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Hemolytic Uremic Syndrome Lawyer

Hemolytic Uremic Syndrome, also called HUS, is a severe, life threatening condition that results in an abnormal destruction of red blood cells and can lead to kidney failure. It occurs in about 10% of those who become infected with Escherichia coli O157: H7 or any other Shiga toxin-producing E. coli, Shigella, Legionella pneumophila, and Campylobacter. If you or a loved one contracted the HUS disease from contaminated food, contact our law firm. Our Hemolytic Uremic Syndrome lawyer can help recover the compensation you deserve.

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HUS Fast Facts

  • HUS is characterized by abnormal destruction of red blood cells. The damaged red blood cells can then clog the filtering system of the kidneys and result in life-threatening kidney failure.
  • HUS is the most common cause of acquired acute kidney failure in children and infants. Adolescents, adults and elderly are also susceptible to the disease.
  • The first symptoms of HUS include: vomiting, diarrhea, abdominal pain, lethargy, etc.
  • There is no one test that confirms the development of HUS. To confirm the disease, a combination of urine tests, blood tests, and stool samples are taken.
  • Treatment of HUS revolves around medical and family history, test results, and a kidney biopsy. Treatments may include: supportive care, blood transfusions, dialysis, plasma exchanges, etc.

What is Hemolytic Uremic Syndrome?

Hemolytic uremic syndrome, or HUS, is a potentially fatal form of kidney failure. HUS was first described in medical literature as a syndrome in 1955. But it was not until 1982 that doctors learned that HUS was a secondary complication of E. coli infections.

HUS involves 2 body systems – the kidneys and the blood stream. In foodborne-based HUS, blood within the body’s capillaries begins to clot abnormally from dead red blood cells killed by Shiga toxins. Capillaries are the smallest blood vessels in your body, so when the red blood cells pass through them, they are torn apart and broken. Once this happens, waste products in the bloodstream are not able to get filtered by the kidneys, which leads to buildup of urea and other waste products in the bloodstream. This can lead to blood stream infection and kidney damage or kidney failure.

HUS is related to yet another serious condition that leads to the same clotting process within the capillaries called thrombotic thrombocytic purpura (TTP). HUS is just more widely known because of its relation to E. coli strains and other Shiga toxin-producing (STEC) E. coli strains that lead to food poisoning.

HUS is classified into two types:

  • Typical HUS: This kind of HUS is preceded by foodborne illnesses and gastrointestinal symptoms such as vomiting, diarrhea, etc.
  • Atypical HUS: This kind of HUS is not associated with any gastro-intestinal symptoms.

What are the Causes of Hemolytic Uremic Syndrome?

  • E. coli/ ShigellaE. coli, Shigella, and other Shiga toxin producing bacteria cause food poisoning in individuals and result in symptoms such as vomiting, diarrhea (usually bloody), and abdominal cramps. These bacteria spread to humans through contaminated food (undercooked meat and seafood, improperly handled fruits and vegetables), contaminated water or by the feces of infected people. STEC E. coli accounts for around 36% of the total cases of E. coli.

HUS is generally preceded by bloody diarrhea. As the E. coli bacterium rapidly multiplies in the intestine and tightly binds to the cells in the large intestine, it emits a toxin called a Shiga toxin. This attachment makes it easier for the toxin to seep into the intestinal capillaries. It further attaches itself to the weak receptor on white blood cells, thus allowing the toxins to ride to the kidneys. The toxin then, moves into the interior of the cell, shuts down the protein machinery, and results in cellular destruction (or rather, cell death). This gives birth to coagulation and clots ultimately leading to kidney failure.

The body’s red blood cells are either destroyed by the Shiga toxin or become damaged as they try to pass through the partially obstructed microvessels.

  • Pregnancy- Sometimes pregnancy and use of birth control pills during early postpartum period could be associated with HUS.
  • Pneumonia- Pneumonia that is caused by Streptococcus pneumoniae. HUS is a very rare complication of this infection. It is the cause of 40% of atypical HUS.
  • Medications- Certain medications, such as birth control pills, chemotherapy, immunosuppression drugs, ticlopidine etc., can be associated with HUS.
  • AIDS- AIDs is also sometimes associated with HUS.

What are the Signs and Symptoms of HUS?

