Though you may associate hotel or casino injuries with slip-and-falls, some injuries may actually come about as a result of inadequate security. Whether it’s another guest following you back to your room, an unwitnessed accident at the pool or spa, or a belligerent patron starting a fistfight in the lobby, hotel security lapses can put guests at risk. Below, we’ll discuss some of the situations in which hotel security may be at fault for an accident or injury, as well as what patrons can do after any incidents to ensure their legal rights are protected.
What Injuries Can Inadequate Security Cause?
A hotel that lacks proper security can generate a wide range of potential guest injuries. These include:
- Assault, battery, or robbery if guest rooms aren’t secure. A key card that works for multiple doors, or a hotel employee who provides a random patron with a guest’s room information could lead to security breaches in the rooms themselves. And if the room has a sliding glass door without a safety lock to prevent it from being opened from outside, it could also provide miscreants with an easy way to access a room.
- Inadequate lighting may also lead to attacks on guests, especially in dark corridors or parking garages where there are unlikely to be witnesses. Hotels that have large parking garages or other secluded areas should use security patrols to ensure no would-be attackers are loitering or lying in wait.
- Hotels that regularly overserve alcohol to guests could put others at risk of assault, battery, or even rape. Drunk patrons who attempt to drive themselves away from the hotel could hit another vehicle or a pedestrian.
- Hotels that don’t include safes in their rooms or offer patrons a way to securely store sensitive or valuable items could be on the hook for losses the guests sustain if the room is robbed.
- Hotels that don’t perform background checks on staff could be putting guests at risk in a variety of ways. If a particular employee has a criminal background history that hints at violence, sexual assault, theft, or drug use, the hotel can be charged with constructive knowledge if this employee later assaults, harasses, or steals from guests.
In addition, if a hotel lacks security cameras, it may not be able to identify and evict problem guests in a timely manner.
What is Considered Adequate Security for a Hotel?
There’s no one-size-fits-all answer when it comes to adequate hotel security. But in general, there are some elements that every hotel should have, as well as potential dangers that hotels should avoid. Hotel security should include:
- Lights (including motion-detected lights)
- Security cameras
- Security patrols or, at minimum, personnel who are willing to walk guests to their vehicles at night
- Functioning security hardware like keycards and locks
- The ability to quickly cancel or reset keycards to avoid unauthorized access
- Staff training on appropriate security protocols
There are also some things all hotels should avoid:
- Any dark or secluded areas of the property that aren’t surveilled with security cameras
- Keycard mixups or misprogramming
- Heavily intoxicated guests
- Staff members who have a criminal history
Hotels that don’t make efforts to resolve or correct these issues could be putting their guests in danger.
What Will You Need to Prove to Recover Damages?
If you or a loved one has been injured as a result of inadequate hotel security, you may be able to file a premises liability personal injury claim against the hotel. To recover financial damages in a premises liability claim, you’ll need to prove three key elements:
- The hotel owed you and other guests a reasonable duty of care;
- The hotel breached this duty; and
- As a result of the breach, you sustained physical injuries or financial damages.
Under premises liability law, a hotel owes its invitees (or guests) a heightened duty of care as compared to the duty owed to a trespasser or non-invitee. And if the hotel breaches this duty of care by not taking steps to create security protocols and maintain adequate security measures, it may be held to have breached this duty. To win financial damages after establishing the first two elements, you’ll need to show that your injuries were a direct outcome of the hotel’s breach. If you can only prove breach and not damages, or if you can’t show that the damages you sustained were a direct result of the breach, you may not be able to prevail.
One issue that’s often raised in hotel security lawsuits is foreseeability. If a plaintiff can show that the hotel was, or should have been, on notice of certain risks to its guests and failed to protect against these risks, proving breach can be a relatively easy part of the process. And if you can obtain hotel records, witness statements, or even news stories indicating that other injuries like yours have happened before and the hotel failed to take steps to prevent future such incidents, this can be strong evidence supporting your claim for damages.
What Damages are Available in a Hotel Security Lawsuit?
Some of the damages that might be available to a prevailing plaintiff include:
- Medical expenses (past and future)
- Lost wages
- Lost future wages or loss of future earning capacity
- Costs to repair or replace any damaged or stolen property
- Reimbursement of any expenses incurred as a result of the security breach (like having to transfer to a different hotel)
- Punitive damages to prevent similar issues from happening to others
A hotel guest who is injured or harmed by a third party may be able to sue both the third party and the hotel. However, in many cases, the third party may turn out to be judgment-proof—especially if they’re arrested and jailed as a result of the incident that led to your injuries. Suing the hotel as well can provide a deep-pocketed defendant that may be at fault for failing to anticipate and prevent such an injury.