If you suspect that you contracted a foodborne illness in Las Vegas, you probably have medical bills and lost wages that need to be paid. You may also be entitled to compensation for your pain and suffering. To recover money damages, you’ll need to file a personal injury claim or lawsuit. Before you proceed, however, it’s a good idea to ask yourself, “What food caused me to get sick?”, “Who is responsible for my illness?” and, “What kind of lawyer do I need for food poisoning?”
A personal injury lawyer who is experienced with foodborne illness cases can help. Your attorney will evaluate your case to figure out what food may have caused your illness, how the food got contaminated, and who may be held liable for your losses.
How Common Is Food Poisoning?
Forty-eight million Americans get food poisoning every year. Of those cases, around 128,000 are hospitalized, and approximately 3,000 cases result in death.
Food poisoning (or foodborne illness) generally results in inflammation of the gut, particularly the stomach and intestines. It is typically induced by viruses, bacteria, and parasites that cause infection and symptoms. Since food poisoning usually resolves itself in a matter of days for most people, you can often let it run its course. Be on the lookout, however, for any of the following symptoms:
- diarrhea lasting for more than three days
- a fever exceeding 102 °F (38.9 °C)
- difficulty speaking or seeing
- severe dehydration symptoms, which may include trouble keeping fluids down, dry mouth, or passing little to no urine
- bloody urine
Most symptoms of food poisoning appear within hours of the victim eating the tainted food and are resolved within a few days. In some cases, however, the symptoms don’t begin for weeks. Those same symptoms can last for a couple of weeks. Because of the seriousness of certain types of food poisoning, you should seek medical attention if your symptoms are severe.
Food Poisoning Risks
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the most common symptoms of food poisoning are upset stomach, stomach cramps, nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, and fever. Certain people require hospitalization, however, as some foodborne illnesses result in long-term or fatal health problems. Food poisoning can cause brain and nerve damage, chronic arthritis, and kidney failure. Certain at-risk groups, such as the elderly, young children, pregnant women, and people with weakened immune systems, can contract infections that lead to hospitalization or even death.
There are other instances when animals, bugs, or other foreign objects are found in a food container and lead to acute food poisoning. With such a case, it’s crucial that you contact a Las Vegas personal injury lawyer who has handled food poisoning cases in the past. You may be able to file a lawsuit against a grocery chain, food processor, or food distributor.
Common Sources of Food Poisoning
A variety of bacterial, viral, and parasitic agents cause food poisoning. Some of the most common contaminants include Salmonella, E. coli, and Listeria. A less common, but sometimes fatal, type of food poisoning is Botulism.
Salmonella infection (salmonellosis) is a common bacterial disease that affects the gastrointestinal tract. It can cause stomach pains, diarrhea, fever, and other symptoms. In most cases, salmonella infection is caused by eating contaminated foods. For instance, this may include raw or undercooked meat, eggs or egg products, raw fruits and vegetables, or unpasteurized milk or dairy products. Salmonella can also be acquired directly through poor handwashing before handling foods or from pets. Dogs, cats, reptiles, and birds can be carriers of the bacteria.
Escherichia coli (E. coli) is a type of bacteria that lives in the intestines. These bacteria are usually harmless. It can even aid in the health of your digestive tract. However, some strains of E. coli may give you symptoms such as diarrhea, stomach pain, or a low-grade fever. Most infections are caused by consuming contaminated food or drinks, such as ground meat, untreated milk or milk products, raw fruits and vegetables, water, or unpasteurized fruit juices. One particularly dangerous strain can make you very sick. It causes cramping, vomiting, and bloody diarrhea. It is the leading cause of acute kidney failure in children.
Listeria is a foodborne illness caused by a germ, listeria monocytogenes. It is commonly found in nature, particularly in soil, rotting vegetation, groundwater, and animal feces. Fever, upset stomach, diarrhea, nausea, and vomiting are all common symptoms. Contaminated foods are the most common source of Listeria infections. Listeria is most commonly found in hot dogs, deli meats, unpasteurized dairy products, and fresh fruits and vegetables. However, Listeria can affect nearly any inadequately handled or prepared food. A severe Listeria infection has the potential to spread to your bloodstream or brain. Serious infections can result in sepsis, meningitis, or encephalitis.
Botulism food poisoning is a bacterial infection that occurs when a bacterial toxin is consumed in improperly preserved foods. This powerful neurotoxin causes abdominal cramping, double or blurred vision, and muscle weakness. It occasionally causes more serious symptoms such as breathing difficulties, paralysis that leads to respiratory failure, and death. Botulism food poisoning is most commonly contracted through the consumption of home-canned foods or other contaminated foods containing honey, corn syrup, baked potatoes, and cured meats or fish.
Should You Hire a Lawyer for Food Poisoning?
