Most people have been to a hotel at some point during their lives, with hotels across the UK and abroad providing food and hospitality for every conceivable occasion. People from all walks of life visit hotels for holidays, weddings, evening receptions, conferences, spas, fairs, and so on.
Hotels are, quite simply, singularly adept at offering their guests a great experience. Unfortunately, whether you are visiting a hotel for an evening meal, or you’re staying for a luxury holiday, things can go wrong – even if you think you have found the perfect location.
Weddings can be ruined, hotels spoilt, and that much-anticipated foreign holiday can quickly turn out to be an unexpected nightmare. In cases of serious injury – lives can be changed forever.
Hotel injuries and illnesses can be wide-ranging. You don’t even need to leave your room for an accident to happen: the kettle can be faulty, a window hinge may be defective, and showers can be a slip risk.
Injuries can be caused by trips involving steps and stairs, slips in the restaurant areas, accidents in the swimming pool, balcony falls, and injuries caused by defective or faulty furniture. Substandard food or poorly treated water can cause food poisoning.
Find out more about holiday injury compensation.
If your accident an injury were the result of negligence, you could be in a position to sue the hotel for compensation.
If you were involved in an accident in a hotel, there are initial steps you can take to increase your chances of a successful hotel injury claim. Firstly, report the incident to the hotel manager and make sure the accident is properly recorded in the hotel’s accident book. Ask what investigations will be made and how your complaint will be dealt with.
If you are on a package holiday, you can also report the accident to the tour operator and travel agent. The important issue is that there is a formal written record of what happened. Make sure you ask for copies of the reports.
Secondly, find out who saw the incident so that you can get their names and contact details. This can be other hotel guests or (even better) staff members who are willing to give their account of what happened. Having first-hand accounts from witnesses can make or break a hotel injury claim.
If you can, take photographs of the scene of the accident. In some cases, there will be little to take a photo of – but if the accident involved an uneven or obstructed staircase, a broken handrail, or a pot hole on the pool side, you should get photographic evidence to help your chances of success. If you later see repairs being carried out, take more pictures because this can help boost your case.
Hotels at home and abroad have high food hygiene standards to maintain. Where standards slip, the risk to guests becomes clear. Food poisoning is by far the most common illness suffered by hotel guests with up to a quarter of Britons having reportedly suffered from food poisoning whilst overseas. Contaminated water can also cause serious illness.
If you have fallen ill, you can take some initial steps to help in your claim. Taking a food or water sample may not be possible – but if you, or a friend or relative, can do so this may prove vital evidence. Also consider keeping a diary of what you have eaten and drunk, particularly in the hours leading up to your illness; and report your illness to the hotel manager (and the tour operator if you are on holiday). Get medical attention as soon as possible – the medical records will be vital in your claim.
You may not be the only one to have suffered illness. If you know of other hotel guests who also fell ill, get their names and contact details. Not only will their accounts be vital to your claim, you might be able to mount a ‘group’ action together to claim compensation.
Hotels have a duty of care towards all visitors, and are expected to comply with their own country’s health and safety laws. UK hotels, for instance, have a legal duty under the Occupiers Liability Act 1957 to protect the health and safety of all those who enter their premises, including diners and other guests.
Depending the circumstances, liability for your injuries may lie with the hotel itself, your tour operator or the travel agent. In some cases, you may be able to take action against more than one of these.
If your holiday was booked as a package holiday, you should be able to claim against the tour operator and/or the travel agent in the UK under The Package Travel, Package Tours and Package Holidays Regulations 1992. Whether it was a package holiday may not always be clear – this may depend on which parts of the holiday were advertised and booked together as a ‘package’ (transport and accommodation, for instance).
If you booked the hotel yourself, the hotel will be liable. However, if the hotel is not in the UK, you may need to take action in the relevant country under its domestic law, and specialist legal help will be needed. To prove your claim, you will need to show how the hotel breached its legal requirements under relevant health and safety laws, and as a result, you suffered injuries.
If you have suffered any form of food poisoning at your hotel because it failed to observe required food safety requirements, the hotel (or the tour operator) can be held liable.
Nicola is a dual qualified journalist and non-practising solicitor. She is a legal journalist, editor and author with more than 20 years' experience writing about the law.
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