6 Common Questions about Food Poisoning and Personal Injury
Denver’s Babcock Law Firm answers a few questions about causes of food poisoning, symptoms and steps to avoid getting sick
You just enjoyed a wonderful dinner at a popular restaurant with family and friends. It was a good night and enjoyable dinner until a few hours later when you begin feeling sick. Next thing you know, so does the rest of your family. You are all down for the count – absolute nightmare. Since all of you are sick at the same time, there can be only one explanation, food poisoning!
The food looked and tasted great, so you ask “how could this have happened?” Unfortunately, food that is contaminated can be overlooked because most of the time – it looks, smells or tastes no different than food that is not contaminated.
- What exactly is food poisoning?Food poisoning can occur when someone eats or drinks something that contains bacteria and parasites that leave viruses, chemicals or toxins. WebMD tells us that there are approximately 9.4 million diagnosed food poisoning illnesses per year and 39 million cases are unspecified (undiagnosed). Each year, as many as 128,000 people are hospitalized and about 3,000 die from food poisoning.
Food poisoning plays no favorites – it can happen to anyone, including infants. If this has happened to you or a loved one, you may have a valid personal injury claim.
- What are the symptoms of food poisoning?People can have different symptoms and many can appear as if you are getting a virus. The symptoms vary according to which organs the poison attacks. The most common symptoms of food poisoning include:
- Abdominal Cramping
Severe symptoms that indicate a “heavy” food poisoning include:
- Renal or liver problems
- Severe dehydration
- Neurological problems
- Bloody diarrhea
- What are the most common types of food poisoning?Common sources of foods contaminated with infectious microorganisms include undercooked eggs, chicken, and poultry, or any undercooked or raw food that comes from animals, such as seafood, meat, milk, and dairy products. Any food or beverage can become contaminated with infectious microorganisms if it is handled by someone with unwashed hands, or if it comes in contact with contaminated food or liquids. Here is a list of the common types of poisoning:
- Botulism is caused by Clostridium botulinum bacteria.
- Campylobacteriosis is caused by Campylobacter bacteria.
- Cryptosporidiosis (Cryptosporidium enteritis) is caused by Cryptosporidium protozoa.
- Escherichia coli food poisoning is caused by eating food or beverages contaminated with certain types of E. coli bacteria.
- Listeriosis is caused by Listeria monocytogenes bacteria.
- Mushroom poisoning is caused by eating poisonous mushrooms.
- Shigellosis is caused by Shigella bacteria.
- Staphyloenterotoxicosis is caused by Staphylococcus bacteria.
- How do I treat food poisoning?Vomiting and diarrhea will most likely be the two worst symptoms of the food poisoning. The poison needs to get out of your system so do not take any medications to stop this unless otherwise instructed by your doctor. Once you can keep something in your system, drink plenty of clear liquids because dehydration can be a huge problem. Stay away from caffeine, greasy foods and sweets until you are much better. If you are unable to keep any fluids down after a period of time, intravenous fluids may become necessary.
If you or your loved are unable to keep fluids down after a few hours, get to your nearest emergency room as soon as possible. Dehydration can be especially damaging for younger children and older adults.
- What are some tips to avoid food poisoning?Proper food handling is the single best way to avoid food poisoning. Steps include:
- Wash hands before handling food
- Clean any surfaces that come in contact with food with an antibacterial cleanser
- Keep cold foods at 40°F or less
- Keep hot foods above 140°F
Food poisoning doesn’t have to occur as often as it does. If each and every person, restaurant and food manufacturer followed these guidelines, there would be much fewer cases.
- How do I make a personal injury claim for my food poisoning?Food poisoning is often due to negligence on the part of food handlers, processors and restaurants. If you believe the food you or a loved one ate caused you to get sick, contact a Colorado attorney today to discuss your case.
Food Poisoning and Product Liability Claims
The Babcock Law Firm legal team talk about what it takes to win a defective product lawsuit for injuries sustained from a foodborne illness
If you have ever experienced food poisoning, you know how miserable it can be. And when you feel lousy, it’s normal to try and find something – or someone – to blame. However, determining whether you have a legitimate case against a restaurant, grocery store or other food distributor for a foodborne illness depends entirely on the circumstances surrounding your situation.
