As travelers, we expect the hotels and motels where we stay to offer some basic amenities. Clean bathrooms. Comfortable beds. Working wifi. Doors that lock.
What we don’t expect is for our stays to end in injury or tragedy because of an unsafe condition at the property; nonetheless, such events happen frequently. Hotel and motel operators sometimes fail to maintain rooms, to post warnings, and to prevent dangerous conduct. Service and equipment providers to hotels and motels occasionally take careless or reckless actions. Hotel staff and guests engage in wrongful behavior. When this happens, the guests and visitors injured need legal representation to help them recover compensation.
Boohoff Law is a personal injury law firm based in Seattle that represents people who have sustained injuries through no fault of their own. That includes anyone injured at a Seattle-area hotel or motel, or anyone from our corner of the world who gets injured while staying somewhere else. If your latest hotel or motel stay left you hurt or ended in a tragic loss of life, we want to help. Contact us today to learn more about your legal rights.
About Boohoff Law Hotel and Motel Accident Injury Attorneys
Our firm’s founder, Attorney Tatiana Boohoff, and her team of skilled attorneys and legal professionals have represented victims of personal injury for more than a decade. Founded in Florida, Boohoff Law recently relocated to the Pacific Northwest, bringing with it a well-deserved reputation for aggressive, sophisticated advocacy on behalf of clients injured in accidents and families mourning the loss of loved ones. At Boohoff Law, our team commits itself to unmatched client service. Unlike some giant law firms, we take the time to listen and respond to our clients’ needs.
Attorney Boohoff earned her law degree from Boston University School of Law, a nationally ranked institution. Though Tatiana’s legal skills would make her effective at virtually any type of legal practice, she and her team focus their efforts exclusively on representing personal injury victims. Their mission is to ensure anyone harmed by someone else’s carelessness recovers the maximum compensation they deserve.
Injury Risks at Hotels and Motels
These days, hotels and motels in Washington State (and elsewhere) have a slew of laws and regulations they must follow to provide accessible, clean accommodations to the public. Unfortunately, that doesn’t mean those establishments are always safe. Anytime visitors stay in a relatively unfamiliar place like a hotel or motel, they face a heightened risk of injury. Some common hotel and motel injuries include:
- Slipping and falling in showers, bathrooms, and tiled common areas;
- Physical and sexual assaults by staff or other guests, particularly when alcohol consumption is involved;
- Drownings in pools and hot-tubs;
- Soft-tissue and orthopedic injuries in spas and exercise facilities;
- Food-borne illnesses;
- Violations of privacy of guests and visitors; and
- Skin problems and infection from bed bugs or other unsanitary conditions.
These are just some of the potential physical and emotional injuries guests of hotels and motels can sustain while staying at a property. Anytime the conditions of hotel or motel, or the actions of its staff or guests, harm a guest or visitor, hospitality owners and operators (and others connected to them) may have liability for damages. A skilled hotel and motel accident injury attorney can help you recover the money you deserve from them.
Hotel and Motel Owner/Operators’ Legal Duties to Guests and Visitors
Washington State’s laws of premises liability (the liability of a property owner to property visitors for their injuries) generally apply to owners and operators of hotels and motels. The law treats guests and visitors at a hotel or motel in Washington State as business or public invitees. Owners and operators of hotels and motels owe these people a duty to take reasonable care to keep them safe while they’re on the premises.
General Duties of Reasonable Care
What does reasonable care mean for hotel and motel owners and operators? As a general matter, it means:
- Maintaining all guest-accessible areas, both public and private, in a condition free from reasonably foreseeable dangers, and fixing any unsafe conditions that arise;
- Giving adequate warnings of known and/or foreseeable unsafe conditions until they are fixed;
- Maintaining guest privacy and security; and
- Preventing employees and guests from harming others.
If you sustained an injury as a guest or visitor to a hotel or motel and wonder whether you have a right to take legal action for damages, the answer is probably yes if someone other than you did something, or didn’t do something, that they reasonably ought to have done, or not done, to prevent your injury. Certain acts, like violations of safety regulations and crimes committed by hotel staff, constitute per se violations of the duty of reasonable care, taking much of the guesswork out of whether a hotel or motel operator/owner has a legal liability for harming a visitor or guest.
Special duties involving attractive nuisances like pools
In Washington State, as in most other states, property owners and operators have special duties to protect young children from attractive nuisances. An attractive nuisance is a property feature that’s likely to attract young children but poses an inherent danger to them. Swimming pools are the most common form of an attractive nuisance. They also happen to be a common amenity at hotels and motels.
Hotel and motel owners and operators have a special duty to take reasonable precautions to prevent injuries to young children from attractive nuisances like swimming pools on their resort properties. What that means can vary from case-to-case, depending on the features and typical guest profile of the resort. But, at a minimum, hotel and motel owners must limit access to these amenities, post signs warning of their dangers and requiring children be supervised, and maintain safety features like emergency floatation devices and first-aid kits.
