Resort and hotel stays are normally events people look forward to, especially when they are planning well-earned vacations. Unfortunately, things do not always turn out as planned, especially when they fall victim to injuries occurring on the premises. Nothing can ruin that coveted time off more than getting hurt, and it can happen to guests who are there for business or pleasure. Although they entrust their safety to these properties, accidents do happen. Categories of accidents at resort and hotel properties include swimming pool drownings, burns, and food poisoning. One of the most common types, however, is a slip and fall accident.
Causes of Slip and Fall Accidents
Aside from worn carpeting, unfamiliar staircases, and debris, hotels can have additional hazards when there are restaurants and swimming pools. Spilled drinks and other slippery substances can reside in dining areas, and pools always pose additional risks. When the weather is poor, there are even more dangers from icy and snowy roads. Someone could also slip and fall in a shower, elsewhere in their room, or in the parking lot for several reasons.
Hotels are Obligated to Protect Guests
Hotel and resort guests have the right to be safe and secure during their stays. This protection also includes the rest of the grounds, such as the parking lot, banquet hall, meeting rooms, restaurants, restrooms, pool, fitness area, and the shuttle bus. The grounds must be maintained and inspected regularly and kept reasonably safe for the people staying there. Any hazardous conditions must be addressed and fixed quickly, such as cleaning up broken glass or repairing a broken pipe; otherwise the hotel is breaching its duty to guests.
Other ways to prevent slip and fall accidents in hotels include:
- Keeping elevators, stairs, and parking lots maintained, well-lit, and clear from debris.
- Ensuring that hotel rooms are maintained, with no slippery surfaces, broken furniture, or loose fixtures.
- Hiring and training staff appropriately for all parts of the hotel, including restaurants, pools, and other areas.
- Although most hotels are not required to have their own lifeguards at their pools, they must post rules and warnings. They are also responsible for keeping these areas safe, clean, and well maintained.
- If there is construction going on or any other unusual circumstances, proper safety protocol must be followed. This includes warning signs and prohibiting entry into certain areas.
What to Do After a Slip and Fall
Slip and fall injuries can range from cuts and bruises to broken bones and head injuries, and it may be necessary to call 911 right away. Victims should alert staff about any injuries, and they may be subsequently asked to complete an official accident report. When filling this out, it is essential to stick to the facts. Obtaining contact information from employees who are present at the scene is also helpful, and victims should document any medical attention received from staff members.
Recording any evidence at the scene can also help a slip and fall case. Either victims, family members, or friends can take pictures of where the slip and fall occurred, noting lack of warning signs, glass on the floor, or debris in the area. If anyone witnessed the accident, they should be questioned as well. Afterwards, victims should keep all information pertaining to their medical treatment, expenses, follow-up care, and time missed from work carefully organized.
Understanding Premises Liability
Hotel and resort property owners are subject to premises liability laws, which hold owners responsible for maintaining safe environments for their guests and make the owners responsible when accidents and injuries occur on their properties. When someone does slip and fall, liability is not immediately assumed, and state laws apply. Responsibility depends on certain factors, including the property’s condition and the visitor’s and owner’s actions.
A general standard of care to exercise reasonable safety applies to hotel guests and property owners, unless the person is trespassing. This standard applies to how the property was used, and the predictability of the accident that occurred. The court will also discern the reasonableness of the owner attempting to correct the hazard, why the guest was on the property, and the area where the accident happened. They will also consider whether the dangerous condition was obvious, and if the employees and property owner had control over the situation.
Certain states categorize slip and fall victims when determining premises liability. These include invitees or customers, social guests or welcome visitors, licensees, and trespassers. Non-guests and trespassers who enter public properties have limited protections, and hotel guests are considered invitees. Special rules may apply if the injured person is a child, as children are less likely to realize dangerous situations. Both property owners and caregivers have a responsibility to protect this younger population from property hazards.
To prove that a hotel breached its duty, injured guests need to show that there was negligence involved. The plaintiff must prove that the defendant should have known that their actions may have led to the injury. For example, if a waiter spilled grease on the dining room floor but the manager neglected to address this obvious safety hazard, the hotel could be held liable if a guest slipped and fell. The injured guest also needs to show that their injuries are a direct result of the slip and fall. Attempting to show a link between an old football injury and a recent slip and fall is ill-advised.
In slip and fall cases, hotel and resort owners will likely attempt to show that the plaintiff was at least partially liable for the accident. Hotel guests have a duty to exercise reasonable care for their safety, so if they neglect to do so, they may be found partly responsible for their own injuries. Hotel property owners may argue that the hazardous area was clearly marked and should have been apparent to the hotel guest. They may also claim that the guest was wearing inappropriate footwear or was simply not paying attention to where they were going. Most states in the U.S., including New Jersey, follow a comparative fault system in premises liability lawsuits.
How New Jersey’s Comparative Fault System Works
In New Jersey hotel and resort slip and fall cases, the courts assign a percentage of liability to the injured party and property owner. If the plaintiff’s percentage is more than 50 percent, they may not be eligible to receive compensation. If it is less than this amount, they can still be entitled to damages, but this may be reduced. The hotel owner’s insurance company will want to protect their interests and may try to prove shared liability. This is the main reason why it is important for victims to gather evidence and keep accurate records of what happened.
Damages for Slip and Fall Cases
Hotel and resort guests injured in slip and fall accidents may be eligible for damages, or money awarded for compensation. This can include lost wages, short and long-term medical expenses, loss of companionship, and pain and suffering. Damages awarded can be significant, with some plaintiffs being awarded hundreds of thousands of dollars. In some cases, they receive additional compensation if there are complications from the injury that become apparent later.
It is also important to know that most states have statutes of limitations that apply to eligibility for slip and fall injury claims. In New Jersey, plaintiffs have two years to file cases of this nature. Plaintiffs who wish to file suits relating to property damage that occurred from a slip and fall accident have up to six years to do so.
Freehold Slip and Fall Lawyers at Ellis Law Provide Effective Legal Representation for Injured Hotel and Resort Guests
If you or someone you care for was injured in a hotel or resort slip and fall accident, an experienced Freehold slip and fall lawyer at Ellis Law is ready to help. We will analyze all the facts and help determine if your hotel or resort neglected their duty to keep you safe. For a free case evaluation, complete our online form or call us at 732-308-0200. Centrally located in Freehold, New Jersey, we serve clients throughout East Brunswick, Toms River, Middletown, Jersey City, Neptune, Hudson County, Union County, Essex County, and Ocean County, as well as Brooklyn and New York, New York.