April 1, 2024
personal injury

Annually, millions are affected by foodborne illnesses, with the CDC reporting close to 3,000 deaths, 128,000 hospitalizations, and 48 million cases of sickness in the U.S. Many of these incidents stem from food poisoning at restaurants, often due to inadequate food handling practices. Pathogens such as Salmonella and E. coli are common culprits behind these severe illnesses and fatalities.

If you get sick after eating at a food establishment in Alabama, who pays your medical bills or other losses like missed pay? Learn when you can hold a restaurant responsible for food poisoning and how our Alabama personal injury lawyers at The Vance Law Firm Injury Lawyers can help.

Circumstances for Legal Action

In Alabama, if you get food poisoning from a restaurant, you have the right to take legal action—similar to dram shop laws that hold establishments responsible for serving too much alcohol to someone who then drives and causes an accident. If a restaurant’s careless food handling, preparation, or storage makes you sick, you might be able to claim damages for your illness.

Here are several scenarios where you might think about pursuing a civil lawsuit with the assistance of a lawyer:

  • Hospitalization Required: If your food poisoning necessitates hospitalization, you may have a valid case for legal action. This can include instances where dehydration from vomiting and diarrhea are severe or you’ve developed a serious infection requiring intravenous antibiotics or other hospital treatments.
  • Chronic Health Issues: Some foodborne illnesses can lead to long-term health problems, such as kidney failure from E. coli infection, Guillain-Barré syndrome from Campylobacter, or chronic arthritis triggered by Salmonella. If you suffer from prolonged health consequences that impact your quality of life or incur long-term medical costs, legal recourse can help recover damages.
  • A Documented Outbreak: If the restaurant where you dined is officially linked to an outbreak of foodborne illness, you may have a stronger compensation case. Health departments often document outbreaks, and the CDC maintains a multistate outbreak database, helping you link your illness to a specific restaurant source.
  • Death of a Family Member: If food poisoning leads to the death of a loved one, surviving family members may have the grounds to file a wrongful death lawsuit. This legal action can seek compensation for funeral expenses, lost income, loss of companionship, and the emotional distress caused by the untimely death.

Key Elements of a Food Poisoning Case

To win a food poisoning case, you must prove specific legal elements. These show what caused your illness, connect it to the restaurant’s negligence, and the damages you suffered. Here’s a simple breakdown:

Evidence of Foodborne PathogensYou must present medical evidence showing you were infected by pathogens commonly associated with food poisoning.   This often involves blood samples, stool tests, or tests on leftover food to identify specific bacteria, viruses, or parasites that cause illness.
Direct Link to the RestaurantTo establish a direct link, you need to prove that the food from the restaurant directly caused your illness.   This requires providing evidence such as detailed receipts, orders, or statements confirming you ate at the restaurant shortly before getting sick. The timing of your illness should also match the known incubation period for the pathogen identified as the cause of your illness.
Proof of Negligence or Food Safety ViolationsThis involves showing that the restaurant breached its duty to maintain a safe eating environment.   Proof can come from various sources, such as records of health inspection failures, photographic or video evidence of unsafe practices (improper food handling, storage, or cooking), or employee testimonies about non-compliance with food safety laws and guidelines.
Actual Damages SufferedYou must demonstrate that you incurred actual damages due to the illness. This includes medical expenses for treatment, lost wages from being unable to work, and non-economic damages such as pain and suffering.   Documentation might include medical bills, pay stubs to prove lost earnings, and personal testimonies about the impact of the illness on your daily life and well-being.

The Role of a Lawyer

Suing a restaurant for damages related to food poisoning can be challenging. Obtaining the necessary evidence can require the help of a qualified attorney. The Vance Law Firm Injury Lawyers can do the following to bolster your claim and help you get compensation:

  • Investigation and Evidence Collection: We conduct a comprehensive investigation to gather crucial evidence to demonstrate all elements of your claim. This can include camera footage confirming your presence and meal consumption at the restaurant, improper food handling by employees, and lab reports confirming the bacteria or virus in your meal.
  • Medical Documentation and Expert Testimony: We will obtain medical records and seek testimony from healthcare professionals to confirm the presence of foodborne pathogens and link them to your illness.
  • Witness Statements: We might collect statements from other patrons who suffered similar symptoms after eating at the restaurant, supporting a pattern of negligence.
  • Health Inspection Report Analysis: We can review the restaurant’s previous health inspection records to find any violations, showing a track record of not following food safety rules.
  • Negotiation and Trial Preparation: We negotiate a fair settlement with the restaurant’s insurance company and get ready for trial if these discussions don’t lead to a satisfactory resolution.

Get the Settlement You Deserve

Falling ill from food at a restaurant can be a harrowing ordeal. It can leave you with ongoing health problems and destroy your trust in eating out.

The Vance Law Firm Injury Lawyers are committed to defending your rights and getting you fair compensation for what you’ve been through. Our team has the experience and resources to trace your illness back to the restaurant at fault and ensure the right people are held responsible.

Get in touch with us today for a free case review and learn your legal options.

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