More than 48 million Americans suffer from a foodborne related illness every year. Some of these cases simply require a little bit of rest and relaxation to recovery. Other cases can be significantly more serious, leading to serious injuries and even death.
If you have suffered an injury because of a foodborne illness you may be entitled to compensation. The experienced food poisoning attorneys at Injury Trial Lawyers, APC can review your case, determine which parties may be responsible for your illness, and explain your legal options. Call our San Diego office today to schedule a free consultation and learn more.
What is Food Poisoning?
Foodborne illnesses, often referred to as food poisoning, occur when the food we eat makes us sick. Your chances of contracting food poisoning increase when you consume foods that are spoiled, contaminated, or toxic. These foods are more likely to contain bacteria, viruses, mold, and parasites that can be incredibly dangerous to human health.
The Center for Disease Control (CDC) has discovered more than 250 different types of foodborne illnesses. However, most cases of food poisoning are linked to exposure to e-coli, listeria, norovirus, Campylobacter, Salmonella, and Staphylococcus.
Food Poisoning Injuries
What happens when you get a foodborne illness? Most food poisoning cases will cause you to suffer from any of the following symptoms: nausea, diarrhea, abdominal pain, vomiting, fever, and chills.
Serious cases of food poisoning can lead to much more serious health problems. Foodborne illnesses have been reported to cause the following life-threatening injuries:
- Kidney failure;
- Chronic arthritis;
- Brain damage;
- Nerve damage;
- Paralysis; and
When food poisoning cases are serious and left untreated they can even cause death. Each year, there are an average of 3,000 food poisoning-related deaths in the United States.
What Causes Food Poisoning?
Food poisoning happens when we eat foods that are spoiled, contaminated, or toxic. How do foods become infected with organisms that are dangerous to our health? How do we end up eating these foods? While there can a number of different answers to this question, there are a few commonly-cited causes of food poisoning, including:
- Inadequate quality control standards;
- Failing to wash hands before handling food;
- Cross-contamination in the kitchen;
- Failing to cook foods to recommended internal temperatures;
- Using foods that have expired; and
- Not refrigerating foods before and/or after cooking.
Who is Responsible For Your Foodborne Illness?
Your Own Negligence
Some cases of food poisoning can be self-inflicted. For example, maybe you used the same cutting board for your raw chicken and bread, and didn’t do a very good job cleaning it in-between uses. You caused the cross-contamination, which caused dangerous bacteria on the chicken to transfer to your fresh loaf of bread. When you consume the bread you also ingest the dangerous bacteria. While you may want to blame someone else for your illness, cross-contamination is a danger that is well known. As a result, you’ll be responsible for your own injuries. If, on the other hand, the chicken or bread contained some hidden contaminant that you couldn’t have known about, you may be able to transfer liability to another party.
Companies that grow, manufacture, and/or sell food must take extra care to make sure that the products are safe. This may require companies to have rigid quality control standards, occasionally inspect random batches of food, and take other proactive measures to reduce the chances of contamination. Companies who put defective products out on the market can be held strictly liable for injuries caused by those dangerous defects. Foods laced with dangerous organisms may be considered defective under the eyes of the law.
When restaurants serve you food they have an obligation to make sure that you won’t get sick or be injured. This may require them to thoroughly inspect the food they purchase, maintain strict food safety regulations in the kitchen, and regularly clean food preparation areas. Random San Diego health and safety inspections also help to make sure that the food that ends up on your plate is safe. When restaurant food makes you sick they may be held financially responsible for your harm. Most times, food poisoning cases filed against restaurants will be based on negligence. If you can prove that the restaurant’s negligent conduct caused your food poisoning, you can recover compensation. Negligent conduct may include inadequate training, inadequate storage of food, failing to cook foods thoroughly, and subpar sanitary conditions.
Damages For Your Food Poisoning Injury
What kind of damages can you recover if you decide to file a personal injury claim? The answer depends on the type of harms you have suffered. If you’ve experienced financial losses, or expect to suffer financial losses, you may be entitled to an award of economic damages. Economic damages can help to compensate for medical bills, lost wages, and a reduced earning capacity. If you’ve experienced other, non-financial losses or harms, you may be entitled to an award of non-economic damages. Non-economic damages can help to compensate for your pain and suffering, embarrassment, loss of enjoyment of life, and emotional distress.
Statute of Limitations for Food Poisoning Cases
When you’ve contracted food poisoning because of someone else’s negligence or wrongful conduct, you have the right the file a personal injury claim for damages. California law allows victims to pursue compensation, but also limits the amount of time you have to do this. The statute of limitations for personal injury claims in California is two years from the date of your injury-causing accident. If you do not file your claim within two years of contracting a foodborne illness you may be barred from recovering the money you need to get better.
If, however, there is a reasonable delay in the discovery of your foodborne illness (or in the discovery of what caused your food poisoning) the statute of limitations can be extended. In these situations, you will have one year from the date of discovery to file a personal injury claim.
What Should I Do If I Get Food Poisoning?
When you are suffering from a foodborne illness it is important to document the situation. The more details your attorney has to work with, the greater your chances of a successful outcome. Here are a few things to keep in mind if you get food poisoning.
- See a Doctor. Treating your food poisoning will help to make sure that it does not evolve into a more serious injury. The report generated by your visit will help to establish that a negligent company or restaurant is responsible for your food poisoning.
- Check for Recalls. The Food Inspection Safety Service and U.S. Food and Drug Administration issue recalls “when there is reason to believe that a food may cause consumers to become ill.” These recalls can be helpful in narrowing down what caused your foodborne illness and who may be responsible.
- Notify the Company/Restaurant. Tell the company and/or restaurant that you believe to be responsible for your food poisoning. This can alert them to any problems that may have caused your illness. While this will not reduce their liability for your injury, it may help to protect others from becoming sick.
- Document Your Harm. Take photographs of the contaminated food. Keep a log of your symptoms. Speak with others who may have eaten the same food(s) as you. Details will be incredibly important for establishing liability in a food poisoning injury case. The more details your attorney has to work with, the stronger your case will be.
- Call an Attorney. Food poisoning cases can be tough and are best handled by an attorney who is familiar with California’s personal injury laws. Hiring an attorney will allow you to focus on getting better while also increasing the chances of maximizing the compensation you receive.
Experienced San Diego Food Poisoning Attorneys
Have you suffered an injury because of a foodborne illness? Do you believe that a food company or restaurant is responsible for your case of food poisoning? You may be entitled to receive an award of monetary damages for the harms you have suffered. Call the San Diego food poisoning injury attorneys at Injury Trial Lawyers, APC to schedule a free consultation and learn more. We will review your case, determine potentially liable parties, and explain your rights as a consumer. The decisions you make immediately following your illness will determine how your future unfolds, so do not hesitate to call us today.