Should I Talk to a Lawyer If I Was the Victim of Food Poisoning?
Food poisoning and other types of foodborne illnesses can be devastating for victims and their families. Most people at one time or another during their lifetime suffer some type of food-related illness. In some cases, it is an isolated incident at a local restaurant or due to a tainted food item that is not widely distributed. In other cases, food poisoning is the result of a widespread foodborne illness outbreak, such as an E. coli outbreak linked to Taco Bell in 2006, which was investigated by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
Causes of Food Poisoning
The most common causes of food poisoning involve people consuming food or beverages contaminated with bacteria, parasites, or viruses. Food can be contaminated at several stages of production, such as when it is grown, shipped, harvested, stored, or processed. One common way that food can become tainted is when contaminants from one surface are transferred onto the food. This usually happens with raw food, like salads, because these foods are not cooked before they are consumed, and cooking foods can often prevent food poisoning by destroying dangerous contaminants before they are consumed.
Contaminates known to cause food poisoning include but are not limited to the following:
- Escherichia coli (E. coli) – Involves beef contaminated with feces during the slaughtering process
- Listeria – Impacts produce, unpasteurized cheese and milk, hot dogs, and lunch meats contaminated by tainted water or soil
- Noroviruses – Raw shellfish and produce contaminated by tainted water or an infected food handler
Food Poisoning Symptoms
The symptoms of food poisoning are wide-ranging and depend on the type of foodborne illness causing it. A few of the most common symptoms of food poisoning include:
- Bloody or watery stool
- Abdominal cramps
- Abdominal pain
If you or someone you know are experiencing food poisoning symptoms, you should seek medical attention, especially if you are experiencing the following symptoms:
- Blood in stool
- Severe abdominal cramps or pain
- Blood in vomit or frequent vomiting
- Diarrhea that lasts longer than three days
- Oral temperature of 100.4 degrees Fahrenheit or higher
- Neurological issues, such as arm tingling, blurry vision, or muscle weakness
- Signs of dehydration, including dizziness, dry mouth, no or infrequent urination, lightheadedness, and extreme thirst
Treatment Options for Food Poisoning
There are many options for treating food poisoning, including:
- Avoiding eating and drinking for a short amount of time
- Drinking small sips of water and sucking on ice chips
- Slowly begin eating again
- Eat only low-fat, bland foods at first, such as crackers, rice, bananas, gelatin, and toast
- Avoid consuming products that can slow your recovery, like fatty foods, caffeine, dairy products, foods with a lot of seasoning, nicotine, and alcohol
- Visit the doctor
- Figure out what caused your food poisoning (keep in mind that several hours may pass between eating the contaminated food and experiencing symptoms, so it may have been something you ate earlier that day or the previous night)
- Ask your doctor what treatment options you should pursue, including taking medications if necessary
Can I Sue for Food Poisoning?
If you or a loved one has suffered food poisoning and an individual, business, or organization may be at fault, you could be able to secure compensation for your pain and suffering with a personal injury lawsuit. Determining liability in a food poisoning case involves multiple steps. First, you must figure out what type of liability the case involves:
- Negligence – This is where a victim argues that he or she suffered food poisoning due to the negligence of the manufacturer or supplier of a contaminated food or beverage.
- Product Liability – In states with strict product liability laws, you will not have to prove the manufacturer or supplier of tainted food was not careful in producing or distributing the food or beverage that made you sick. Instead, you must only prove that the food or beverage was tainted and that whatever contaminated the food made you sick.
- Breach of Warranty – In many states, there are minimum standards that food products must meet, and if you can prove that a food or beverage did not meet those standards, you may have a valid breach of warranty claim.
After pinning down the type of liability involved, next you will want to determine who is liable and how you can prove liability. Generally, if product liability is involved, those who are liable can include any number of individuals, businesses, or organizations involved in the distribution of the tainted food or beverage that led to the food poisoning. Proving liability in a food poisoning case can be extremely difficult. You must prove that the food or beverage you consumed was contaminated and that the contaminated food or beverage made you sick.
Class Action Lawsuits for Food Poisoning
If you were one of many victims of food poisoning related to a foodborne illness outbreak, you may be able to form or join a class action lawsuit against those responsible. There are several advantages to a class action lawsuit, such as having experienced attorneys handling your case, no upfront costs or fees, and not having to deal with complex legal issues.
Why Should I Talk to a Lawyer If I Suffer Food Poisoning?
In certain states, laws concerning food poisoning lawsuits have statutes of limitation. A statute of limitation is a time limit that a victim has to file a personal injury claim. Statutes of limitation vary from state to state, so it is important to discuss your situation with an attorney as soon as possible following the incident that led to you or a loved one suffering food poisoning.
In addition to ensuring that you file your case in time to avoid missing the time limit, talking to a personal injury lawyer about your food poisoning case has other benefits. Many experienced and accomplished personal injury attorneys will speak to you about your situation for free. Plus, an injury lawyer can answer your questions, examine your situation, tell you whether you have a valid case, and explain the best options available to you and your family moving forward.
Food Poisoning: Do I Have a Case?
In most cases, lawyers only take on very serious cases of food poisoning that have caused substantial harm. For example, if you needed to go to the hospital and incurred steep medical bills, or if you missed several days of work due to the illness. If you only missed a day or so of work due to food poisoning, your lawyer may advise you against filing a lawsuit.
However, it never hurts to discuss your options with a personal injury attorney, as they often provide free consultations to find out if you have case.
Therefore, whether you are considering pursuing a food poisoning claim on your own or you are considering joining a food poisoning class action lawsuit, you should talk to a personal injury attorney today.