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Nearly 3,000 fatalities occur each year as a result of over 250 foodborne diseases, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Around 128,000 people are hospitalized and 48 million become ill. Food poisoning develops when a person eats food that has been contaminated with bacteria. Many people do not realize they can file a personal injury claim to recover medical expenses, lost wages, and other damages. If you or a loved one fell ill or were hospitalized due to food poisoning, contact an experienced food poisoning attorney at The Lange Law Firm, PLLC today.
Contacting a food poisoning attorney while you are ill or as soon as possible can be crucial to your case. After discussing the details of your case, an attorney can help determine whether or not you have the grounds for filing a lawsuit. If it is decided that you do have a case then the attorney can give you swift legal advice on how to gather and preserve critical evidence. A claim will also be written and filed for you against the defendant(s), then the lawyer will guide you through the claims process.
After a certain period of time the defendant will have to answer your claim and then the discovery phase will begin, in which the attorney will investigate the facts surrounding your case. Proving liability and linking a product or negligence to your illness can be difficult in an individual case if there hasn’t been a government health agency warning. If possible, the food poisoning lawyer will mandate scientific testing of the food that was consumed and/or an analysis of a stool sample in order to detect contamination. They will also examine the circumstances of your illness, the product’s producer, and research any similar complaints. If an illness has already been traced back to a certain food by a government health agency then only the fact that you consumed the product and it caused your illness will need to be proven.
Determining the total amount of compensation you are owed can also be done by the attorney. This will involve attaining your medical bills/records, tallying lost wages, as well as calculating pain and suffering and punitive damages.
As the claim progresses, the food poisoning lawyer will keep you informed, meanwhile building your case thus alleviating the burden off of your shoulders and giving you the opportunity to continue recovering.
Contamination can occur at any step in the process of getting food from the manufacturer to the dining table, therefore everyone involved at any point during production, processing, distribution, or preparation may be liable. The contamination will need to be traced back to its origin then all parties discovered to be part of that chain of distribution can be named as defendants. Defendants will typically include the food processing company (farm or slaughterhouse), wholesalers, suppliers, or distributors, and the retailer (restaurant or grocery store).
Food poisoning illnesses can be caused by a wide range of bacteria and viruses, the most common being Norovirus – which (according to the CDC) makes nearly 21 million Americans sick each year, over 5.4 million of which are foodborne illnesses. Bacteria make up the next five most common types of food poisoning: Salmonella, Campylobacter, Slostridium Perfringens, Shigella, and Staph.
*STEC is an acronym that refers to several different strains of Shiga Toxin producing E-Coli. Shiga Toxin can cause blood vessel damage and lead to kidney failure.
The symptoms, sources and time to appear are all different in the top five germs that cause food-borne illnesses, here is a look courtesy of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC):
|Time for Symptoms to Appear
|Typical Signs and Symptoms
|Common Food Sources
|Diarrhea, nausea/stomach pain, vomiting
|Leafy greens, fresh fruits, shellfish, or water
|12 – 72 hours
|Diarrhea, fever, stomach cramps, vomiting
|Eggs, raw or undercooked poultry or meat, unpasteurized milk or juice, cheese, raw fruits and vegetables
|6 – 24 hours
|Diarrhea, stomach cramps. Vomiting and fever are uncommon. Usually begins suddenly and lasts for less than 24 hours
|Beef or poultry, especially large roasts; gravies; dried or precooked foods
|2 – 5 days
|Diarrhea (often bloody), stomach cramps/pain, fever
|Raw or undercooked poultry, raw (unpasteurized) milk, and contaminated water
|Staphylococcus aureus (Staph)
|30 minutes – 6 hours
|Nausea, vomiting, and stomach cramps, and oftentimes diarrhea
|Foods not cooked after handling, such as sliced meats, puddings, pastries, and sandwiches
The top nine food sources of food poisoning according to Healthline are listed here:
Chicken, duck, or turkey, to name a few, are at high risk of causing food poisoning when raw or undercooked. The bacteria Campylobacter and Salmonella are common to these birds, but not a threat if the meat is cooked properly.
