The Two Biggest Steps To Take In A Food Poisoning Lawsuit

A popular Mexican-style fast food chain is the latest in a wave of restaurants that have fallen prey to problems with contaminated food. In this most recent case, salmonella-infected tomatoes were used to prepare customers' food, but past incidents with this chain and other restaurants have involved things like hepatitis, the Norovirus, and scombroid poisoning. In other words, getting contaminated food is nothing new and it could happen to you. If it does, and you get sick, you may be able to file a personal injury suit in order to be compensated for your injuries. However, there are two important steps you should take if you want to win your case.

1.) You need to identify what contaminant was actually in your food.

It isn't enough that you got sick right after eating -- you need some sort of evidence that the food actually caused your sickness and proof of the type of contamination that was in it.

In some cases, several people get sick around the same time. Some of the later victims may have the advantage of hearing about what has already been discovered by doctors who are treating earlier victims. That tells them what to look for and what test results will prove useful. Most of the time, however, cases are fairly isolated and unique; each suspected instance of contaminated food has to be medically investigated on its own.

Doctors and lab technicians can gather evidence of food contamination in several ways:

  • blood tests to look for certain transferable illnesses, like hepatitis A
  • stool cultures to look for pathogens like salmonella
  • urine tests to look for contaminants like arsenic
  • laboratory analysis of any food that was vomited to look for toxins like staphylococcus aureus bacterium

Unless the doctor or lab technician can identify the specific toxin, virus or bacteria that made you sick, you'll have a hard time proving that your symptoms are actually due to contaminated food. It's very important that if you have leftovers of the food that you think made you sick at home that you get those to your doctor. The leftovers themselves can be evaluated in a lab for various contaminants.

2. Once the contaminating pathogen or substance is found, it may need further testing.

Once doctors find out what has made you sick, it may be possible (or even necessary) to do further testing of both the organic and inorganic substances in the contaminant. For example, if there was arsenic in your food, a chemical analysis might be able to match the arsenic in your food with the same compound of arsenic that was used to treat the restaurant for an ant infestation the month before you got sick.

If some type of bacteria made you sick, a lab can do what is known as a pulsed-field gel electrophoresis (PFGE) test on the bacteria to generate its DNA markers. If the same strain of bacteria is found in other food from the restaurant or on restaurant equipment, that provides solid genetic proof of where the contamination came from.

Personal injury lawsuits involving contaminated food are often hotly contested -- not only does the restaurant not like the idea of paying out on any lawsuits, its reputation could be damaged once word gets around about the contamination. That's never good for business. That's why it's important to get as much evidence as you can about the particular contamination in your food before you proceed with a case. If you suspect that you were a victim of food poisoning, talk to an attorney as soon as possible so that you can get advice about how to get or preserve evidence that is crucial to your case.

To learn more, contact a law firm like Holth & Kollman LLC