How to Pursue a Claim for Bed Bugs Against a Hotel?
Have you been a victim of bed bugs?
Are you an attorney looking to maximize the value of your client’s bed bug claim against a hotel?
Do you want to receive just compensation for the trauma of hotel bed bugs?
Knowing who to sue and how to file a claim is half the battle. Virtually all hotels have insurance that covers the costs of bed bug claims filed by hotel guests. There are certain steps that must be taken to present a successful claim, which include gathering evidence, sending a detailed preservation letter and notice of claim as soon as possible, preparing and sending a demand letter to the proper entity, and eventually litigating the claim if it is either denied or if the offer to settle is too low.
More often than not, hotels and their insurance carriers ignore their hotel guests’ complaints about bed bugs. Unlike mosquitoes or ants, bed bugs are a pervasive and hazardous issue that needs to be eliminated immediately. Hotels and motels are in the business of filling rooms with guests. The sad reality is that it is much cheaper for these hotels, motels, and resorts to risk their guests’ health than to quarantine the infected rooms and properly address their bed bug infestation.
Gather Evidence for the claim
Photos of the bed bugs
For your bed bug claim to be successful, you will need evidence including but not limited to photos/videos of the bed bugs, the bites, and any scarring. This can all be captured using a cellular phone. There is a higher rate of success with these types of claims when there is more evidence to present. Make sure to take pictures of everything. Every bite that you have needs to be documented. After you take pictures of your bites, look around the room for physical evidence of the bed bugs. That means that you must look under the bed sheets, under the mattress, and all other nooks and crannies. If you find any evidence whatsoever, take a picture of it. Also, make sure to take photographs of any blood on the bed sheets—this is a common indicator of a bed bug infestation. Bed bugs are very small but are not so small that a modern cell phone camera can’t photograph them.
The issue with many of these claims is that the physical symptoms of bed bug bites can take up to 14 days to develop in some people. These delayed symptoms often make a claim much more difficult to prove but does not make it impossible. These claims are generally worth much less as they If you develop symptoms days or weeks after your stay at the hotel or motel, you should still photograph your injuries if you intend on filing a claim.
Medical Diagnosis and Treatment
It is extremely important that you seek medical attention for your injuries if your bites become red and swollen, you have a fever or your bites form into blisters or sores. It is very difficult to prove that the bites came from bed bugs without a proper diagnosis. If you or your loved one suffered a high quantity of bed bug bits, the medical provider will likely prescribe Permethrin or one of the many other varieties of topical creams used to treat bed bugs, scabies, and lice. In many cases, the doctor will prescribe an antihistamine pill or over the counter product like Benadryl to help alleviate the itchiness. In the most severe cases, the patient will be prescribed pain killers to relieve the pain.
Most, if not all, hotels, motels and resorts have a policy in place for documenting guest complaints. It is very important to complain to management about the bed bug infestation. If possible, try to obtain a copy of the incident report. Certain hotels will provide a copy of the incident report to the hotel. However, many hotels, motels, and resorts do not allow the guest to obtain a copy.
Can you sue a hotel for bed bugs?
Yes, you can sue a hotel for bed bugs. Although immediately filing a lawsuit is not always the best way to go about it. There are several steps that should be taken prior to filing a lawsuit:
- Identify the owner/operator of the hotel – The first course of action should always be to locate the proper owner or operator of the hotel. In Florida, where we handle our bed bug claims, the best place to find the proper entity is sunbiz.org. On this website, you or your attorney should be able to find the proper owner/operator of the hotel.
