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Reactive Arthritis Lawyer

Reactive Arthritis is a painful form of inflammatory arthritis that can affect the joints, heels, toes, fingers, and knees. This disorder typically develops as a complication from an infection in another part of the body, such as Shigella, Campylobacter, Salmonella, Yersinia, or Clostridium foodborne illnesses. The condition can be temporary or last for months or even years. Looking to pursue a claim, we have a Reactive Arthritis Lawyer ready to answer your questions.

If you or a loved one suffer from Reactive Arthritis due to food poisoning, contact The Lange Law Firm, PLLC today. Our Reactive Arthritis lawyer can help you secure maximum compensation.

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What is Reactive Arthritis?

Reactive Arthritis is a chronic and systemic rheumatic disease. It is referred to as ‘reactive’ because it happens when the immune system seems to be ‘reacting’ to the presence of (or recovery from) a bacterial infection in another body system. Some infected people’s immune systems react in a peculiar manner to the infections and causes a spontaneous inflammation of the joints and the eyes.

It was initially named ‘Reiter’s Syndrome’ after Hans Reiter, a soldier suffered from the classic triad of urethritis, conjunctivitis, and arthritis.

In a study done by Washington state, 29% of patients developed arthritis following Salmonella gastroenteritis infection. The study found that children were less susceptible to reactive arthritis than adults. In another study, the frequency of developing the disorder was reported to be 1-4% for Campylobacter and Shigella infections. And yet another study reported the chances of development between 1.5% – 7% for Shigella and 0.6% – 24% for Campylobacter.

Do I Have a Case?

If you receive confirmation from your doctor that you developed Reactive Arthritis after suffering from an infection in your digestive system (food poisoning), you likely have a case.

The strength of your case, however, depends upon the severity of your Reactive Arthritis and any other lingering effects of your foodborne illness. The more severe your Reactive Arthritis is, along with the repercussions it has on your life, the higher the value of your claim. For instance, if you were hospitalized from food poisoning, your Reactive Arthritis has lasted longer than six months (chronic Reactive Arthritis), you have missed weeks of work, or you are physically limited in your typical daily activities, then you have a solid claim.

Food is considered a product, and if it is contaminated, then it is a defective product. The U.S. has established food safety laws enforced by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and the Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS). Manufacturers, food processors, restaurants, and every other entity or individual in the chain of distribution of a food product for sale is required to exercise reasonable care when handling it. If they fail to do so, you have the right to hold them accountable by filing a defective product liability claim.

How a Reactive Arthritis Lawyer Can Help

A knowledgeable Reactive Arthritis Lawyer can assist you in many ways after a diagnosis. Many food poisoning victims are eligible to receive compensation but take settlements far less than their claim’s total value. That’s because they don’t have a forceful lawyer advocating for them. The liable party’s insurance company is unlikely to offer you a fair amount unless they see that you are serious about pursuing your claim—even if that means going to court.

With the assistance of a lawyer, you can improve your chances of maximizing your recovery and avoid being pressured into settling for less than you may rightfully deserve. A skilled lawyer can do the following on your behalf:

  • Investigate all contributing factors to your illness. They will take their time to investigate all potentially liable parties and collect the evidence you need to hold them accountable.
  • Deal with the insurance company. While you concentrate on your recovery, your lawyer will deal with negotiations. Insurance companies are only interested in minimizing their payouts in claims and will initially offer you far less than what your claim is worth. Having your lawyer advocate for you also reduces the risk of you saying something that may unintentionally harm your case.
  • Estimate future medical costs and other Reactive Arthritis-related expenses. A lawyer can help you assess the estimated future costs associated with your condition. This is commonly done by consulting with your doctors and other medical professionals to develop a figure that will cover your needs. Without projecting future expenses, you can miss out on the compensation you will likely need to fully recover.
  • Deal with hospitals or debt collectors. The last thing you need to hassle with while you are suffering from Reactive Arthritis is hospital administrators or debt collectors about payment for your medical bills. Your lawyer can deal with them directly and inform them of your pending claim.
  • Although many Reactive Arthritis claims are settled outside of court, representing yourself can leave you vulnerable. A lawyer experienced with these types of cases understands the laws applicable to your case and will ensure you recover the compensation you deserve.

