With cases of bed bug bites resurgent in the UK, it is feared that in some areas they have increased three-fold in the last decade, the pests are once again a nuisance to homes and hotels across Britain.
It was thought that the blood-sucking pest had all but been eradicated in the western world but an increase in cheap international flights and an adaptation to pesticides has seen them return, leaving the wider public once again susceptible to being bitten by bed bugs while staying in hotels and hostels.
Far from being a small nuisance, encountering bed bugs during a hotel stay can have significant consequences, as bites can become sore, infected, and even trigger an allergic reaction that causes fluid-filled blisters.
Aside from the physical, and in turn psychological, discomfort associated with bed bugs, there are practical costs that could be incurred because of an infestation at a hotel. As bed bugs can travel on clothes and get into luggage, many people unwittingly bring bed bugs back with them, which can cause an infestation in their home; this, in turn, will lead to expenses as a specialist firm will likely have to be called in to fumigate and eradicate the infestation.
Due to the physical harm and costs associated with bed bugs, those affected by the pests while staying in hotels can claim compensation.
What Are Bed Bugs?
Bed bugs are small blood-sucking insects that live in cracks and crevices in and around beds during the day. Attracted by body heat and carbon dioxide during the night, they come out to bite and feed on your blood.
While they may not be easy to spot, bed bugs are actually visible to the human eye on close inspection. Some other signs of a bed bug infestation include:
- Small black spots on the mattress and in the bed frame, which could be dried faeces
- Small bugs and tiny white eggs in the crevices and joints of mattresses and furniture
- Bites, a rash, or small raised areas of irritated skin, incurred during the night
- Blood spots on sheets, which can be a sign that you have squashed a bed bug after it has fed during the night
- An unpleasant, musty scent in the room
Hotels and hostels – and sometimes other public spaces, such as cinemas or public transport – where lots of warm-blooded humans congregate provide a perfect feeding and breeding ground for bed bugs.
It is important to note that bed bugs are not dangerous and don’t transmit human diseases and contrary to popular belief, their presence isn’t a sign of dirt or unsanitary conditions; they can happily breed and infest a clean home if they are picked up outside.
Despite this, they are pests all the same and their bites can cause:
- Skin rashes, most commonly itchy red raised bumps
- Allergic reactions
- When scratched, itchy bites can become infected or leave the recipient with scarring
- Psychological upset, especially in cases where bites number in the hundreds and whole areas of the body are covered in itchy red bumps
Bugs can travel on clothing or luggage from the infested source and if carried home can lead to further upset and expenses, particularly if professional pest control is required to eradicate the problem.
It is for this physical harm and related expenses that compensation can be claimed against hotels and hostels that first exposed you to bed bugs.
What Laws Relate To Bed Bug Claims?
Compensation claims for bed bug infestation can be filed under the Occupiers' Liability Act 1957, which requires hotels and hostels to take reasonable care to ensure that customers using their rooms and facilities are not injured; this includes a requirement of the hotel or hostel to take reasonable steps to prevent customers from being bitten by bed bugs.
As with many pieces of legislation that relates to liability claims, the Occupiers' Liability Act 1957 instils a duty of care into hotels and hostels for their visitors. Section 2 of the Act explains that:
"The common duty of care is a duty to take such care as in all the circumstances of the case is reasonable to see that the visitor will be reasonably safe in using the premises for the purposes for which he is invited or permitted by the occupier to be there."
In relation to bed bug claims, this means that hotels or hostels that expose visitors to bed bugs will be failing in their duty of care and are liable to pay compensation.
For bed bug bites that occur abroad, there may be additional rules and regulations that can support your claim, in these instances our specialist travel law team will be able to assist you in your holiday claim.
What Should I Do If I've Encountered Bed Bugs While Visiting A Hotel Or Hostel?
If you do stay in a hotel or hostel and wake up with bed bug bites, or if an infestation in your home can be irrefutably linked to a hotel or hostel stay, you can increase your chances of recovering the compensation you are owed by:
- Keeping the receipt for your stay
- Keeping a record of the room number that you stayed in
- If possible, taking photographs of any visible bed bugs or blood on clothing or bedding
- Taking photographs of the bites you have suffered, and any other damage caused
- When speaking to the hotel, keep a record of who you speak to and what they say
- Seeking medical attention, if required
- Keeping a list of all expenses you incur, whether this be for creams to help with the blotchy skin or if you need to hire exterminators to control a subsequent infestation in your home
- Collating details of any witnesses who may be able to assist, in particular other hotels guests that have been affected
- Contacting us so that we can assist you and guide you through the process of bringing a claim
How Much Compensation Can I Recover?
A claim for compensation can be broken down into two parts:
- Damages for personal injury, pain, suffering, and loss of amenity
- Damages for financial losses, which in the instance of bed bug bites is likely to be through the cost of medication to treat bites and potentially the cost of handling any subsequent infestation in your home
Cases are valued on an individual basis after seeking the opinion of an independent medical expert as to the extent of the symptoms.
When ruling on personal injury cases, judges may refer to JC Guidelines, which is a handbook issued to judges that assists them in valuing personal injury claims. It is important to note that JC Guidelines are just a snapshot of the potential amount that could be claimed for certain injuries and are in no way a guarantee.
All claims are valued depending on the direct injury, harm, and expenses incurred because of the incident and these guidelines in no way ensure that a case will be successful.
Once you get in touch with our personal injury specialists, we will be able to take details of the harm and loss caused by your bed bug bites and should be able to give a rough guideline for how much your specific claim could be worth.
The injuries associated with bed bugs vary, with some bites not causing long-lasting pain or discomfort and some resulting in serious scarring due to the itchy nature of bites. Some of the injuries that could be associated with bed bug bites covered in the JC Guidelines include:
- Facial scarring, which ranges from trivial scarring caused by marks and wounds to face – this has a compensation bracket of £1,430 to £2,940 – through to more significant long-term scarring, which could result in a compensation payment of up to £11,500. This would be relevant in cases of bites to the face that become infected or irritated to a point that causes permanent or semi-permanent scarring
- Scarring to other parts of the body, this can range from a single noticeable scar to several superficial scars – these hold a compensation bracket of £1,980 to £6,550. As with facial scarring, bed bug bites around the body could cause permanent or semi-permanent scarring if they become infected or severely irritated
- Minor injuries, where recovery is expected to be from 7 days to 3 months, with a compensation bracket ranging from £200 to £2,050
- Dermatitis, which is a skin condition that could be developed if someone had an allergic reaction to a bed bug bite. Symptoms will include itching, irritation, or a rash requiring a few months of treatment – the compensation bracket for dermatitis could be £1,430 to £ 3,300 depending on length of recovery
As with most personal injury claims, you have three years from the date you were bitten to pursue a claim for compensation.
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