Posted By Alan Sackrin on June 9, 2015
Last Update: 6/2/16
South Florida is a vacation mecca for many people in the United States as well as Canada, Great Britain, and many parts of South America. Miami, in particular, has an international reputation as a fun place to visit and spend vacation time. Hotels like the Fontainebleau and the Biltmore are considered a part of American history and are known around the world for their luxury as well as their celebrity status.
All of South Florida’s allure, means that our part of the state is filled with lots of hotels, motels and specialty mixed use lodging complexes (hotels combined with condos or shopping).
From an injury lawyer’s perspective, all of those hotels means more instances of people getting hurt in slip and fall and other related premises liability accidents.
Are Hotel Accidents Covered By Florida’s Premises Liability Law?
Under Florida’s premises liability law, hotels can be held liable for injuries that occur on their property to hotel guests, visitors to the hotel who are visiting a guest, or visitors to the hotel itself (e.g., someone having a drink or dinner at the hotel bar or checking out the hotel for a future function). A hotel owner and/or operator can be responsible to pay for damages like medical expenses, lost wages, pain and suffering, and more if the hotel or one of its employees was negligent and that negligence caused someone to get hurt (stated another way, the hotel breached its duty of care to keep its guests/invitees safe).
Thus, the first step is to prove that the hotel was negligent or at fault. In most cases, the process of proving negligence starts with the statement that the victim gives detailing what happened (the internal investigation report can really help or hurt your case – so, be sure to be accurate and truthful – however, don’t worry if you forgot a detail when you provide information to the person writing the report – your lawyer will know how to get that additional information to the insurance adjuster for their file). That statement is then shared with the hotel’s insurance company who then review the statement along with talking to witnesses and reviewing any video footage to determine if they should pay the claim and, if so, what amount should they pay.
If negotiations with the insurance company’s adjuster do not result in a settlement, then the victim will have to file a lawsuit to recover compensation. At trial, the injury victim will have to provide admissible evidence (witness testimony, videos, photos, janitorial logs, etc.) to prove the hotel breached its duty of care, that the hotel’s negligence caused the victim’s injuries and prove the amount of the victim’s damages.
Evidence in a Hotel Accident: Proving Your Slip and Fall Claim
The burden of proof for someone hurt in a fall on hotel property involves finding admissible evidence of four key elements of their negligence case: duty, breach, cause, and harm.
In a hotel negligence case involving a slip and fall injury, the victim must be able to prove that the hotel owner and operator had a legal duty to them, that this duty was breached, and that the breach caused the accident, which harmed the victim in specific ways (e.g., damages).
Hotels have specific legal duties in operating a hotel business. Hotels have a general duty to exercise reasonable care for their hotel guests and customers as “invitees” under Florida premises liability law. Hotels need to monitor their facilities and fix potential risks and dangers fast.
These duties, for example, include:
- Spills in the restaurant need to be promptly mopped up.
- Light bulbs in hallways need to be quickly fixed as there is adequate lighting in the walkways.
- Pools need to be routinely mopped and swept to keep them free from falling hazards.
- The hotel uses slip resistant mats or other slip-resistant materials (slip resistant strips on steps and/or the use of shower mats or shower strips)
Hotels are also liable for the actions of their employees under the doctrine of “vicarious liability” in Florida. Here, if a hotel worker is responsible for the accident, and he or she was acting within their “scope of employment” at the time, then the hotel can be held liable for the accident even if the hotel management was unaware and had no knowledge of the incident at the time that it happened.
Burden of Proof in A Hotel Slip and Fall Claim
The injured party in a hotel slip and fall case will have to find evidence that the hotel is responsible for their damages. This may mean finding witnesses, getting their statements, and having them agree to testify, if needed, as to what they saw. It may also mean gathering photos, videos, and other documentary evidence of the accident, as well as investigating past incidents at the hotel and the past histories of the employees involved in the accident (it can also mean having to determine what type of cleaning solutions the hotel uses to clean floors and/or what type of slip resistant mats or other flooring materials they use) .
While the injured victim is collecting his or her evidence, he or she should know that the insurance company for the hotel is also out there, interviewing people and taking photographs and looking into the lives of the person(s) filing a claim (that can mean looking at past lawsuits filed by the victim and even asking the victim to turn over their medical records – medical records that predate the current accident, even if the medical records are totally unrelated to the current injuries). In Florida, the legislature has made it difficult to prove slip and fall liability cases, including against hotels, which is why it’s imperative to have the help of an experienced Florida personal injury lawyer.
The bottom line here is that an injury victim in Florida must be able to prove negligence in order to prevail in a slip and fall case against a hotel and most other business establishments. Until that proof is provided, the hotel, and their insurance company, will likely not place much value on a victim’s claim for damages no matter how large those damages may be.
What Should You Do?
A good piece of advice if you have been harmed by a slip and fall at a hotel or other lodging establishments, is to speak with an experienced personal injury lawyer before you file a claim to learn about some of the issues that can arise with these claims, including the type of evidence needed to prove a claim and the type and amount of damages you can recover. Most personal injury lawyers, like Alan Sackrin, will offer a free initial consultation (over the phone or in person) to answer your questions, including what documents to provide with your demand letter.
- How Do You Know If a Florida Hotel Acted Reasonably In Trying To Prevent A Bathtub or Shower Slip and Fall?
- Florida Hotel Slip and Falls: What is the Victim’s Evidence Burden When Falling at Hotel and Trying to Recover Compensation?
- Hotel Accident Claims: Hurt in the Hotel Pool
Do you have questions or comments? Then please feel free to send Alan an email or call him now at (954) 458-8655.
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