From dirty water to grimy equipment, veggies and greens can easily become contaminated with bacteria such as Salmonella, E. Coli, or Listeria throughout the many stages of the distribution chain. Lettuce, spinach, cabbage, celery and tomatoes have all caused food poisoning outbreaks. There is higher risk when consuming leafy greens because they are usually eaten raw. Always wash salads and vegetables thoroughly.
A toxin called histamine that is produced by bacteria found in fish is known to cause a type of food poisoning called scombroid poisoning. This toxin typically develops when fish has not been stored at the correct temperature. Cooking the fish will not eliminate the toxins present. Symptoms of scombroid poisoning include wheezing, nausea and swelling of the face and tongue.
Another type of fish food poisoning called ciguatera fish poisoning (CFP) is caused by the toxin ciguatoxin, typically found in tropical water fish. This kind of toxin will also remain even after cooking the fish.
Shellfish feed on toxin producing algae, which could cause shellfish such as scallops, clams, oysters, and mussels to become toxic and cause food poisoning to those that consume them.
Store-bought seafood is a safer choice, products just need to be stored at the right temperature and thoroughly cooked.
Spores of the bacteria Bacillus cereus may be active in uncooked rice. These spores can thrive on dry rice that is packaged as well as endure through being cooked. The longer cooked rice is left at room temperature, the more bacteria will grow. Eat cooked rice as soon as it is ready and refrigerate leftovers immediately after finishing. If reheating, heat until the rice is steaming hot.
All deli meats, including salami, bacon, ham, and hot dogs are at risk of being contaminated with the bacteria Listeria and/or Staphylococcus aureus. Bacteria can occur from dirty processing equipment, contact with contaminated raw meat, or unhygienic practices by deli staff. Proper storage and cooking is critical.
When dairy is unpasteurized, that means that the manufacturer did not go through the process of heating it in order to kill harmful bacteria and parasites. Possible bacteria and parasites include E. coli, Salmonella, Listeria, Cryptosporidium, Brucella, and Campylobacter. It’s 150 times more likely that unpasteurized dairy will cause food poisoning than pasteurized dairy. 20 states have made the sale of unpasteurized dairy illegal.
Raw or undercooked eggs may contain the bacteria Salmonella, causing food poisoning if consumed. According to the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA), there are around 79,000 cases of Salmonella poisoning causing about 30 fatalities each year. Avoid eggs with dirty or cracked shells and purchase them pasteurized.
Particularly melons and berries as well as already prepared fruit salads carry high risk of food poisoning. Melons grown from the ground are especially high-risk because the bacteria Listeria can live on the rind and travel into the interior part of the fruit. The Hepatitis A virus has been associated with raspberries, blackberries, strawberries and blueberries. Washing fruit is of upmost importance, including the rind if applicable. Cooking can also effectively reduce the risk of bacteria.
Due to sprout seeds needing a moist, nutrient-rich, and warm environment to grow in, there is opportunity for bacteria to grow at a rapid rate. This includes sprouts of any kind and the types of possible bacteria are E. coli, Listeria and Salmonella. Cooking sprouts greatly reduces the risk of food poisoning.
The severity of your injury and/or illness and the degree of negligence on behalf of the defendant will determine the types of compensation you are entitled to. Some types of compensation you may be able to recover in a food poisoning lawsuit are medical expenses, lost wages, future lost wages, and out-of-pocket expenses. These are actual damages, which are easily calculated. General damages such as emotional distress and pain and suffering are more difficult to quantify.
There are typically two methods used by attorneys to calculate general damages, a multiplier method or a per diem approach. The multiplier method takes the total amount of actual damages and multiplies them by a number between one and five, depending on the severity of the illness or injury. The other method, the per diem approach, assigns a monetary amount to every day from the day the illness or injury occurred until maximum recovery has been reached.
If a loved one has passed due to food poisoning then you may be able to seek family member’s lost wages, loss of consortium, funeral expenses, and more.
If you or a loved one has suffered from severe food poisoning and are in need of legal counsel, then contact The Lange Law Firm, PLLC today. We are a team of experienced food poisoning attorneys who are passionate about advocating for our clients who have been wronged. Call us at (833) 330-3663 or fill out our online contact form for a free, confidential, and no obligation case evaluation.