Food poisoning happens every day in the United States. The Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimates that 76 million Americans suffer from foodborne illnesses each year. Approximately 325,000 of those food poisoning cases require hospitalization and about 5,000 per year result in death. As you can see, illness caused by spoiled or improperly prepared food may have very serious consequences for victims. Many food poisoning cases originate from food prepared in restaurants. If you have suffered food poisoning and believe it came from a restaurant, you are probably wondering what rights you have to sue that restaurant. The truth is that the success of a lawsuit depends on the specific circumstances of your case, but there are some steps you can take to help preserve evidence for your case.
First, if you believe you have suffered food poisoning, make sure you seek medical attention. A medical diagnosis of a specific food-borne pathogen will help prove your illness came from food and not from another type of stomach bug. Ask your doctor to perform a PFGE (pulsed-filed gel electrophoreses) test, which can determine the genetic fingerprint of the particular bacteria that caused your sickness. If other people also received food poisoning from that restaurant, matching PFGE results serves as solid evidence against the restaurant.
Next, make sure you do not throw out any leftovers you have from the restaurant. Those leftovers may be tested and, if positive for the bacteria, will be concrete evidence that the restaurant’s food caused you illness.
Sometimes, food poisoning is not caused by spoiled food, but by sick employees working in a restaurant. A personal injury attorney will know how to investigate the restaurant to see if any of the employees had come to work while sick, however this must be done in a very timely fashion. For this reason, you should always contact an injury attorney as soon as possible after you suspect food poisoning.