Who is Responsible for my Foodborne Illness?
Despite the strict food safety and handling regulations put in place by the federal government, thousands of people are still hospitalized for foodborne illnesses every year. In fact, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reported that as many as 128,000 people are hospitalized for food poisoning on a yearly basis, of which around 3,000 tragically lose their lives. Food poisoning can have painful and expensive consequences, so if you live in Augusta and were recently hospitalized after contracting a bacterial disease from ingesting tainted food or water, it is important to contact an experienced personal injury attorney in Augusta who can explain your legal options and help you seek compensation for your medical expenses.
What is Food Poisoning?
Food poisoning is a term that covers a wide variety of illnesses caused by infections and viruses that are transmitted through improperly prepared, cooked, or stored foods. People contract these illnesses when they consume such contaminated products. For example, undercooked chicken served in a restaurant could cause serious illness.
Some of the most common bacteria, viruses, and parasites that cause food poisoning include:
- E. coli;
- Shigella; and
These diseases are often contracted through the consumption of contaminated meat, poultry, and eggs. Typical symptoms include:
- Abdominal cramps;
- Headaches; and
- Body aches.
The effects of foodborne illnesses are usually felt between 12 and 72 hours after consumption and can last for as long as a week. While many instances of food poisoning do not require hospitalization, others can quickly become very serious, especially for children, the elderly, pregnant women, and those with compromised immune systems, so those who fall under one of these categorize and recognize the above symptoms should consider taking the following actions:
- Seek medical treatment, especially if the certain symptoms exist, such as chest or severe abdominal pain, rapid heart rate, disorientation, joint pain, prolonged vomiting or diarrhea, or signs of dehydration;
- Preserve all packaging materials and any unconsumed food believed to be the source of the illness;
- Save all receipts and credit card records related to the purchase of the contaminated product;
- Report the food poisoning to the local health department;
- Stay hydrated by drinking a lot of fluids; and
- Make a written note of all foods and beverages consumed in the three days prior to the onset of the symptoms.
The Georgia Food Act, prohibits the production, delivery, or sale of any adulterated foods, which includes:
- Products containing foreign objects not intended for human consumption;
- Products which include unsafe levels of pesticides or other poisonous chemicals;
- Contaminated meat or the product of a diseased animal;
- Products that have had substances added to increase its bulk weight and so increase its value;
- Products packaged in containers that were manufactured with toxic substances;
- Products that became contaminated as a result of being prepared in unsanitary conditions; and
- Misbranded or mislabeled products.
Because food manufacturers have a legal responsibility to properly process, store, prepare, and transport food products, they can be held liable for injuries caused by their negligent failure to fulfill these duties. For this reason, there are a number of different parties that could be held liable for serving or selling contaminated food or drinks, including:
- Corporate farmers who allowed raw fruits, vegetables, or other produce to become contaminated during their growth, harvest, storage, or transport;
- Raw meat processors;
- Restaurant owners who failed to inspect or refrigerate raw food or to properly store, cook, or handle ingredients;
- Fast food franchises;
- Grocery stores who failed to timely remove items from their shelves or prevent the sale of unsafe, contaminated food;
- Food companies who were careless in their mass production of prepared, canned, bottled, or sealed food or drink products;
- Packaging companies who allowed beef, pork, chicken, or turkey to become contaminated during slaughtering, handling, or packaging;
- Trucking companies that failed to refrigerate, store, or transport food and beverages in a safe manner;
- Meat markets that failed to properly inspect, prepare, or package meat; and
- Homeowners, caterers, and hosts who provided their guests with undercooked food.
To establish that a food company, restaurant, or grocery store was responsible for a plaintiff’s food poisoning, he or she will need to prove that the party was negligent. However, in many cases, injured parties can assert a negligence per se claim, which only requires plaintiffs to show that the Georgia law against providing unadulterated food was violated. Because the Georgia Food Act was specifically created to prevent food poisoning, demonstrating that a company failed to produce a safe food product is enough to establish their culpability.
Collecting compensation is especially important in food poisoning cases because victims may be required to pay for overnight stays in the hospital, multiple diagnostic tests, expensive treatments, and prescription medications. Injured parties may also need to take days or even weeks off from work, which can make it difficult to cover the cost of medical expenses and other bills. When food poisoning victims can demonstrate that a restaurant, grocery store, or food company caused their illness, they may be able to collect compensation for their losses, including:
- Medical costs;
- Lost wages; and
- Pain and suffering.
In tragic cases, where an individual loses his or her life as a result of a foodborne illness, the victim’s family may also be able to recover for emotional distress, burial costs, and funeral expenses.
Contact a Dedicated Augusta Personal Injury Attorney Today
Every day, thousands of consumers place their trust in restaurants, grocery stores, and processing plants to provide safe, clean, and healthy products. By failing to adhere to regulations, companies breach this trust, which can have dire consequences. Fortunately, negligent companies can and should be held responsible for their actions, so if you live in Augusta and you contracted a foodborne illness, please contact the law firm of Ted A. Greve & Associates, P.A. by completing one of our contact forms and a member of our legal team will help you schedule a free consultation with an experienced personal injury attorney.