Can You Sue a Restaurant for Food Poisoning?

food poisoning label on broccoli examined by a person with magnifying glass

You can sue a restaurant for food poisoning if your illness was caused by the negligent actions of the business or one of its employees. Unfortunately, proving negligence in a food poisoning lawsuit is often difficult. To establish that the restaurant was negligent, you must provide evidence that demonstrates that the other party’s act or omission caused your illness and that you suffered significant financial losses because of it. 

How to Sue a Restaurant for Food Poisoning

To sue a restaurant, you must prove all the elements of your claim by a preponderance of the evidence, i.e., 51%. Pursuant to Illinois Law, restaurants have a duty to use reasonable care to protect people from becoming ill due to food poisoning. You must prove the restaurant committed an act of negligence that breached this duty. Specifically, you must prove the restaurant either improperly handled the food, improperly prepared the food, or improperly stored the food. Additionally, you must also prove the food that caused your illness came from the restaurant where you dined. Finally, you must have suffered an injury as a result of food poisoning. A personal injury lawyer can present evidence in court to help you win your food poisoning lawsuit. 

Can You Prove a Restaurant Is to Blame for Your Food Poisoning?

You will need to show that the restaurant’s negligence caused the food to become contaminated or otherwise unsafe to eat, or that the restaurant knew, or should have reasonably known, that the food was not safe. Additionally, you must prove that your illness occurred because of unsafe food. To defend against lawsuits for food poisoning, restaurants often claim they used reasonable care in handling, storing, and preparing the food. Restaurants also argue that the illnesses victims suffered did not result from the contaminated food.

To prove causation in a food poisoning lawsuit, testimony by an expert medical witness is required to link your illness to the contaminated food. Additionally, expert witness testimony may be needed to prove that the food you consumed was indeed contaminated or unsafe.  

Should You Hire an Injury Attorney for Your Food Poisoning Case?

A common question food poisoning victims ask is when to hire a personal injury lawyer. The best time to retain an attorney is after you realized you suffered food poisoning, as the time following your illness is critical. An attorney can help you gather evidence to build a timeline, and the integrity of evidence weakens as time passes. Proving food poisoning requires building a timeline, such as when you last ate, when you ate the contaminated food at the restaurant, whether you ate anywhere else, when your symptoms began, etc. Building an accurate timeline allows you to establish that you consumed the contaminated food from the negligent restaurant.  

An attorney can also work with you to gather your medical records, as this is how to document a personal injury. Your medical records will likely contain information or lab results identifying the bacteria or contagion that caused your food poisoning. An attorney can also investigate the facts surrounding when you dined at the restaurant. An attorney may be able to identify and locate additional victims. Your case will be stronger if there are multiple food poisoning victims because it will be more difficult for the restaurant to argue that they were not the cause of the food poisoning.  

Health Codes and Federal Laws

The food service industry is heavily regulated at the Federal, State, and local level. Federal and State laws require restaurants to follow food safety guidelines to minimize potential hazards for patrons. Additionally, the City of Chicago has numerous local ordinances regarding how food is to be stored, handled, and prepared. Chicago ordinances also require restaurant employees to maintain strict hygiene by washing their hands. Finally, restaurants are regularly inspected to ensure that the premises are safe and clean

Despite the extensive regulations enforced by state and local laws, restaurants sometimes fail to obey food safety guidelines. Your case will be significantly stronger if your attorney is able to obtain evidence showing the restaurant violated a health code or Federal or State law. This can help your case because it establishes evidence showing how the restaurant breached its duty of care. The evidence showcasing the restaurant’s breach of the duty of care helps your attorney demonstrate negligence to a judge or jury.

Compensation Available in a Food Poisoning Lawsuit

Food poisoning is often caused by pathogens such as parasites or bacteria. The symptoms of food poisoning are not pleasant. Food poisoning victims typically experience painful bouts of vomiting, fever, and diarrhea. Additionally, food poisoning can cause victims to suffer long-term damage to their kidneys, intestines, and possibly brain damage. Victims who suffered severe poisoning are often hospitalized. Victims sometimes need long-term care in order to recover from their injuries. Long-term medical care can be expensive, creating financial stress for victims missing work during recovery.

Under Illinois State Law, food poisoning victims can recover damages in a lawsuit. Victims can seek economic damages based on the financial losses they suffered. Specifically, victims can seek compensation for the cost of their medical care, drugs and medications, and possible future medical expenses. If a victim was unable to work, he or she can seek compensation for his or her lost wages. If a victim is permanently disabled, he or she can seek compensation for future medical expenses and future lost wages.

Additionally, a victim can seek compensation for his or her non-economic damages. Unlike economic damages, which are based on financial losses, non-economic damages are not tied to a specific monetary value. Victims can seek compensation for the physical pain and suffering they endured due to food poisoning. Victims can also seek compensation for the mental trauma they suffered. A personal injury lawyer can help you calculate damages and build a case to sue a restaurant for food poisoning.

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