For a lot of good reasons, hotels go the extra mile to ensure that their guests are safe and well cared for. This isn’t just important for protecting their reputations. It’s also an important way that they manage their legal risk. For someone who has been injured at a hotel, it may be possible to recover compensation from the hotel or its insurance policies for the costs associated with the injury.
A hotel’s liability is often a question of negligence
In most personal injury cases the key issues are whether the defendant behaved negligently, and whether that negligence caused the plaintiff’s injury. Negligence takes place if a person or business has a legal obligation to treat another person with a certain standard of care and fails to meet that standard. Standards of care are established in the long history of judicial decisions and, sometimes, in statutes.
Hotels, motels, hostels, and so forth are subject to laws governing public accommodations. As a public accommodation a hotel has a high duty of care toward visitors. It must take all reasonable precautions to prevent foreseeable injuries to guests. This duty extends to the entire publicly accessible property owned or operated by the hotel, including its parking lots, pool areas, gyms, and restaurants.
The high standard of care makes hotels responsible for rapidly responding to dangerous conditions once the hotel (through its staff) is aware of them. Hotels also have an obligation to routinely inspect their property for potential hazards. For example, a guest using a hotel’s public restroom spills water on the floor. Here are two scenarios leading from this that could result in liability for the hotel:
- The guest promptly tells a member of the hotel’s staff about the spill, but the staff member doesn’t do anything about it. Shortly thereafter, someone slips and falls on the wet floor, suffering a serious injury. The inaction on the part of the staff member, acting as an agent of the hotel, may be sufficient to find liability.
- The guest doesn’t tell the hotel about the spill. The hotel doesn’t have a routine process for checking bathrooms, and two hours later someone falls and gets hurt. Here the key question is whether requiring the hotel to inspect the bathroom for things like spilled water is reasonable.
A hotel has limited obligations to prevent injuries caused by third parties
Another source of potential injury at hotels is not the hotel itself but other guests. Nevada law limits the liability of a hotel for injuries caused by people who are not employees of the hotel unless the act causing the injury was foreseeable and the hotel didn’t exercise due care to keep visitors safe or prevent the wrongful act of the perpetrator. The foreseeability requirement is a key component of this rule. A hotel that has a long history of rowdy fights in its bar probably has a higher duty of care to be prepared for such events in the future (i.e., by employing security) than a hotel with no such history.
GGRM is a Las Vegas personal injury law firm
For more than 45 years the law firm of Greenman Goldberg Raby Martinez has represented clients in personal injury cases in Las Vegas. If you have been injured at a hotel and would like a free attorney consultation to discuss your case, please call us today. Call 702-388-4476 or contact us through our website.