FAQ: Can You Sue a Restaurant for Food Poisoning?

Suing a Restaurant for Food Poisoning

Suing a Restaurant for Food Poisoning

Food poisoning is an unpleasant situation that many people have been through at least once in their life. It could come from any food if it were mishandled or expired by the time you ate it.

Food poisoning can be more than just a serious health matter. Foodborne illness can bring legal or even criminal consequences for those at fault.

The legal repercussions surrounding your ability to sue a restaurant for food poisoning will be our primary focus for this blog article.

Can You Sue a Restaurant for Food Poisoning?

Yes, you can sue a restaurant for food poisoning illness. The events leading up to your food poisoning are the crux of the matter. Generally, restaurants employ staff who ensure the ingredients used in the kitchen are fresh and safe for consumption.

However, there will always be times when poor ingredients slip through the cracks and find their way to your table.

When this happens, it is always important to know where you stand legally if such ingredients lead to you becoming ill. It might seem unorthodox; you can fully and legally seek money for food poisoning. However, this ability depends on specific circumstances surrounding your case.

With this article, we hope to help clarify how you can pursue legal action against a restaurant whose food gave you food poisoning and if you even have a case worth pursuing.

The case types would typically fall under one or more of the following: personal injury cases, product liability, or wrongful death.

What Are The Details of Your Restaurant Food Poisoning?

The biggest issue of pursuing a case for food poisoning is the definition behind the condition itself. Food poisoning is actually a remarkably broad term, and such broadness can be detrimental to your ability to seek compensation from the eatery responsible.

Food poisoning can range from a minor issue you overcome within a week to a sickness that can put you in the hospital. It is dependent on the type of contaminants that were already in your food.

Food Poisoning Photo

The severity of your food poisoning is a significant factor in the viability of any legal recourse against dining establishments, as minor instances are less likely to be taken as seriously. However, it can indicate that the restaurant is serving contaminated food and need to resolve the problem.

Food poisoning’s symptoms are relatively straightforward and scale with the severity of the bacteria and pathogens in the food. Typical symptoms of food poisoning include nausea, diarrhea, vomiting, abdominal pain, and fever.

Unfortunately, these symptoms are similar to common conditions such as the stomach flu, making it difficult to identify as food poisoning. Many people misidentify stomach ailments like food poisoning, further muddying the waters as well.

However, specific instances of food poisoning can lead to more severe foodborne illnesses that warrant hospitalization and medical attention. It is these instances that have a greater chance of success for legal recourse. This situation is especially true for those with underlying conditions that predispose them to fragile physical health.

The significant illnesses that arise from advanced food poisoning include E. Coli, botulism, norovirus, vibrio, shigella, campylobacter, listeria, Hepatitis A, and salmonella. Foods such as meat, eggs, shellfish, and even some vegetables can commonly host these bacteria and lead you to severe illness.

If you have eaten at a restaurant and find yourself suffering from conditions such as these, legal action is much simpler. However, there remains the question of proving that the eatery in question is the one truly responsible for your illness.

How Can You Prove Fault in Food Poisoning Cases?

Suing a restaurant over food poisoning is similar to filing a personal injury claim following a motor vehicle accident. That is, to be successful in your legal endeavors, you need to prove that the person or business you are filing against is solely responsible for your subsequent medical issues.

In the legal world, proving that the restaurant’s food preparation is directly responsible for your food poisoning is referred to as proving fault.

When it comes to establishing the restaurant’s fault in your food poisoning lawsuit, the simplest method is to speak with your primary care physician after your food poisoning symptoms present themselves.

However, there are other aspects you should consider when trying to prove the restaurant’s liability in causing your food poisoning illness.

Proving Fault for Food Poisoning

The first thing you should do is establish a record of when you dined at the restaurant and when you started to experience symptoms. Generally, the symptoms of food poisoning hit within 6 to 24 hours of consuming the contaminated food.

However, it would help if you also kept in mind any additional meals you might have consumed between eating at the restaurant and when symptoms began to present.

Having a record of your meals is essential because anything else you might have eaten within the 6-to-24-hour timeline after eating at the restaurant might be the source of the food poisoning.

So, if your timeline only allows for food from the restaurant to have been the culprit, it is safe to reinforce that evidence.

To that end, you should keep specific and detailed notes of your experiences resulting from food poisoning. The more details you can provide about symptoms, pain, and other unpleasantness associated with your restaurant food poisoning, the better.

When presenting your case to the defendant’s attorney and adjuster, the details can illustrate the suffering you went through and show the adjuster or jury the level of compensation you deserve for such suffering.

Your word alone will not be enough to sway a case in your favor, and you will need to provide hard evidence that you were suffering from food poisoning at all. To that end, your visit to your physician is critical.

Meeting With a Physician

Your primary care physician can conduct tests on urine, stool, or blood that will specifically look for markers unique to food poisoning. The defendant’s team will test the food you consumed at the restaurant for any microbes that can induce food poisoning.

If your test results come back with the same microbes found in the food products from the restaurant, you have proven that you had food poisoning and that it originated from the restaurant’s food safety.

In some cases, your story can further be corroborated by other diners. For example, if there were others in the restaurant who happened to order the same meal as you, they would likely have developed food poisoning as well.

Thus, more than one diner contracting food poisoning after dining at a restaurant can be a powerful form of evidence to prove that the restaurant’s food is the reason for your illness. In rare cases with larger chains, there may even be potential for a class action lawsuit.

However, this is not something you should count on. There are too many variables involved to rely on others having gotten food poisoning.