Recoverable Damages in a Reactive Arthritis Case

The damages available in a Reactive Arthritis case are designed to get you compensation for your pain, injuries, and suffering. These can include:

  • Hospitalization, current and ongoing treatment, and related medical expenses.
  • Lost wages and income while you recover.
  • Disability, if your Reactive Arthritis is particularly severe.
  • Pain and suffering.
  • Emotional distress, and more.

If you choose to file a claim for benefits with the at-fault party’s insurance company, you must act quickly. Most insurers require that claims be submitted within a reasonable time. If you and your attorney choose to file a Reactive Arthritis lawsuit, the amount of time you have to do so varies by the state you live in. In Texas, you have two years to file suit, but there are some exceptions.

Liability in a Reactive Arthritis Case

The foodborne illness that caused your Reactive Arthritis may have resulted from negligent food preparation, manufacturing, or serving practices. If that is the case, you have the right to seek compensation from the liable parties. Anyone responsible for the contamination that caused your condition can be liable. Parties that are commonly named defendants in Reactive Arthritis cases are:

  • Restaurants
  • Food suppliers
  • Manufacturers
  • Processors
  • Distributors

Your attorney will help you determine who is liable and file a product liability lawsuit against them under the theory of negligence, strict liability, or breach of warranty.

Negligence

A company in the business of selling food has a duty to produce or serve products (food) safe for consumption. For example, a restaurant is in breach of that duty if they store food in unsanitary conditions or fail to clean their kitchen properly and, as a result, cause you injury. However, proving negligence can be challenging since there must be sufficient evidence that the liable party neglected their duty of care.

Strict Product Liability

Reactive Arthritis cases are more commonly brought under the theory of strict liability because negligence does not need to be proven. Strict liability means an individual or entity can be held liable simply for serving or selling contaminated food, even if they did not cause it. You must only prove that you consumed food that was contaminated and that contamination led to your Reactive Arthritis.

Breach of Warranty

Products that are sold, including food, have implied warranties. A breach of warranty case is made when a food product cannot be held up to the stated quality and minimal safety guarantees made by the manufacturer or distributor. In other words, if a food product causes a consumer’s Reactive Arthritis, it may be considered a breach of warranty if the item failed to meet certain standards initially promised by the company.

Fast Facts about Reactive Arthritis

  • Reactive Arthritis is an autoimmune disorder that occurs when the body’s immune system mistakenly attacks healthy tissue.
  • Reactive Arthritis at its core is joint pain and swelling that occurs as a result of an infection in another part of the body (such as a foodborne illnesses).
  • The inflammation can begin in days to weeks after the onset of an infection.
  • Common symptoms of reactive arthritis, include: inflammation of joints especially knees, ankles and feet which can lead to joint pain, stiffness, swelling, warmth and redness.
  • Another type of reactive arthritis, that is also known as Reiter’s syndrome, causes discomfort during urination as well as eye inflammation.
  • There is no single laboratory test that can be done to pinpoint reactive arthritis.
  • Some doctors use the HLA-B27 genetic marker, most commonly found in the blood, as a guideline to diagnose the disorder.
  • Treatment for this condition involves treating the symptoms, as opposed to the condition itself. The treatment includes anti-inflammatory medication and steroids that are targeted towards the specific part of the body affected.
  • There is no cure for Reactive Arthritis, and no vaccines for it.

What are Some of the Risk factors for Reactive Arthritis?

  • Reactive Arthritis is more frequent in men than women.
  • Because women may be underdiagnosed, the exact incidence of reactive arthritis is difficult to estimate.
  • It typically affects people between the ages of 20-40.
  • Inherited genes, such as HLA-B27, can increase the risk of developing Reactive Arthritis.
  • Those with HIV are at a particularly high.
  • Those who have recently recovered from a severe foodborne illness (such as Salmonella infection) are also at high risk.

Signs and Symptoms of Reactive Arthritis

Reactive Arthritis has a classic triad of symptoms that only affect one third of the patients diagnosed with the condition. These symptoms include:

  • Non-Infectious urethritis
  • Arthritis
  • Conjunctivitis

Of these, the most common symptoms of Reactive Arthritis include:

  • Pain and Stiffness: The joint pain mostly occurs in knees, ankles, and feet. The pain can be asymmetrical, which means that one of knees might be affected more by the inflammation than the other.
  • Eyes and Skin: Eye inflammation is quite a common symptom of Reactive Arthritis. It causes an inflammation of the eye membranes and can result in pain, swelling, and discharge.
  • The skin on the palms and soles of the feet can develop tiny fluid filled blisters. The skin inflammation can be quite similar to psoriasis.
  • Swollen Toes and Fingers: An affected person’s toes and fingers can swell a lot and cause pain.
  • Edema of the Lower Extremities: An affected person may notice swelling in their ankles and legs.
  • Low Back Pain: Lower back pain is typical and can get worse in the night and in the morning.
  • Inflammation of Soft Tissues: Also known as enthesitis, the inflammation affects muscles, tendons, and ligaments.