Within a week after an infected person ingests Shiga-toxin producing E. coli, the bacteria will nest and severely inflame the colon – causing bloody diarrhea. These symptoms occur about a week prior to any potential onset of HUS. Other symptoms that occur, apart from bloody watery diarrhea, are vomiting and abdominal cramping. Other symptoms of HUS include:

  • abdominal pain
  • bloody diarrhea
  • fever
  • fatigue
  • decreased urination
  • dehydration
  • pale skin
  • unexplained bruises and bleeding

Since the pain of HUS occurs in the right lower part of the abdomen, it is often mistaken for appendicitis. But, once colonoscopy is conducted, severe inflammation, ulceration, and pseudomembranes (made of sloughed mucosal cells, white blood cells, and fibrin) can indicate HUS disease.

The symptoms can resolve before the kidney failure and anemia associated with HUS occurs.

How is Hemolytic Uremic Syndrome Diagnosed?

Depending upon the history and medical condition related to the symptoms of HUS expressed, a health care provider will typically look for some abnormal findings through the following tests:

  • Hemolytic Anemia: Red blood cell counts will come as low and in a peripheral blood smear, a test in which blood is examined through a microscope will show that red blood cells are damaged and destroyed.
  • Urine Tests: Blood and protein can be found in the urine.
  • Stool Cultures: A physician will search for culture strains of E. coli from stool samples. The body sheds the bacteria from the body in a week, so a negative test does not rule out the case for HUS.
  • Uremia: Kidney function is measured by testing the level of waste products. An increase in blood urea nitrogen and creatinine indicates kidneys are not functioning properly.

How is HUS Treated?

HUS is a severe condition requiring hospitalization. A person with HUS needs urgent medical attention and cannot be treated from home. Current treatments for HUS include:

  • Fluid Replacement: Fluids and electrolytes are replaced as kidneys are not moving the fluids and waste now.
  • Red Blood Cell Transfusions: An IV needle can transfuse red blood cells, thus, easing on the symptoms, such as chills, fatigue, yellow skin, dark urine, etc.
  • Plasma Exchange: Plasma helps in circulation of blood cells and platelets. Removing the plasma and replacing it with a donor plasma can help in circulation.
  • Kidney Dialysis: Dialysis can be done until the kidneys go on to work as normal.
  • Kidney Transplant: In severe HUS cases, a kidney transplant may be necessary.

What are the Long-Term Complications of HUS?

Scientific studies and medical analyses have shown the following complications related to HUS:

  • 3-5% of people with HUS die.
  • Apart from renal failure, potential brain damage and multi-organ damage is also one of the causes of death due to HUS as there is a lack of oxygenated blood circulating throughout the body.
  • There may be central nervous system issues, such as stroke or coma.
  • Majority of those affected recover completely, but around 30% may be left with a residual renal injury.
  • HUS patients can also develop future complications in other parts of their bodies, such as hypertension, proteinuria, and low glomerular filtration rate.

The early onset of medical intervention in someone with HUS is recommended to help reduce the risk of long-term complications.

Should I Hire an Attorney for my Hemolytic Uremic Syndrome Case?

Hiring an attorney for your HUS case is the best way to protect you or your loved one’s health and financial future. When you file a Hemolytic Uremic Syndrome lawsuit, you have the burden of proof in regard to fault and your financial losses (damages). That means a strong case must be built for you to succeed. 

While you recover in the hospital or focus on your loved one, your attorney can conduct a thorough investigation. That will involve helping you consult a medical professional to determine the specific pathogen that caused the illness, as well as tracing it back to its source. These facts can be vital to proving the legitimacy of your claim in a court of law, and ultimately obtaining financial compensation from the negligent party. However, even if the specific food product responsible for the HUS diagnosis is never discovered, you may still have a claim for compensation. Especially if a link can be made between you and other people who also became ill. 

A Hemolytic Uremic Syndrome attorney with experience handling food safety cases can significantly increase the chance of your claim’s success. Due to the severity of HUS, victims are often left with extensive damages. Having someone on your side who understands the legal process, and applicable product liability laws will ensure you receive compensation to cover your ongoing and future financial needs.  

What Can I Expect From a Hemolytic Uremic Syndrome Lawsuit?