For example, suppose the cause of your food poisoning was due to a specific dish rather than a widespread contamination issue in the restaurant’s kitchen. In that case, you may have been the only one to order it in the same time frame.

Gathering this evidence is paramount to a successful case against a restaurant. However, you might be wondering what kind of case you are dealing with, and the answer might surprise you.

What Types of Food Poisoning Lawsuits Are There?

Food poisoning might not seem like the sort of issue that warrants a case on its own, but it can. Pursuing a food poisoning lawsuit against a restaurant for food poisoning falls under the category of a personal injury claim in most states.

In many places, it is also considered a product liability claim. This means that the procedures and compensation for food poisoning cases are similar to those used in motor vehicle accident claims.

What this means is that once it has been proven that the restaurant’s food was responsible for the food poisoning, you can pursue a claim to compensate for the costs of any treatment or hospitalization, as well as damages.

Types of Legal Cases for Food Poisoning

However, pursuing a claim over food poisoning induced by a restaurant’s food does mean you need to have sought genuine medical aid for the symptoms you were experiencing.

It may lessen your odds if your symptoms were minor and did not require consultation with a primary care physician.

This is not to say you would be unable to file a claim with minimal symptoms, but you may significantly reduce your odds of winning fair compensation compared to those with more advanced symptoms.

The severity of food poisoning is one of the significant obstacles in pursuing a claim over food poisoning.

If you have severe or advanced symptoms of food poisoning that have put you out financially, then it is more worthwhile to pursue a case. To do so, you might need to retain the services of a personal injury attorney to represent your interests in the case.

The primary benefit you have when pursuing a liability case against a restaurant is that once it is proven that the food from the restaurant is the source of the food poisoning, the restaurant is under strict liability in most states.

What strict liability means is that, even if the restaurant was unaware that they contaminated their ingredients and food due to faulty work from their distributor, they might be responsible for compensating you.

Strict liability makes the fact that the food contamination is strictly their problem. That said, they can then turn around and sue their supplier after their case with you is over. Either way, that’s not your problem to worry about.

Establishing a case for a personal injury claim over food poisoning can be difficult as success requires a lot of detail regarding the symptoms and timeline. However, with the proper records and information, you might see a rapid resolution of your case.

How Much Can You Sue a Restaurant for Food Poisoning?

Since food poisoning claims are a form of personal injury, the overall benefits of pursuing a case are relatively similar. You would be suing the restaurant for damages incurred as a result of the food poisoning.

These damages cover several types of costs incurred while ill and potential supplementary funds for less tangible purposes.

Your settlement will tend to scale to mainly deal with the costs of your medical treatment above all else so that you are not left struggling to pay off your providers.

Potential Payouts for Suits

While the settlement is designed to help you deal with your medical costs, you can also receive recompense for lost income if the food poisoning was severe enough to keep you from working.

In some cases, you might even receive funds to compensate you for pain and suffering, ranging from physical side effects (an extreme rarity in cases of food poisoning) to psychological issues like anxiety when dining.

However, pain and suffering settlements in a food poisoning case are not typical. In a best-case scenario, the restaurant would want to settle to avoid the bad publicity a food poisoning would lawsuit bring them. This could be an upside of suing a national fast food restaurant for food poisoning compared to a local food company.

The “reward” for personal injury claims can occasionally result in you walking away with a little more money than you had before the incident. If you live in a state that allows attorney liens, your personal injury lawyer can negotiate to reduce the cost of your medical bills.

While you should not count on your settlement going beyond helping resolve the medical expenses of your severe food poisoning, the chance always exists that you will get a little something extra.

However, keep in mind that there is no guaranteed settlement amount, and you will never be sure of getting anything out of your case.

Restaurant Food Poisoning Settlements:

Food poisoning incidents are rarely severe and often translate to you spending a few extra minutes with your head in the toilet bowl. However, when they warrant serious medical intervention, you can seek legal action against the restaurant responsible.

Closing Statements for Food Poisoning Lawsuits

The strength of your case will always be determined by the records you keep proving that the restaurant is responsible for your time in the hospital. That can often be all it takes to make sure you get the settlement you deserve after suffering from food poisoning.

If you genuinely believe you have a case but are unsure how to proceed, ask a food poisoning law firm for legal advice to see if you have the basis for a personal injury claim against the restaurant.

The costs of life are never suspended just because you are a victim of food poisoning and are embroiled in a legal battle. Rent, grocery store bills, and other significant costs can still come down on you even as you strain your resources to remain afloat during your case.

If this is the case, you should consider applying for legal funding. In exchange for a small portion of your settlement, legal funding companies can provide you with the funds you will need to pay your bills without stretching your savings too thin.

The best part is that you are only obligated to ensure repayment to the funder if you win or settle the case and incur no risk of being in a deeper hole if you lose. Contact us at Express Legal Funding today for a free consultation.

Learn About Food Poisoning Laws From These Health Agencies:

About the Author

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Strategy Director at Express Legal Funding | Website

Aaron R. Winston is the Strategy Director of Express Legal Funding. As "The Legal Funding Expert," Aaron has more than ten years of experience in the consumer finance industry. Most of which was as a consultant to a top financial advisory firm, managing 400+ million USD in client wealth. 

As Strategy Director of Express Legal Funding, he has devoted thousands of hours to advocating for the consumer. Aaron's "it factor" is that he is a tireless and inventive thought leader who has made great strides by conveying his legal knowledge and diverse expertise to the public. More clients and lawyers understand the facts about pre-settlement funding because of Aaron's legal and financial service SEO mastery. 

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