Around 20% of the people who develop Reactive Arthritis will have chronic or long-term symptoms. Studies have also shown that around 15-50% of the victims will develop the symptoms again once the initial flare has gone down.

How is Reactive Arthritis Diagnosed?

The diagnosis of Reactive Arthritis depends on history and physical examination completed by the healthcare provider. A doctor will check an affected person’s joints (knees and ankles) for the signs and symptoms of inflammation, such as swelling, tenderness, etc. During this time, an affected person should notify their doctor about the pain or any other symptoms that they might be experiencing.

The following laboratory studies may also be ordered:

  • White blood cell and Red blood cell counts
  • Erythrocyte Sedimentation Rate (ESR)
  • C-Reactive Protein and IgA antibodies
  • Human Leukocyte Antigen
  • Tuberculin Skin Test
  • Urinalysis

Imaging Modalities that can also be considered to assist in diagnosis include:

  • Plain Radiography (ordered in 40-70% of the cases)
  • Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI)— especially of the joints
  • Computed Tomography
  • Electrocardiography (ECG)

Blood tests can help to reveal evidence of past and current infection, signs of inflammation, antibodies that might be present due to other types of arthritis, and show the presence of the genetic marker that would be linked to Reactive Arthritis.

Joint fluid tests will help in revealing whether or not the body’s white blood cell count has increased – an increase indicates inflammation or an infection, bacteria in joint fluid indicates septic arthritis, uric acid crystals in joint fluid can indicate gout.

How is Reactive Arthritis Treated?

No specific treatment exists for Reactive Arthritis, and treatment basically aims at relieving the symptoms. The medication prescribed for an affected person is based on the severity of their inflammation and symptoms. Around two-thirds of the patients have a self-limited course, meaning that they get better on their own. Around 30% of the individuals can develop chronic symptoms due to Reactive Arthritis. This could pose a therapeutic challenge in the treatment.

The treatment first focuses on the underlying infection that is the root cause of the development of Reactive Arthritis. Then, eventually, the drugs and subsequent therapy focus on pain relief and management. Some common drugs that are prescribed include:

  • Non-steroidal Inflammatory Drugs: Ibuprofen and Naproxen can help relieve pain and reduce inflammation.
  • Corticosteroids: These are synthetic drugs that can mimic cortisol, a hormone that is naturally produced by the body. They suppress the inflammation in the body and are used as a short-term treatment of inflammation when someone has Reactive Arthritis symptoms.
  • Antibiotics: These are prescribed only if someone is still recovering from an infection that causes Reactive Arthritis.
  • Disease modifying anti-rheumatic drugs: These drugs are given when NSAIDs are ineffective. For chronic joint inflammation, methotrexate can be given orally by injection. It requires regular monitoring of blood counts and blood liver tests and can be given weekly.

What To Do After Suffering from Reactive Arthritis

After your diagnosis, continue to focus on your recovery and ongoing treatment. When you can, write down everything you can remember regarding the days before you became ill and before your doctor confirmed you have Reactive Arthritis. Include the following information:

  • What you ate
  • When you ate it
  • Where you ate it
  • How it was prepared
  • Your symptoms
  • How your daily life has been impacted

Your physician may have already reported your foodborne illness to the local health department, but if not, then you may notify them. At that time, you can also ask if there have been any other recent reports of similar illnesses. Continue keeping a written record of your everyday symptoms and hardships related to your Reactive Arthritis. Speak to an experienced Reactive Arthritis lawyer immediately, so you are aware of your rights, and they can begin their investigation and preservation of evidence.

How To Prevent Developing Reactive Arthritis

Prevention of Reactive Arthritis relates to prevention of infection. Foodborne illnesses can contribute to the development of Reactive Arthritis, so it is always to practice good food safety behaviors. Regular handwashing and good hygiene are also recommended to help reduce the likelihood of infections. If you or a loved one suffer from Reactive Arthritis due to food poisoning, contact our Reactive Arthritis Lawyer.