Legal Duties of Others Related to Hotels and Motels
Hotel and motel operators and owners aren’t the only ones who have legal duties to guests and visitors at a resort property. As a general matter, in day-to-day life every person has a duty not to harm others, and that applies as much to behavior at hotels and motels as it does anywhere else. People may like to say things like “What happens here, stays here,” but in fact, actions have consequences wherever they happen. So, for example:
- Guests have a duty not to harm other guests;
- Food suppliers have a duty to supply safe, edible food;
- Third-party maintenance contractors have a duty to do their jobs in a manner that does not foreseeably harm guests and visitors; and
- Architects and engineers have a duty to design and build safe, structurally-sound facilities and amenities.
What Happens When Someone Breaches a Legal Duty?
A violation of a legal duty like the ones listed above, generally speaking, makes the person who violated the duty liable for damages to anyone harmed as a result. Any of the parties above, in other words, could have a legal liability for damages in a case involving an injury or death at a hotel or motel. So could some other parties, not necessarily named above, as a result of their legal relationships to whomever violated the duty.
The job of a skilled hotel and motel accident injury attorney like Tatiana Boohoff involves, in part, investigating the facts and circumstances of an incident that harmed her client, so as to identify the parties with potential legal liability and the ability to pay damages. Personal injury lawyers often, but not always, focus on the parties who have insurance available to pay damages. Then, those lawyers begin the process of negotiating and/or litigating to recover those damages.
Common Damages for Hotel and Motel Accident Injuries
An attorney who concludes she can prove a party has legal liability to her client typically starts by making a demand upon that party and/or its insurer for the maximum amount of damages allowable under the law. Oftentimes, the demand alone will prompt the other party to negotiate and offer a fair and reasonable settlement. Occasionally, however, negotiation will prove unsuccessful, and the attorney will advise her client to authorize filing a legal action for damages.
Whether through settlement or a judgment from a court, there are two general categories of compensatory damages an injured hotel or motel guest/visitor can seek from the parties with potential legal liability: economic (or special) damages, and non-economic (or general) damages.
Economic damages are fixed costs the injured guest/visitor, or the family of a guest/visitor who died at a property, incurred because of the incident. Typically, these damages include:
- Present and future medical costs;
- Replacement services, including those involved with changing travel plans on short notice;
- Chronic or long-term care costs;
- Assistive medical devices and home modifications;
- Lost wages from time off from work while recovering or mourning; and
- Lost income or employment opportunity due to injuries, disability, or death.
Anyone with legal liability may, under Washington law, be allowed to pay these economic damages in installments rather than as a lump-sum.
Non-economic damages are those that do not have fixed costs associated with them, but are instead more subjective and difficult to quantify. They include:
- Pain and suffering;
- Damage to personal relationships (a.k.a. loss of consortium/companionship/parent-child relationship); and
- Negative impacts on quality of life.
In Washington State, the law caps non-economic damages at a maximum of 43 percent of the average annual wage in Washington (which is an amount fixed by law) multiplied by the injured person’s life expectancy at the time of the incident (but not less than 15 years). Unlike many states, so-called punitive or exemplary damages are generally not available in Washington State lawsuits.
Benefits of Hiring an Experienced Hotel and Motel Accident Injury Attorney as Soon as Possible
Sustaining an injury or enduring a tragic loss of life because of a condition at a hotel or motel usually sends the victims’ lives into immediate chaos. They’re often far from home and in an unfamiliar location. Just getting medical care and managing the costs and inconvenience of contending with an unexpected injury and an unplanned hospital stay can feel overwhelming.
The team at Boohoff Law understands just how stressful and upsetting that moment in life feels. We understand how hiring a lawyer might be the last thing on someone’s mind. It may surprise you to hear, however, how helpful hiring a lawyer right away can be in that situation.
As a law firm, our aim is to take as much of the burden of an unexpected injury or loss off our clients’ shoulders as possible. In cases involving hotel and motel injuries, we aim to serve as our clients’ support system away from home. The sooner we get involved, the sooner we can get started investigating what happened (before evidence starts to disappear and witnesses start to forget), sorting out insurance complications that accompany hospital stays far from home, and protecting our clients’ legal rights to compensation.
We pay close attention to that last task. Hotels and motels, in particular, have a strong financial interest in trying to accommodate guests who get injured with free perks and upgrades. They do this hoping the guest or visitor will leave happy, forget the incident, and perhaps post positively about the experience on social media. But beware: Seemingly friendly gestures from a hotel owner or operator, like a voucher, a comped room, or a free future stay, often come with an implied relinquishment of the injured guest’s legal rights to seek compensation. Talk with a lawyer first before accepting any benefit from a hotel or motel where you sustained an injury or loss.
The same goes for insurance companies. Do not say yes to an offer of quick settlement from an insurance company for a hotel or motel. Insurers are in the business of limiting their policyholders’ financial exposure. Quick money is lowball money, in our experience. Never accept a settlement and never sign anything until first consulting with an experienced hotel and motel injury attorney like the team at Boohoff Law.
Call Boohoff Law’s Seattle Hotel and Motel Accident Injury Lawyers Now
Boohoff Law is a team of skilled, committed lawyers and legal professionals who put their clients’ interests above all others. Let us be your support system away from home after you sustain an injury or tragedy strikes during a hotel or motel stay. Call us now at 877-999-9999 or write to Boohoff Law online to schedule a free, confidential, no-obligation case consultation.