There’s nothing like food poisoning. In some cases, it can come on suddenly with a fever, chills, and aches. At other times, it may seem like a flu until it gets progressively worse. And while some food poisoning lasts for several hours, other cases can last for several days.
So, perhaps you ate at that new place around the corner and became sick. You thought it would pass after a few hours, but it stretched to a long, miserable week. Or maybe your symptoms were more severe than the average bout of food poisoning.
You had to take unpaid sick days, endure suffering, and pay for medical treatment. And you’re sure it was that restaurant around the corner. The whole experience left a noticeable mark on your life and your finances. But what can you do? Can you sue?
Below we’ll discuss what food poisoning is, whether or not you can sue, and how you can prove you were sick because of someone else’s lack of care.
What is Food Poisoning?
Food poisoning is the resulting illness you get from foods contaminated with harmful bacteria. Causes of food poisoning can range from poor hygienic practices to undercooked meat. It can be as simple as a restaurant employee not washing their hands after going to the bathroom or a splash of raw chicken juice in your salad. Some of the symptoms of food poisoning include:
- Bloody or watery diarrhea
- Abdominal cramping
Food contaminated with E. coli, Salmonella, Hepatitis A, Listeria, and a few other kinds of bacteria can cause severe or lasting symptoms. Food poisoning can last up to a week or sometimes longer. Some of the harmful bacteria found in food can even result in meningitis or paralysis.
Can You Sue if You Simply Become Sick?
While food poisoning can quickly grow serious, becoming sick is only the first step. If you become ill and you’re sure it’s the fault of a grocery store or restaurant, you still have to prove you were sick due to another’s negligence and verify there’s a connection between your illness and the grocery store or restaurant.
How Do You Prove It Was Food Poisoning?
The best way to determine it was food poisoning is to visit the doctor. They can take a stool sample and test for any of the harmful bacteria that cause food poisoning. However, once the diagnosis is confirmed, be sure to get a PFGE test done.
A pulsed-field gel electrophoreses, or PFGE, test can identify the genetic fingerprint of the bacteria that made you sick. Every strain has its own pattern, and if you can identify the unique pattern of the bacteria that affected you, you can link your illness to a restaurant or grocery store.
Other patrons of an establishment may have ingested the same bacteria and contracted the same illness as you. PFGE tests can connect these other people to you through the unique genetic fingerprint of the bacteria, and together, you can determine which restaurant or grocery store caused your condition.
You can also have the equipment and surfaces of a restaurant tested to verify that your illness is connected to their establishment. If you have leftovers, those can be tested as well to determine the cause of your sickness.
Who Can You Sue?
If you’ve determined that you have food poisoning and know where you contracted it, you have grounds to sue. While the restaurant or grocery store you got the food from may be at fault, you can sue anyone in the chain of distribution, such as the food processing company, wholesale distributor, retailer, or restaurant.
The burden of negligence could be on anyone down the line, whether contaminated water was used for crops or the bacteria was introduced during the distribution process.
What Kind of Compensation Can You Receive?
Food poisoning can be a harrowing experience if serious enough, and you may be stuck with hospital bills and a low paycheck. When you sue for food poisoning, you can be reimbursed for:
- Out-of-pocket expenses
- A loss of income
- Medical bills
You can also be compensated for emotional distress and pain and suffering. Occasionally, food poisoning can result in death. While rare, the family of the deceased can file a wrongful death claim against the responsible parties to compensate for medical bills, funeral costs, and a number of other damages.
Contact a Lawyer
If you’ve experienced or are experiencing a severe case of food poisoning, be sure to visit a doctor for medical help and the applicable testing. If you’re able, get PFGE testing to use as proof in your case.
Also, be sure to seek out a personal injury lawyer to discuss your case and get the help you need. They can offer suggestions and legal advice, and they can determine how much compensation you’re entitled to.