Food poisoning can be a severe condition that leads to hospital admission. There can be long-term medical issues associated with your illness, and you could be left with expensive medical bills and the inability to work. Because of a variety of factors, these are complicated cases. Hiring a Las Vegas food poisoning attorney may be beneficial for several reasons:
- The symptoms can be similar to other illnesses, such as a stomach virus or the flu. A lawyer can help you prove that your illness was caused by contaminated food.
- Symptoms can appear days or weeks later, making it challenging to identify the source of the discomfort. Your attorney will be able to help you determine what food caused your illness.
- Before food reaches your plate, it usually passes through several hands, such as producers, distributors, and restaurant or catering staff, so determining at what point the food was mishandled and who is to blame can be a difficult task A Las Vegas personal injury lawyer can help you prove who exactly was responsible for the contamination of your food.
Proving Restaurant Food Poisoning
There are three main factors a food poisoning lawyer will look for when building your case.
Evidence of Bacteria or a Virus
An experienced Las Vegas personal injury lawyer will search for evidence of bacteria or a virus in the food that you consumed. He or she will likely ask if you have meal leftovers that can be tested to confirm the presence of bacteria. Since that’s not often possible given the timeline of severe food poisoning, your lawyer will confer with your hospital or doctor to see whether a stool sample confirmed the presence of the bacteria or virus. This testing should be done before using any antibiotics or anti-diarrheal medications. Antibiotics and anti-diarrheal medicines may destroy the bacteria or virus before it can be identified.
Multiple People Sick
Your lawyer will look for situations where other people became sick who ate the same food or ate at the same restaurant that you did. A case can often be made when an identical strain of bacteria will have made several people sick, these people all ate the same food item, and the strain of bacteria is found in that specific food item.
There have been successful cases, however, when multiple people became ill with identical bacteria after eating at the same restaurant, even if they did not all eat the same thing and the bacteria or virus was not found in any of the food.
If there was a product safety recall on the food or drink you consumed, and your illness is linked to the recalled item, you may be able to sue the manufacturer for compensation. A personal injury lawyer will attempt to determine that the food recall involved an outbreak of illness caused by food tainted with the bacteria or virus you ingested. In most cases, a recall lawsuit for personal injury or wrongful death is filed individually and not as a class action.
A personal injury lawyer will also be able to assist you in determining not just that the contaminated food harmed you, but that you sustained considerable damages from that food poisoning.
Food Poisoning Injury FAQs
If you contracted a foodborne illness, you may have several questions about pursuing compensation for your associated losses. These may include:
How Do Personal Injury Lawyers Get Paid?
Most personal injury lawyers in Las Vegas are paid on a contingency fee basis. This means that the attorney agrees to be paid only if the verdict is in your favor. You:
- Pay nothing unless and until the lawyer gets you compensation.
- Do not have to pay a retainer or any other upfront fees.
- Do not have to pay the lawyer for his or her time working on the case.
- Pay your lawyer a percentage of your court award or settlement.
The percentage paid to attorneys varies depending on factors like whether the case settles, goes to court, or requires an appeal.
How Much Time Do I Have to File a Food Poisoning Lawsuit in Las Vegas?
When you’re injured in a food poisoning claim, you have limited time to act on it. Nevada residents have only two years from the date of the event to file a personal injury claim in a civil court. Failing to seek compensation within those two years may cost you the chance to be compensated for your injuries.
There are certain exceptions, however. For example, if the defendant is a government entity, it can affect your claim, and the statute of limitations is reduced to 6 months.
How Long Does a Personal Injury Case Take?
If you’re thinking about filing a food poisoning or other personal injury claim after an accident, you likely want to know how long it will take. As with most litigation matters, there is no fixed timeline. When a personal injury claim reaches a resolution depends on a variety of considerations, including the level of clarity regarding who was liable for the injury, the severity of your injuries, and the defendant’s (or the defendant’s insurance company’s) willingness to settle. Another significant factor is your willingness to go to trial if your lawyer feels the defendant’s settlement offer is too low.
The average personal injury settlement takes three to six months. However, if your lawyer feels that the defendant’s settlement offer is too low, or if the insurer denies your claim, your case may have to go to trial. A personal injury lawsuit can take years to get through the court system and make it to trial – mainly when the parties are far apart on critical issues such as who’s liable for the accident, the severity of your injuries, and the damages you suffered.
What Damages Can I Recover in a Food Poisoning Case?
In Nevada, you can be compensated for all of your damages, both economic and non-economic losses. You can get compensation for the following:
- Medical bills
- Lost wages or loss of earning capacity
- Pain and suffering or emotional distress
- Loss of enjoyment of life or consortium in a spousal relationship
- Wrongful death (if the victim passes away)
Should the case go to trial, the personal injury attorney would likely fight for punitive damages. These are meant to punish defendants for their behavior, and punitive damage verdicts can be considerably more significant than rulings for the damages listed above (known as compensatory damages).
If you suffered injuries in Nevada, but you live in another state, Nevada tort law will still apply to your case. Hiring a local attorney who is familiar with Nevada laws can significantly improve your chances of recovering fair compensation for your losses.