Elsewhere in the country, visiting a hotel is typically reserved for vacations, but in Southern Nevada, resorts are part of many people’s daily lives.
Whether you’re dining at a restaurant on the Strip, relaxing at the pool or spa or going shopping, most of us stroll through a hotel property a few times a month. So, what happens if you’re injured at a hotel and need to seek compensation for the damages?
In short, it can be a complicated and tiresome process.
Non-auto-related personal injury claims are notoriously difficult to pursue, especially those that occur on private property. However, knowing how to handle the situation immediately after the injury can help improve your case and may be the difference between being buried by medical bills or receiving compensation for your injuries.
Understanding and identifying liability
Premises liability, a set of laws that determine a property’s liability in the event of an accident, is complex and commonly misunderstood. The key here is to be able to prove negligence by the property that led to reasonably foreseeable harm.
But what, exactly, does that mean?
It’s the property owner’s responsibility to maintain safe conditions to prevent injury to guests. This means making necessary repairs, ensuring buildings are up to safety standards, maintaining the working condition of amenities (such as elevators, escalators and door locks), using adequate signage and alerting guests to potentially dangerous conditions.
If the hotel fails to reasonably maintain safe conditions, which leads to your injury, you may have a case against it.
For example, if you slip and fall getting out of the shower — assuming the hotel provided towels, bath mats, handrails, etc. — the property owner will likely not be deemed liable. In such a circumstance, because the hotel provided safe conditions, it generally wouldn’t be held responsible because it took every reasonable step to ensure your safety.
On the other hand, if housekeeping were to leave a puddle of solvent on the bathroom floor and you slipped on it, the hotel would probably be liable. A reasonable person could foresee someone slipping and falling because housekeeping created the spill, then failed to clean it.
At its essence, the “reasonably foreseeable” portion of our law provides that any company must know about a potentially hazardous problem and be given time to post notice or correct the issue before it can be liable.
Steps to take if you believe you’ve been injured because of the hotel’s negligence
First and foremost, you have to understand two things when pursuing a personal injury claim:
• You must actually be injured. If there’s a nail sticking out of the doorway and you gently poke yourself without breaking the skin, that’s not considered an injury. However, if you get cut and need stitches, or require a tetanus shot, etc., that is considered an injury.
• In Nevada, the injured party is responsible for meeting the burden of proof to prove both your injury and the hotel’s negligence that caused it.
Tips for meeting the burden of proof
• Contact hotel management immediately after suffering the injury. Explain what happened, how it happened and be sure they file a detailed report. Get the name and information of their insurance company and/or request a follow-up from their corporate offices.
• Receive medical treatment. Large properties often have medical professionals on staff, or they may have to call an ambulance, depending on their resources and the extent of your injury. Request any and all medical records from here on out — paramedic reports, hospital bills, follow-up visits, etc. — and save it all.
• Document everything, including photos and eyewitness testimonies from anyone who may have seen the accident take place. Take pictures and videos of the scene, including your injury and what caused the injury to take place. If there were witnesses, have them either write down what they saw or record their explanation of events on your cellphone. If they’re willing, be sure to save their contact information if you need them for further follow-up.
• If your injury resulted in missing work, be sure to have the papers from your employer to support that claim. You may be compensated for loss of wages, bonuses, employment, etc., if you’re able to prove the damages.
• Do not sign anything before contacting an attorney. This is doubly true if you’re offered a settlement. While it may be tempting to accept an immediate payout, it can hinder your ability to seek greater damages down the road if you need to. Most importantly, don’t sign anything waving responsibility and/or a “release of claims” without having a lawyer look it over beforehand.
Please note: The information in this column is intended for general purposes only and is not to be considered legal or professional advice of any kind. You should seek advice that is specific to your problem before taking or refraining from any action and should not rely on the information in this column.