Getting sick after eating at a restaurant can be a particularly unpleasant experience, but it may provide grounds for a personal injury case only under rare circumstances.
Typical food poisoning cases — or more accurately “foodborne illness” cases — involve scant evidence and a limited amount of damages. Although the experience they create can be uncomfortable and enough to cause you to miss work, they only occasionally involve significant enough medical costs to provide a substantial tort. On the other hand, some foodborne illness cases are severe, involve large medical costs and could even represent a pattern of negligent food handling practices.
Read on to learn how a Charleston personal injury attorney may approach cases on either end of the spectrum and when they might pursue a claim under normal circumstances.
Many Foodborne Illness Cases Lack Evidence
Let us say you ate a restaurant, bite into a hamburger that was uncooked in the middle and got sick with diarrhea, vomiting, stomach pains and a touch of fever several hours later. You may have a strong suspicion that the rogue burger was the cause of your illness, and you may be right, but finding evidence to draw a strong connection in such a situation is usually difficult.
Your illness could have been caused by anything you ate or anything that made contact with your mouth that day, including a pen you chewed on. The incubation period for some infections like Campylobacter can be several days, leading to a delayed effect and a near impossibility of detecting the initial cause.
Even if you brought the suspected burger home with you and had it positively tested for contamination, the restaurant could allege that the bacteria grew on the burger after it left the premises because of improper handling or refrigeration.
The type of substantial evidence often needed in such cases are other victims. If you were not the only one who got sick that night after eating at a restaurant, that presents a stronger possibility that the restaurant food was contaminated. If the restaurant has a pattern of not following health laws, such as poor health scores and a history of citations, then that sort of evidence provides further weight.
In the event of major illness outbreaks, contamination is often traced back to the source of processing. For instance, a package of frozen spinach dip could be part of a batch contaminated with E. coli, and if you could prove the restaurant served it to you, then that would be more weighty evidence, although not a guarantee of a successful outcome.
Foodborne Illnesses Often Lack Sufficient Damages
Damages in personal injury cases are generally expected to be costly, lasting and significant. Making trips to the bathroom and missing a soccer game does not qualify as sufficient damages in most cases, but having hospitalization might. If the victim in question was immunocompromised by age, pregnancy or an impairment, then the damages may be considered even more significant.
Generally speaking, lawsuits must involve medical costs and proof of an acute illness to a degree requiring serious medical treatment.
Review Your Food Poisoning Case With a Charleston Personal Injury Attorney
If you think your foodborne illness case had significant costs and has the potential to produce direct evidence, then do not hesitate to pursue your right to compensation with the help of a personal injury attorney in Charleston, West Virginia.