If you slip and fall while in a Los Angeles hotel and sustain an injury, you may be able to sue the hotel for damages. Whether you can collect and how much you may be entitled to depends on the specific details of your accident.
Duty of Care
Property owners who open their property to the public have a duty keep their guests safe. This means that the property owner is responsible for ensuring the property is kept in good repair and that potential hazards are either repaired or clearly marked.
When a patron or a visitor gets hurt on the hotel's premises, the first question becomes - who is at fault? Most of the time, the hotel will be among the parties responsible, regardless of whether their fault was direct or constructive (indirect). Depending on the fact of the case, other entities or even individuals may be brought to share the blame, and in turn, to provide financial contribution for victim's compensation. Such parties may include another hotel guest, a hotel employee, a product manufacturer, or even a construction company that has performed work on the premises.
How to Prove the Hotel is at Fault
To file a lawsuit, you must have suffered an injury due to the fall. You must also show that:
- The hotel had a duty of care
- The hotel somehow failed in that duty of care, either by action or inaction
- The hotel's lack of care was the proximate cause of the accident
The injured party can show the hotel had a duty and breached that duty, causing the accident, through evidence. Evidence can include eyewitness statements, video recordings, or other relevant details. For example, documents or emails showing hotel management knew about the danger and did nothing to fix or minimize the problem.
At the same time, the hotel will also gather evidence to prove or limit its fault. The hotel will try to defend itself by disproving your claim or showing that you were partially at fault.
California allows people to collect damages even if they were partly to blame for an accident. The legal term for this practice is comparative negligence. Even if a person is 99 percent at fault for an accident, they may still be able to collect 1 percent of the estimated damages.
In a jury trial, the jury determines how much fault should be assigned to the injured party. If a jury awards the plaintiff $1 million but finds the plaintiff 40 percent at fault, the damages will be reduced to $600,000.
A common example of comparative negligence in a slip-and-fall case is if someone slips on a wet floor. If the hotel put out a sign warning people of the potentially slippery floor, a jury may find the plaintiff was partially at fault for failing to pay attention to the sign.
Where comparative negligence can get complicated is in determining each party's fault. How easily someone could see the wet floor sign, where it was placed compared to where the floor was potentially slippery: all of these details factor into determining comparative negligence.
Comparative negligence is one more way in which evidence plays an important role. For example, a hotel says they put a wet floor sign down in a lobby, but you say you did not see it, which led to you slipping and injuring your ankle. If video footage shows you were unlikely to see the sign due to its location, your fault will be less than if multiple signs were placed in hard-to-miss spots.
The location of the accident also matters. If you were in a restricted area when the accident occurred, while the hotel may be somewhat liable, a jury will likely reduce the award because you shouldn't have been in that area.
What Damages Can I Claim?
The majority of slip and fall cases settle and do not go to trial. The injured party most often receives compensatory damages.
Compensatory damages include medical expenses, payment for lost wages, or even future wages if the injury will affect your ability to work in the future.
If a case goes to trial and a hotel's actions are malicious or beyond ordinary negligence, a jury may also award punitive damages.
These damages are a form of punishment and are above and beyond compensatory damages.
Slip and fall accidents can cause long-term, lingering injuries. They can also lead to expensive medical bills or reduced ability to work. If an accident occurred as a result of a hotel failing to offer safe premises to their guests, a lawsuit is one way to make sure you are not solely responsible for medical bills or lost wages.