Can I Sue a Hotel or Airbnb for Injuries and Other Damages? By Charles T. Hoge on May 23, 2024

Wet floor with signs in a hotel lobby

Many people understand the mechanisms of a personal injury lawsuit like a straightforward car accident claim. Another driver was negligent, crashes into their victim, and is sued for compensation. It is less well understood how similar legal principles apply in civil cases against property owners like hotel operators and Airbnb or Vrbo hosts. This is of particular importance as Memorial Day weekend approaches and the summer begins.

In this short blog post, I will detail how premises liability lawsuits work, what your legal options are, and how you can get help for any injury in the San Diego area.

The Basic Principles of Any Personal Injury Case

To win your premises liability lawsuit, four elements must be proven:

  • The defendant owned, leased, occupied, or controlled the property you were hurt in.
  • The defendant was negligent in their management or operation of the property.
  • This negligence caused you direct harm.
  • The harm you suffered led to quantifiable damages.


Downtown San Diego at night

Premises Liability Specifics In California

I’m proud to call San Diego home for many reasons. Over the course of my multi-decade career, the area has continually grown and is now home to several renowned events like Comic-Con and the Del Mar horse races that bring in visitors from across the country and even around the globe.

It is important that you understand state-specific laws as these are what govern your case no matter where you came to San Diego from.

Statute of Limitations

Statute of limitations laws set hard deadlines for when a lawsuit must be filed.

In California, you have two years from the date of your accident to file a personal injury claim. If you are filing a case on behalf of a family member who passed away, you have two years from the date of their passing to initiate your wrongful death lawsuit.

Trespassers Have Rights Here

Victims in premises liability lawsuits are generally placed into one of three categories: invitees, licensees, or trespassers. In some states, the third category of trespassers are owed no duty of care from property owners. This leads defendants in other states to try and prove victims were trespassers in an effort to avoid liability.

Since Rowland v. Christian in 1968, California has recognized that trespassers are owed a duty of care by property owners:

The above means you can still receive compensation for injuries even if you were not a formal guest of the hotel or Airbnb.

We Can Seek Compensation In Many Categories

If you suffered an injury due to negligence at any hotel or rental property, you can file a claim to seek compensation for losses in these areas and more:

  • Physical Pain
  • Mental Anguish
  • Property Damage
  • Medical Bills
  • Lost Wages
  • Reduced Earnings

You Can Still Seek Damages Even if You Were Partly at Fault for an Accident

California is a pure comparative negligence state, meaning you can be compensated even if your behavior was not perfect.

For example, if you were texting while walking down a stairway that was not properly maintained, you can potentially win your slip, trip, and fall accident case even though you were not fully paying attention at the time of the incident.


Patient with doctor rehabilitating his injured shoulder

Potential Causes of Premises Liability Claims

There are many potential causes of premises liability claims. These include the following:

Poor Lighting

Owners must ensure that their property is sufficiently lit so that any guest can walk the grounds safely. As an example, you may have a winning claim if you fell in a dark condo corridor where it was impossible to spot hazards.

Mishandled Maintenance

Owners have a duty to ensure that all equipment on site is maintained to proper safety standards. For example, they must follow regulations in maintaining elevators and escalators. If you suffered a sudden jerk from a malfunctioning escalator, speak to me.

Lack of Railing

California law sets very specific standards for stair rails, guardrails, and handrails. If you were unable to walk safely because any of these rails failed to meet safety requirements, you need an attorney to handle your case.

Missing Warnings

Sometimes, it is impossible for management to avoid causing a hazard like a wet floor as a result of necessary cleaning. In situations like these, they must post clear signage warning guests of the danger. If they failed to post signage, they are liable for your harm.

Guest in a hotel lobby with her luggage

Property Owners Must Protect Guests in Cases of Emergency

If you suffered from an emergency escape at a hotel or AirBnb, it might not occur to you to think of suing the owner of the property. However, you should know that whoever controls a property has a duty to ensure that emergency escapes are as safe as possible.

For example, safeguards like sprinklers and clearly posted escape routes should exist so that a fire can be managed as safely as possible. If these protections were lacking, you may have a winning lawsuit on your hands.

An Attorney Can Also Sue Staff

When you stay at a hotel or Airbnb, you will more than likely interact with staff members. If the negligent behavior of any person employed by the property owner caused you harm, we can seek compensation. Here are two examples:

Suing Security Guards

Some hotel security guards are overzealous in their work. As an example, let’s say a security guard falsely believed you were a trespasser and used force to remove you from the property. If you suffered serious harm as a result of this, you can file a winning claim.

Claims Against Cleaners

Airbnb owners often hire cleaners to spruce up their properties in between guest stays. If a cleaner left a mop bucket in the Airbnb and you tripped over it, you could pursue a lawsuit for the harm you suffered as a result of this fall.

Need to Speak with a Qualified Lawyer About Your Injuries?

Throughout my more than four-decade legal career, I have won a wide range of accolades in both our city and nationwide.

In 2014, I was named to the prestigious San Diego’s Best Lawyers list. I was also listed on The Top Attorneys of North America directory for its 2018-2019 edition.

Request Your Free Consultation

If you or a loved one suffered an injury due to negligence at a hotel, Airbnb, or Vrbo anywhere in the greater San Diego area, reach out to me. I will connect you to a knowledgeable premises liability attorney who handles lawsuits on a contingency basis, meaning you won’t pay unless you win your case.



Charles T. Hoge

About Charles T. Hoge
Charles T. Hoge has practiced law since 1983. He opened his own firm in Downtown La Jolla in 2016. The Hoge Law Firm has been recognized by both U.S. News & World Report and Best Lawyers as a leading practice for commercial litigation and employment law.

Read Mr. Hoge's Full Bio | All Posts by Mr. Hoge

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