Myrtle Beach has been acknowledged as one of the premier tourism centers of the United States, with over 15 million visitors every year. The year-’round temperate climate and extensive beaches would be enough to make the Grand Strand a premium destination for vacationers. The area’s sports and musical events, retail shopping facilities, and dining and entertainment options have propelled Myrtle Beach to the top tier of travel destinations.
To meet this demand, entrepreneurs have been industriously building lodging for visitors. There are nearly 500 hotels and resorts in the area, providing a total of guest rooms estimated to be near 100,000. The hospitality sector also includes motels, campgrounds, and condominiums and houses for vacation rental, but hotels and resorts are the top choice for most visitors.
Maintaining a flawless reputation is important for the Myrtle Beach lodging industry. Hoteliers want guests to have a perfect vacation experience so they will return regularly—and share their satisfactory experience with friends. It doesn’t always work out that way. Sad to say, hundreds of people each year will find that their visits to a South Carolina hotel involves an accidental injury—one that could have been prevented all along. Many of these accidents will come with serious, lasting consequences; some will be fatal.
When Bad Things Happen in a Myrtle Beach Hotel
An innkeeper—the owner or manager of a hotel—owes his guests something lawyers call a duty of care. This is a duty to act in a reasonable manner to prevent harm coming to other people. In fact, because the innkeeper accepts money from customers to provide safe lodgings, his obligation to take care of paying guests is a good deal stronger than that of most other merchants.
If the hotel’s staff fails to provide a safe and secure living space, then the business may be legally liable for any injuries that happen because of this negligence. “Negligence” is another legal term that means not living up to the duty of care. Negligence can take many forms in a hotel: it may consist of failure to repair damaged or dangerous facilities, or even failure to warn guests of hazards that should be avoided on the premises.
When the hotel’s staff ignores the responsibility to care for the wellbeing of guests, and when that negligence leads to harm for the guest, then the hotel is obligated to make things right. In many cases, though, the hotel can’t directly fix things: it can’t erase the pain of a broken leg, for instance, and it can’t refund the days an injured guest spends confined to a hospital bed. As a compromise, the South Carolina legal system uses money; the hotel will be required to pay the injured party a sum of money sufficient to balance the losses suffered.
Will the hotel pay willingly? Not likely. The hotel will have purchased insurance to compensate injured guests, and the insurance adjuster will fight to give you the least compensation he can get away with. And that’s a pity, because sometimes guests have severe injuries that come along with massive medical bills and months of lost income while they’re unable to work.
Types of Preventable Hotel Accidents
Every accidental injury at a resort or hotel has its own unique circumstances. Two or more people may be hurt in the same incident and yet have very different recoveries. We will just give a brief overview of the injuries that can result.
Falls, Slips, and Trip Injuries
- Falls down staircases.
- Falls and trips caused by elevator malfunctions, such as not aligning properly with a floor or a fall down an empty elevator shaft.
- Fall from a mezzanine over the lobby or atrium.
- Fall from a balcony in a guest room or meeting room.
- Collapse of a suspended walkway or balcony.
- Child falls from dangerous playground equipment.
- Slip and fall from spilled food in the hotel restaurant.
- Trip over power cords in the lobby, business suite, common area, or guest room.
- Trip over worn, torn, or unsecured carpets.
- Slip and fall from water in pool decks, saunas, or bathrooms.
Fall accidents from a height may be immediately fatal. Other consequences of a fall can include traumatic brain injury, broken bones, spinal column damage, or damage to the knee, ankle, hip, or other joints.
- Collision or pedestrian accident at a traffic circle at the hotel entrance or exit.
- Vehicle crash or pedestrian accident in a parking lot, garage, or private parking structure.
- Crash or pedestrian injury caused by valet parking staff.
- Golf cart accident on golf course.
- Courtesy van or shuttle collision due to resort driver’s negligence.
The hotel may be directly liable for vehicle accidents caused by staff members who are on duty. The hotel may be liable for injuries caused by other guests if the hotel design didn’t allow safe driving, if the driver was allowed to use a golf cart without proper training, or if a golf cart was not maintained properly and couldn’t be controlled.
- Assault by stranger in a hallway, in a guest room, exercise room, pool, or parking facility.
- Assault by hotel staff anywhere on the premises.
- Theft by hotel staff.
Defective locks, lack of trained security personnel, poor passkey control, lack of security cameras and video monitoring, failure to warn guests of potential dangers, or inadequate lighting are all factors that may make you vulnerable to assault in a hotel or resort.
Recreational facility hazards
- Pool or spa drowning because no lifeguard was available.
- Pool or spa drowning because no staff member was adequately trained in CPR.
- Pool or spa drowning because the water circulation system trapped a swimmer’s limb or clothing.
- Injury to skin or hair from pool or spa.
- Hyperthermia (potentially leading to fainting, shock, or heart attack) in the spa or sauna because of defective controls or inadequate staff supervision.
- Crush injury, bone fracture, sprain, or amputation from exercise room equipment.
Because pools and other recreational facilities are known to be dangerous, the property owner has an even stronger duty of care to keep guests safe in those locations.
- Fire anywhere on the premises.
- Carbon monoxide from kitchens, electric generators, or barbecue grills.
- Toxic mold in guest rooms, bathrooms, pool and spa enclosures.
- Mass bacterial and viral infections caused by sanitation failures (hepatitis, enterovirus, legionella, etc.) in hotel food service facilities and guest bathrooms.
- Pesticide and herbicide residue used in grounds and landscaping.
Even short-term exposure to some environmental hazards can damage a guest’s health.
What to Do After a Resort or Hotel Injury
Quick action can minimize injuries and sometimes save lives after a hotel accident. The top priority should be to seek medical care right away, even if you think the injury is a minor one. Let a medical professional evaluate your condition and start any necessary treatment.
Then, as soon as you can, it is important to…
- Notify the hotel owner or management about the event. You can do this with a phone call or visit to the front desk.
- Notify police, if public safety is at risk. If the injury was caused by a vehicle crash, security lapse, or environmental hazard, or if the injury was fatal, then the local authorities need to know.
- Begin gathering information for a possible legal case. Collect the names and contact information of any witnesses. Photograph the scene (cell phone images will be just fine). Take notes about what just happened and update those notes to refresh your memory later.
- Contact your attorney. A skilled personal injury trial lawyer is your best hope of overcoming the insurance company’s legal team and securing the best settlement or damage award available.
Visitors to the Myrtle Beach area rarely know which local attorney will best suit their needs. The Law Office of Kenneth E. Berger serves injury clients statewide with first-rate legal representation. For a free, no-obligation case evaluation, call our Columbia office or click the Live Chat button on this page.