Below are a few details regarding food poisoning claims and the necessary steps to prove your case before a judge.
Strict Product Liability
Most food poisoning cases fall under the protection of product liability laws which many states (including Colorado) have adopted. The reasoning behind these laws is that if you have been sold a defective product (the food) that causes you serious injury or harm, then you may be able to seek compensation for damages such as hospital bills and lost wages.
When a state has adopted product liability law, a plaintiff is relieved from having to prove the food distributor acted negligently in packaging or handling the food. Under these laws, you just have to provide evidence that a particular food product resulted in your sickness.
In states where strict product liability is not a legal basis for a food poisoning claim, plaintiffs must be able to argue that the defendants in the lawsuit were negligent in their handling of the contaminated food which led to their sickness. Negligence can be established if the manufacturer or distributor failed to “exercise reasonable care” in producing the product.
Breach of Warranty
There is also a situation people run into called a “breach of warranty.” Colorado and most other states have minimum standards on consumer goods and products, and it is possible that the food you ate may have undergone a violation of these standards. For example, some produce is marketed as “triple washed.” Perhaps this package guarantee was violated and was a contributing factor to food poisoning. In this case, a breach of warranty may have occurred.
Proving Your Food Poisoning Claim
According to Nolo, there are two vital things you must prove in a food poisoning lawsuit:
- Was the food you ate contaminated?
- Did the contamination cause you to become ill?
Typically, it is easier to prove your case if a government agency (such as the FDA) has linked a particular food you consumed to an outbreak of food poisoning, which may result in a class-action lawsuit. If you believe a particular food product you consumed was contaminated, it is best to get a stool sample from your doctor so that there is evidence that the same disease-causing microbes were found in the food you consumed.
In a successful food poisoning lawsuit, the contamination must be traced to its source and anyone involved in the chain of distribution is included in the case. Each state places its’ own time limit for filing a food poisoning claim. This is called the “statute of limitations.”
Seeking Legal Counsel
Proving food poisoning cases can be difficult. A successful defective product lawsuit must establish a clear and direct link between the item in question and the injury or illness experienced by the victim. Furthermore, plaintiffs in certain states may have to show evidence that the manufacturer or distributor acted negligently, which contributed to their injury.
If you or a loved one were hospitalized from a serious foodborne illness due to what you believe was negligence on the part of a restaurant, grocery store or food distributor, discuss your case with our highly experienced legal team led by Denver attorney R. Mack Babcock. We will determine if you are eligible for being reimbursed for medical costs and loss of wages.
Continue reading these related articles…
- Colorado Car Accident Cases and Statute of Limitations
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Top 10 Culprits of Food Poisoning
According to estimates by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, food poisoning affects 1 in 6 Americans annually. This means approximately 48 million people become ill due to contaminated food this year. Out of this number, 128,000 will be hospitalized and 3,000 cases will be fatal.
When we eat food from a restaurant or grocery store, our expectations are that it is safe for human consumption. Unfortunately, this is not always the case. Contamination of food can occur at any stage in the production process – from growing, harvesting and shipping, to processing, storing and even during the preparation stage.
Below are some of the major culprits that can cause food poisoning and food-related illness according to the Mayo Clinic. These contaminants are common and generally contaminate certain types of foods.
- Listeria – A type of bacteria that can be found in soil and water. It often contaminates foods such as hot dogs, lunch meats, some cheeses and raw, unwashed leafy vegetables.
- Campylobacter – Affects meat and poultry during processing if feces come into contact with the meat. It can also be found in contaminated water or unpasteurized milk. The onset of feeling sick from this toxin is generally 2-5 days after contact.
- Hepatitis A – Present in shellfish and produce sourced from contaminated water. Hepatitis A can be easily transferred by a human handler and takes longer than most foodborne viruses to infect its host. People generally don’t feel the effects of this for approximately 28 days.