- Send a certified letter with return receipt informing the hotel/operator of your claim. The letter should include a request to preserve all of the evidence. If the hotel/operator fails to preserve the requested items and your case goes to court, the judge may instruct the jury that the hotel destroyed or failed to preserve the items requested. This helps prove the case. The preservation letter should request that the hotel save all video, information, pest control orders/invoices, maintenance requests, and complaints, including but not limited to:
- All maintenance or service requests, letters, invoices, payments, or logs pertaining to bed bug for a period of two year prior to the first date of your stay;
- Documentation of any prior complaints or injuries at the unit stemming from bed bugs and/or other insects in the common areas and hotel rooms;
- All lists, schedules and rosters reflecting employees at your hotel who were working on the dates of your stay.
- All lists, contracts, written documents, recorded statements, or receipts pertaining to outside pest control firms for a period of two year prior to the first date of your stay.
- Any and all incident reports of you bed bug complaints.
- Once the letter is received, it will likely be forwarded to the hotel/operator’s insurance carrier. Many smaller hotels will simply ignore the letter and hope that you don’t file a lawsuit. If the letter is ignored, you will have no choice other than to file a lawsuit to seek compensation for your damages. If the letter is forwarded to the insurance carrier, they will contact you to try and resolve your claim. It is at this point that many claimants agree to release the hotel in exchange for a very small settlement.
If you are a victim of bed bugs, don’t let the hotels and insurance companies bully you will low settlement offers. Hire an attorney to help you get the most money in your pocket.
How Much are Bed Bug Claims Worth?
Bed Bug claims can be worth a lot of money. Insurance companies try to settle these claims for “nuisance value,” by offering the claimant a small amount of money (usually somewhere between $200.00 and $ 800.00) in exchange for the signed release of liability. But these claims can be worth as much as $15,000 or more. Each claim is unique. That is why it is imperative to know the intricacies of bed bug law or get a lawyer who specializes in the field. The value of the claim will depend on the following factors:
- Whether or not more than one guest staying in the room was bitten. Take for example a situation where there were four guests in the same room, and only one of the guests suffered bites. In this example, it is much more difficult to prove that the hotel room was the source of the bed bug.
- How attractive the claimant is – hotels and their insurance carriers often pay significantly more money to settle claims when the claimant is attractive. This is a sad reality, but it is what it is.
- Lost wages – In some instances, the bed bug bites make it impossible for the claimant to return to their regular job. This was the case for a Victoria’s Secret model who found it difficult to return to work covered in red welts and bumps caused by the bed bugs in her hotel room. Many people find it difficult to return to work because they are ashamed of their appearance. Many of our clients complain that their coworkers and employers don’t want them coming to work because they are grossed out by their appearance and believe the condition is contagious. This is the case with teachers, medical professionals, waiters…
- Medical bills and treatment – The value of the claim will often depend on how high the client’s medical bills are. In most cases, the medical bills that our clients incur do not exceed $2,000.00. A case where the victim is seen by their primary care physician (an average of about a $160.00 visit) will not be worth as much as a case where the victim is hospitalized for the injuries and incurs substantial bills.
- Constant problem at the hotel – if bed bugs are a persistent problem at the hotel and it fails to remedy the problem, it is possible to seek punitive damages. These damages are intended to punish the hotel and prevent future occurrences.
- The number of bites. This can range anywhere from a single bit to over one hundred bites covering all parts of the body.
- Scarring – In many cases the victim simply cannot deal with the itching and continuously scratches their bitten areas. Constant scratching can often lead to permanent scarring.
- The hotel or motel where the occurrence occurred – higher-end establishments generally pay larger confidential settlements quicker to avoid any negative publicity.
Seek an Experienced Bed Bug Attorney
If you or a loved one have suffered bed bug injuries at a hotel, motel, or resort, then do not hesitate to contact The Law Offices of Prosper Shaked about a free consultation on your claim. Our skilled lawyers have the expertise you will need to secure the settlement that you deserve. The Law Offices of Prosper Shaked has years of experience when it comes to handling bed bug claims and ensuring that our clients receive the compensation that they need in order to pay off their medical expenses, lost wages, etc. We handle cases throughout the state of Florida. For a free legal consultation on your case, call our law offices today at (305) 850-6049.