People get food poisoning (foodborne illness) by eating food containing viruses or bacteria. Symptoms of food poisoning such as vomiting, nausea, abdominal pain, cramps, watery diarrhoea and fever often appear hours or days after eating the contaminated food, making it hard to determine the exact cause. Some specific bacteria and viruses such as e.coli, salmonella, hepatitis, novovirus, botulism, shigella and listeria are often associated with food poisoning. Food poisoning caused by spoiled or improperly prepared food may bear serious consequences for victims.
If you ate at a particular restaurant and become ill by food poisoning, can you sue for it? In theory, anyone who suffers from food poisoning can sue the business that is responsible. If you are extremely sick from a case of food poisoning, you may be eligible to a compensation claim under the public liability law. If the food poisoning causes more than a few days discomfort and you are hospitalised and medical bills add up, it might be worth to contact a personal injury lawyer and discuss your options. If you incurred medical bills and related costs due to an acute bout of food poisoning, pursuing legal action may be a viable option for you. If a person died from food poisoning a wrongful death lawsuit can also be filed to recover compensation for surviving family members.
You have a case if you can prove that the restaurant is responsible for causing your illness. The greatest challenge in food poisoning case is proving your claim. You need to prove the food you ate was contaminated and the contamination made you ill in order to win your lawsuit. You will need to determine the particular food product that was contaminated that made you sick. Scientific testing is critically important to determine the specific type of disease-causing microbes present in the food to provide solid evidence. The best way is to have your stool sample tested; if your stool contained the microbes found in the contaminated food your claim will be stronger.
Food poisoning cases often originate from food prepared in restaurants. You will need to trace the contamination to its source. Sometimes, food poisoning is not caused by contaminated food alone but by sick employees working in the restaurant. Sick employees can transmit the illness directly to food or surfaces that come in contact with the food. Whether you get food poisoning directly from contaminated food or from restaurant environment, the restaurant is responsible and you have a case. Anyone involved in the process of food preparation to food distribution may be liable. If you believe you have suffered food poisoning, immediately seek medical attention.
To prove your illness came from contaminated food, a medical diagnosis of a specific food-borne pathogen is needed. Ask your doctor to perform pulsed-filed gel electrophoreses or PFGE test to determine the genetic fingerprint of the particular virus or bacteria that caused your illness. If the PFGE of your the bacteria matches that of the food or equipment in the restaurant they can be legally responsible for your illness, complications or injury. If there are other people complaining food poisoning from that restaurant during the same time period, a matching PFGE results will serve as solid evidence against the restaurant. If you get sick after eating at a restaurant, do not throw your leftovers, it may be valuable evidence.
Time limits for bringing forward a food poisoning claim under the public liability law in Australia vary from state to state. Seek legal help as soon as possible after your food poisoning; otherwise you may forgo your right to make a claim. When food poisoning causes illness and injuries, legally recoverable damages can include:
• Medical bills
• Loss of wages
• Out-of-pocket expenses
• Pain, suffering as well as loss of quality of life
• Extreme mental anguish
• Care and help provided by family, friends or other individual
The compensation entitlement depends on a number of factors, such as the extent of your sickness and the impact it has on your life. How long a claim takes depends on the facts of the case and the extent of your suffering. Complex cases can take many months to resolve.
You can also legally represent yourself when making a compensation claim. But it requires a thorough understanding of the law, your legal rights and entitlements and your commitment to actively pursue the case. It is advisable to engage expert compensation lawyers with knowledge and experience to help guide the case to a successful outcome. You have a better chance of success if you’re not the only one who was affected. If there is a large number of a victim of food poisoning, you can work together and file a class action lawsuit. If a class action has already been filed, you may have the option of joining that existing lawsuit.
If the restaurant was found negligent, you may claim for punitive damages. If an investigation finds that there is regulatory violation relating to your illness, you will probably have a punitive damages claim. To punish the culprit, punitive damages are awarded to the food poisoning victim. Punitive damages can exceed compensatory damages. The amounts are given in addition to medical expenses, lost wages, other expense, pain and suffering and mental anguish and other compensatory damages. Food poisoning can’t only lead to a lawsuit but a significant recovery. For example, the family of an Australian girl who suffered food poisoning was awarded $8.3 million in a lawsuit against KFC restaurant.
If you are considering a lawsuit against a restaurant, here are some things you need to consider:
1. Determine if the benefits of a lawsuit outweigh the cost. A lawsuit commands time, money and emotional patience. Tally up your bills to know how much your case is worth, this will determine if a lawsuit is a smart move or not.
2. Know what you are suing over. You need a recognisable legal claim, are you suing for food poisoning, negligence or premise liability.
3. Know the party responsible for your illness. Identify the usual suspects for your case. Know the owner of the restaurant; is it an individual, local franchises or national chain.
4. If you fell ill at the restaurant, did you seek immediate medical attention? Get a professional opinion on your health; PFGE test will carry evidentiary weight on your case.
5. Determine the level of your illness or injury. Make sure your illness is serious enough to warrant a lawsuit. Include medical bills, hospital visit and loss of wages on your computation.
Consult a lawyer if you want to sue a restaurant for food poisoning. Compensation lawyers can help you determine your rights and claim for compensation.