- Noroviruses – Similar to Hepatitis A in that it is primarily found in contaminated shellfish and ready-to-eat produce. The difference is you will know you are sick within 24 to 48 hours.
- Rotavirus – Derived from raw and ready-to-eat produce. It is similar to Hepatitis A and Norovirus in that it can be spread from a food handler easily. Rotavirus will generally take 1-3 days to make a person feel ill.
- Salmonella – Can be spread not only through infected food handlers, but also through the utensils and cutting surfaces that were used by the handler. Generally, salmonella is found in contaminated meat, poultry, egg yolks and milk. If something is not cooked adequately, salmonella will survive and spread. A person will typically know they are sick within 1 to 3 days.
- Staphylococcus Aureus – One of the fastest acting contaminants, making a person ill within 1 to 6 hours. Always cover your nose when sneezing and coughing because this is one way this particular toxin spreads. It can be found in prepared salads, meats, cream-filled pastries and cream sauces.
- Vibrio Vulnificus – Can cause a person to become ill anywhere from 1 to 7 days. Contaminated seawater is often where this poison lurks. Whole scallops, raw oysters, raw or undercooked mussels or clams are the foods it thrives. When eating seafood, always make sure you feel comfortable with how it was prepared.
- E-Coli – Often found in beef that was contaminated with feces during the slaughter process. It can be spread mainly when ground beef is not cooked properly. It can also be spread through unpasteurized milk and apple cider, contaminated water or alfalfa sprouts.
- Clostridium Perfringens – Another fast moving virus that can make a person ill anywhere from 8 to 16 hours. It’s mainly found in dishes that were not properly chilled or not kept hot enough, such as stews and gravies. This is the one you have to keep an eye on at family reunions!
These ten food poisoning contaminants have been known to cause severe illness and some even death. If you or a loved one has been greatly harmed by food poisoning or a foodborne illness, contact Colorado’s personal injury attorney R. Mack Babcock for a free consultation. We will ask you questions about your experience to determine if a food preparer or manufacturer can be held liable for your injuries.
Food Poisoning and Food-Related Illnesses
Have you gotten seriously ill from contaminated food?
Denver personal injury attorneys fight to get food poisoning victims the compensation & justice they deserve
There are an astounding 76 million cases of food-related illness every year in the U.S. Most of the time, these stomach bugs come and go within a couple of days, leaving their victims weak, but able to carry on with their normal lives.
But occasionally, a serious case of food poisoning can land a person in the hospital with critical or life-threatening viruses like Salmonella, Listeria, E. coli, or other bacteria.
Severe food poisoning can put your life on hold and cost thousands of dollars in medical treatment and lost time at work. In such cases, a lawsuit may be an appropriate course of action to recover compensation for damages and injury. But for a food poisoning case to be successful there must be certain standards of proof present before you decide to file your claim.
Proving Your Claim
Most food poisoning cases fall under the “defective product” legal category –the product being the contaminated (or defective) food which led to an illness.
Generally, any and all parties involved in the chain of distribution of the contaminated food can be held liable –from the food processing company (farm or factory) to the retailer (grocery store or restaurant). However, before a claim is successful, two things must first be established:
- The food you ate was contaminated. There must be clear evidence that a specific food product you ingested contained harmful bacteria, which is confirmed by a health authority. If time passed from the point you ate to when you began feeling symptoms –which often occurs in food poisoning cases– it can be difficult to determine if that particular food item or meal made you sick, unless others became ill as well.
- The contamination led to your illness. Once the “smoking gun” is found, you must also prove that the contamination is directly linked to your illness. The best way to establish this link is by having a stool sample tested for the same microbes found in the contaminated food.
Filing a Food Poisoning Claim
It is important to take action quickly to file a food poisoning claim –Colorado statute of limitations restricts the time an individual has to file a defective product claim to two years. However, the sooner you talk to an attorney about your food poisoning case, the better your chances of receiving compensation are.
If you have suffered from a food-related illness that you suspect to have been caused by contaminated food, the first thing you should do is attempt to preserve samples for testing. Then, schedule a free, no risk consultation with a Colorado personal injury attorney who specializes in food poisoning.