Can I Sue a Restaurant for Food Poisoning? 

Can I Sue a Restaurant for Food Poisoning? 
Can I Sue a Restaurant for Food Poisoning? 

Yes, you can sue a restaurant if the restaurant caused your food poisoning illness and you suffered damages because of your illness.

Food poisoning can prove incredibly difficult to deal with. Not only can it lead to days of discomfort and lost income due to the inability to work because of your illness, but in some cases, it can cause immense complications and long-term health issues. If you file a food poisoning claim, you may receive financial compensation for your damages, such as medical bills and lost income.

You will require a food poisoning lawyer to prove the restaurant’s responsibility for your illness. If you or a loved one suffered food poisoning after eating at a restaurant, an experienced food poisoning lawyer can review your case to determine if you have grounds to file a food poisoning claim against the restaurant.

How Can a Restaurant Cause Someone Food Poisoning?

Can I Sue a Restaurant for Food Poisoning? 

State and local food codes require restaurants to use safe ingredients in the kitchen and that their staff handle foods safely to prevent contamination. Food safety training for managers is also typically required, such as a ServSafe course.

But even with precautions, spoiled or contaminated ingredients can make it into the foods or beverages restaurants serve you, and you can suffer food poisoning.

Some common harmful germs and bacteria that cause food poisoning include:

  • Salmonella
  • E.Coli
  • Listeria
  • Campylobacter
  • Cyclospora
  • Hepatitis A
  • Botulism

Food can become contaminated in the field, during processing, or at any time in the food production chain. Restaurant workers can also contaminate ingredients during the preparation and cooking of ingredients.

Scenarios that could lead to food poisoning in restaurant foods or beverages include:

  • Kitchen food handlers not washing their hands before preparing food
  • Workers not keeping their workstations, cooking vessels and utensils, and food prep areas cleaned and sanitized.
  • Food handlers cooking with expired ingredients.
  • Kitchen workers who improperly handle, can, or store food.
  • Cooks who undercook certain foods
  • Cooks and food handlers who are sick
  • Food handlers cross-contaminating.

Even if the restaurant does everything right, however, you can still pursue compensation for your illness. The mere fact that it served you food that made you sick can make it liable to you. You would need to trace your illness back to the restaurant that served you, then file an insurance claim or lawsuit—and the complex process you will need to complete to do that will require a food poisoning lawyer.

Food poisoning outbreaks are common. The Minnesota Department of Health reported a Salmonella outbreak among more than 100 people who had eaten at one of 17 different Chipotle restaurants in the state. Seventeen of the victims suffered severe illnesses that required hospitalization. 

More recently, a Wendy’s restaurant infected 97 people across four states with E. coli. Of those sickened, 43 were hospitalized, and 10 developed hemolytic uremic syndrome, a serious condition caused by e.Coli infections that can lead to kidney failure. 

What Are the Symptoms of Food Poisoning?

Food poisoning symptoms may start within a few hours after consuming the tainted food, while others will take far longer to develop.

Symptoms of food poisoning generally include:

  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhea, which may contain blood or mucus
  • Stomach cramps and/or abdominal pain
  • Weakness
  • Loss of appetite
  • High fever
  • Aching muscles
  • Chills

Symptoms of food poisoning can last a few days, and some cases can lead to severe complications, lifelong health problems, or death.

Do I Have Grounds for a Food Poisoning Claim?

To have a legal claim for  food poisoning, you must show you became sick through contaminated food. Some viruses can cause the same symptoms as food poisoning. Usually, doctors will diagnose bacterial or parasitic food poisoning using a stool sample. When multiple individuals test positive for the same or similar strains of bacteria and report a common exposure–like eating at the same restaurant–there is a greater chance that you have a meritorious legal claim if you have been sick. 

If you develop symptoms and suspect food poisoning, see a doctor as soon as you develop symptoms. If your doctor suspects food poisoning, they may test your stool or blood to determine the specific disease-causing microbes. Researchers can test suspect ingredients in cases of an outbreak to look for similar microbes. If the same microbes in the food identified as the source of an outbreak caused your illness, your case will greatly strengthen.

It's easier to make your case if others who dined at the same restaurant became ill. Your food poisoning lawyer can check your local health department to see if it linked any recent food poisoning outbreaks to any specific restaurants or products.

Once you prove your illness and its source, you must establish that food poisoning caused damages, such as lost time from work, missed leisure activities, and medical costs. Keep track of all medical bills and communications with your place of work regarding your missed days due to your illness.

A food poisoning lawyer can make it much easier to establish your case and collect the compensation you deserve for your illness.

What Compensation Can Food Poisoning Victims Get?

Damages you may recover in a food poisoning claim include:

Your Medical Costs

Did you have to go to the hospital for your food poisoning symptoms? For some patients, food poisoning will include dehydration and severe weakness. Those patients may require hospitalization while they recover. Unfortunately, even a few days in the hospital with food poisoning can mean substantial costs, proving prohibitive for many patients. As part of a food poisoning claim, you may pursue compensation for any medical costs associated with treatment for food poisoning.

Your Income Losses

Food poisoning can sometimes mean substantial time out of work while you recover. While some patients with food poisoning may miss just a few days at work, others may end up out of work for weeks as they recover from their illness. In addition, lingering symptoms of food poisoning, including long-term organ damage, can lead to more time out of work, equating to substantial income losses for the injured party. As part of a food poisoning claim, a lawyer can lay out the compensation you deserve for lost time at work.

Pain and Suffering

Food poisoning claims can recover compensation for the economic damages that went along with the food poisoning and the suffering you endured. Acute food poisoning symptoms can cause immense distress, including missing out on enjoyable activities.

Chronic symptoms that linger following food poisoning can cause even more suffering as the patient has to miss out on those activities and time with friends and loved ones. While a food poisoning claim cannot alleviate that suffering, especially in cases with chronic damage from food poisoning, it can provide the patient with funds to pay for treatments.

Who Pays for My Food Poisoning Damages?

In most cases, the restaurant has insurance to cover any damages related to food poisoning. You or your attorney must file a claim directly with the restaurant’s insurance provider. Occasionally, restaurant suppliers are ultimately responsible for the claims. 

How Can a Lawyer Help With My Food Poisoning Claim?

If you try to handle a food poisoning claim alone, the insurance company will throw many roadblocks your way. Despite state regulations regarding how restaurants and food manufacturers must maintain cleanliness standards to avoid contamination and ensure that they provide safe food to their customers, in many cases, those companies will not take food poisoning claims seriously.

They may insist, for example, that food poisoning does not really cause long-term distress or that the company took all reasonable precautions related to preparing the food and, therefore, should not bear liability, despite the damages you sustained. They may claim your food poisoning came from another source. Furthermore, they may ignore your claim altogether.

The insurance company will often delay even looking at your claim and the damages you sustained, or offer far less than fair compensation for those losses.

On the other hand, having a lawyer can ensure that your claim will progress much more smoothly, from filling out the initial paperwork to any future conversations with the insurance company. Furthermore, a lawyer can prevent costly delays in getting the full compensation you deserve.

Let a Personal Injury Lawyer Help With Your Food Poisoning Claim

Russell Nicolet
Russell Nicolet, Food Poisoning Lawyer

If you suffered food poisoning, a lawyer can establish who bears liability for the case, what damages you may claim, and how you can best pursue the compensation you deserve for those losses.

By working with a food poisoning lawyer, you can also feel much more confident about the outcome of your case. Contact a food poisoning lawyer as possible to better understand how you can receive compensation for the losses associated with food poisoning.