When you visit a hotel or resort in Florida, there is a reasonable expectation that the premises will be maintained in a reasonably safe condition, and that you will be safe. After all, guests prefer their vacation or business trip not end with an injury.
However, hotels are not immune to foot traffic hazards. Slippery spots around ice machines and pools, bathrooms in ill repair, and even the occasional worn carpet spot present slip and fall hazards. The challenge that often arises is proving the hotel is at fault in these accidents–not the injury victim. This overview explains what goes into a slip and fall lawsuit and settlement involving a hotel.
Hotel Slip and Fall Cases
Slip and fall describes premises liability cases addressing dangerous conditions. Dangerous sidewalks and wet floors are the frequent causes in these injury cases, but the list of dangerous conditions is not exhaustive; any condition that leads to a fall and injury could be the cause of action in a premises liability case.
Therefore, the first element of a slip and fall case is the existence of a dangerous condition. Thus; if you simply tripped over your own two feet, and there was not a dangerous condition that caused you to slip/trip then you probably don’t have a case.
Other elements used to determine the legal liability of the property owner include:
- Whether the owner of the premises or an employee caused the spill, worn area, or other dangerous conditions that developed underfoot;
- Whether the owner or an employee knew, or should have known, about the dangerous condition but did not repair it or warn guests about it; or
- Whether it was reasonable for the owner or an employee to know that this dangerous condition was present and they needed to take care to remove or repair the condition.
“Should have known” is a difficult standard to prove. Often times, it is common sense but other times, it is difficult to assess–especially in busy environments like hotels. Factors that may be considered include the amount of time a dangerous condition existed, whether someone already reported the hazard, routine maintenance that could address the condition, and other safety considerations.
Liability may be established if the condition could have been blocked or removed in a timely manner. Sometimes, premises liability cases involve signs or barriers that cause a patron to trip and fall. In that case, if there was a safer way to set up the sign or barrier, the property owner may face liability.
Challenges with Hotels
Hotels and resorts produce many conditions for slip and fall cases. Common cases involving premises liability in hotels include:
- Wet and slippery conditions near ice machines;
- Dangerous conditions in private and public bathrooms;
- Delayed repairs or upgrades; and
- Slippery conditions near swimming pools and hot tubs.
The challenge arising with hotels is the constant foot traffic. If you sustained an injury in a common area and other guests managed to avoid an accident, the hotel may argue that it was your carelessness that resulted in the fall–not the condition.
Foot traffic can also work in your favor. If someone reported the condition earlier or even sustained their own injury, it shows the hotel delayed making the area safer. While this would take some investigative work, it is possible to see if the slippery spot, carpet bulge or barrier received previous complaints and the hotel failed to act.
There are circumstances that work against you. Florida is a pure comparative state where injury victims can face a reduction in their damages if they shared fault in their injuries. Examples of where you may face this shared fault include:
- Being in an “employees only” section of the hotel when you were injured;
- Using your mobile device while walking;
- Wearing the wrong footwear despite warning signs and instructions of hotel staff;
- Failing to follow rules, for example, “No Running” signs near swimming pools;
- Ignoring cones and barriers meant to protect you from a dangerous condition; and
- Obviously dangerous conditions like a big hole in the ground or walled off section that most reasonable people would see before having an accident.
If the accident was partially your fault, it reduces your settlement by the percentage of fault assigned to you. For example, if you slipped near an ice machine because you were looking at your mobile device instead of where you were going, there is a good argument that you are partially at fault. If the insurance adjuster or jury decides that you were 20 percent at fault in this scenario, you will only receive 80 percent of your damages.
Slip and fall cases contain many elements that could work against you if your case is not handled correctly. Kaire & Heffernan, LLC is dedicated to helping injured hotel guests collect a fair settlement after they face injury from dangerous conditions. Contact our office today to schedule a free consultation.