for medical bills and other expenses associated with caring for the injury.
You may also be able to recover for your pain and suffering. For example, serious injuries often lead to anxiety and depression, and their effects go far beyond just physical pain. Sometimes they prevent people from doing basic activities, such as vacuuming or walking up stairs, without pain. Sometimes they cause people to lose some of the basic enjoyment of life, if they cannot hike or bike or do other things they could do without pain before the injury.
And, if you were injured at a hotel while traveling, you may have missed out on one-time opportunities to do things while you were away. Your vacation may have been ruined. Whatever the effects, your attorney can help you try to recover for them.