Because food is considered a product, a HUS lawsuit will fall under product liability law. Consumers have the right to expect that food being sold is safe, which is why if a product causes an illness, then you have the right to file a product liability lawsuit. The first step after hiring a lawyer is gathering evidence. There are three legal theories on which your claim can be based on: 

  • Strict Liability: a product was defective and as a result caused an injury. Proving that food you consumed was contaminated and caused your illness is sufficient enough to recover compensation, without proving negligence. 
  • Breach of Warranty: most products have an implied or expressed warranty that they are safe to use or consume, and will not poison you. A contaminated food product breaches this implied warranty. 
  • Negligence: a party failed to show reasonable care when making or distributing the product. For example, a restaurant stored the contaminated food in unsanitary conditions. 

Once your case is built, and a legal strategy is designed on your behalf, your attorney will attempt to settle your claim outside of court. If a fair settlement agreement cannot be reached or the responsible party refuses to negotiate, a lawsuit will be filed to argue the case in front of a jury. Trying your case in court can lengthen the process, but it may be necessary to recover the compensation you deserve. 

What Damages Can I Claim in a Hemolytic Uremic Syndrome Lawsuit?

Victims of HUS likely have the right to seek the following monetary damages:

Compensatory Damages

These damages are meant to make a victim “whole,” for any expenses incurred as a result of their illness. In other words, it is reimbursement to get the victim to where they were or as close as possible to where they were prior to becoming ill. There are two categories of compensatory damages, which are: 

  • Economic Damages: any tangible losses, including current and future medical bills, lost income, and lost earning capacity (when applicable). Lost earning capacity is available when a victim suffers long-term complications and must go into a different line of work or is unable to return. 
  • Non-Economic Damages: these damages are subjective, not calculable losses. They include pain and suffering, both physically and emotionally, loss of enjoyment of life, emotional distress, and loss of consortium. Since these damages are not easily measured, an attorney can give you a better idea of their worth. 

Punitive Damages

This type of compensation is awarded with the intent to punish the at-fault party for their gross negligence. In addition to discouraging others from similar conduct in the future. A judge or jury will only include punitive damages when there is evidence that the injury-causing behavior was malicious or displayed an indifference to the rights and safety of others. 

How Much Is My Hemolytic Uremic Syndrome Lawsuit Worth?

Every HUS lawsuit is unique, along with its value. With a thorough analysis, an experienced HUS attorney can give you an estimate of your case’s worth. There are specific factors that will play a considerable role in how large that amount is. Those include the following: 

Illness Severity

This is the most important aspect of your claim. Although most people recover from HUS, it does require hospitalization, and possibly long-term treatment. Additionally, resulting complications may leave lasting kidney damage, affecting victims for the rest of their lives. Evidence of your illness’s severity can be proven through the use of medical records, bills for rehabilitation care, and receipts for prescription medications. 

Requirement for Lifetime Care

In severe cases, HUS victims may need lifelong care, entitling them to compensation for future medical care, doctor visits and medications, transportation costs, life care expenses, nursing home care, etc. 

Future Loss of Income

Victims are able to pursue compensation for any loss of income related to their illness, as well as for how their future earning capacity is impacted. In some instances, HUS victims are unable to return to work or must enter into a different line of work. Demonstrating future lost earnings will require testimony from experts on the amount of time a victim will be disabled, and how long it will take for a victim to reach their maximum medical improvement (MMI), if ever. 

Causation

The stronger your case is and the evidence of the other party’s liability for your illness, the more likely you are to receive a higher settlement. Additionally, your chance at recovering fair compensation can increase if your illness can be linked to a wide outbreak of HUS cases. 

Lawsuits are unpredictable, and there are things that may happen out of your control that can positively or negatively change your claim’s value. Your attorney will do everything they can to maximize your recovery, and give you an understanding of both the potential strengths and weaknesses of your case. 

Who Can Be Held Liable in a Hemolytic Uremic Syndrome Lawsuit Case?

Any individual or party involved in the supply chain of a contaminated product that results in HUS can be held liable. Those parties commonly include: 

  • Food suppliers
  • Manufacturers
  • Processors
  • Distributors
  • Restaurants

Each state handles joint and several liability differently. This means that a party’s degree of liability is something that can be apportioned by the court. If a judge determines that multiple parties are jointly and severally liable for your illness, compensation can be pursued from any one of those partially responsible parties. That party can then turn around and sue the other at-fault parties for their share of the damages. 

Contact a Hemolytic Uremic Syndrome Lawyer Today

If you or a loved one contracted the HUS disease from contaminated food, our law firm can help. A Hemolytic Uremic Syndrome attorney can build your case and help you recover financial compensation. Contact us today to learn more and to schedule a free consultation.