Bedbugs: Coping With An Unexpected Vacation Hazard

Law Blog

Bedbugs are insidious little creatures that can leave victims covered with swollen bite marks in just one night -- and they're reaching epidemic proportions in some areas of the United States after years of absence. Hotel infestation is a huge problem. If you're planning a vacation this summer, this is what you should know about bedbugs and the hotel's liability for any problems.

Why are bedbugs a problem again?

Once upon a time, bedbugs were everywhere a problem for everyone. The invention of a pesticide known as DDT suddenly gave American's a shot at fighting off the bedbug -- wiping them out of hotels and homes everywhere. Unfortunately, the bedbug has apparently evolved a resistance to the chemicals in many pesticides -- which means it's now back with a vengeance. Since 2000, infestations are cropping up by the thousands in places like New York City and New Jersey.

This means that even if you don't have bedbug infestations in your local area yet, you soon could -- as travelers come back from vacation spots and hotels with suitcases unwittingly loaded with the bugs.

How can you protect yourself against bedbugs in a hotel?

In a hotel, the first thing you want to do is examine the room -- while leaving all your suitcases and clothes outside. Lift up the sheet to look at the mattress (and then check the underside of the mattress in case it has been recently flipped to hide evidence of bedbugs). If you see small reddish-brown stains, that's a sign that someone sleeping there was bitten.

Similarly, if you see a lot of tiny black dots no bigger than a pinhead, that's bedbug droppings. The bugs themselves are tiny, about the size and shape of the average apple seed -- but they can range in color from black to pale red. Their eggs are similarly shaped, just smaller and white.

Is the hotel responsible if you get bitten by bedbugs?

Maybe. The laws vary by the state, so you may want to check out the liability before you plan your vacation. However, in most states, a hotel is responsible if they had sufficient notice and time to deal with the problem. In other words, if the place is infested, it's unlikely you were the first victim.

A personal injury attorney can help you determine if the hotel had prior notice of the problem through a process called discovery -- because you can't expect the hotel to own up to their responsibility voluntarily. 

To maximize your chances of recovering for your losses, including the cost of decontamination, lost personal items, medical bills and more, make sure that you get appropriate medical treatment and notify the hotel immediately that you've been bitten.


8 June 2018