Eating is one of life’s greatest pleasures, especially when someone else is cooking! Going out for a meal or enjoying a takeaway can rapidly become a terrible experience if you get food poisoning from your food.
The Food Standards Agency (FSA) estimates that up to 2.4 million cases of foodborne illnesses occur in the UK, each year. While we often accept that a bout of food poisoning is part and parcel of life, many of us are unaware that we may be eligible for food poisoning compensation if someone else was responsible for making us sick.
Let’s take a look at the causes of food poisoning and the circumstances when a compensation claim may be possible.
What are symptoms of food poisoning?
Food poisoning is an illness that arises from eating contaminated or uncooked food. Symptoms can start as soon as half an hour after eating the offending food, but in some cases, you may not fall ill until a few days later. It’s most common to start displaying symptoms of food poisoning within 24 hours of contracting it.
Common signs and symptoms of food poisoning include:
- Nausea, stomach upset or cramps;
- Diarrhea or vomiting, which can lead to dehydration;
- Blood in stools;
- Aching muscles;
- A general lack of energy; or
Some people will only feel unwell for a matter of hours, while others can be ill for weeks. In the most severe cases, people suffering food poisoning may be hospitalised, suffer damage to their nervous systems or go on to develop Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS). Where a person develops IBS following a food poisoning incident, they may be facing long term consequences.
What causes food poisoning?
Consuming food that contains harmful pathogens can lead to food poisoning. Bacteria, viruses or parasites, such as Campylobacter, Salmonella, E.Coli, Norovirus and Cryptosporidium are the most common root causes of the illness and can leave you feeling awful.
Proper food hygiene greatly reduces the risk of food poisoning. For that reason, food businesses are required to adhere to rigorous food safety regulations, which are enforced by the FSA. Food producers who wilfully or erroneously fail to follow the required standards may inadvertently cause food poisoning. The most common reasons for food poisoning include:
- Not cooking food to the correct temperature;
- Not ensuring food is cooked for an appropriate length of time;
- Allowing raw meat and cooked meat to mix;
- Not refrigerating or covering food;
- Not thoroughly washing hands when preparing food; or
- Using dirty utensils.
This isn’t an exhaustive list by any means. The bottom line is that if another person or business neglected to fulfil their duty of care to you, which caused you to suffer food poisoning, then that negligence may mean that you’re entitled to compensation. It can be complex to prove a food poisoning compensation case, but experienced personal injury solicitors can make the process less stressful.
How can food poisoning be proven?
In the vast majority of compensation claims, you normally need to prove that the defendant was negligent. However, in a food poisoning claim, you don’t need to prove negligence. Under the Consumer Protection Act 1987, strict liability applies to food businesses for damage arising from defective products. In other words, you simply have to show that the food was not safe for consumption and that it caused your illness.
What evidence do I need?
As food poisoning usually only affects you for a few days (unless your case is more severe), it can be challenging to gather evidence to prove exactly who caused your food poisoning. Many food poisoning cases are never seen by a medical professional as most people simply opt to recover at home.
However, if you think your food poisoning was caused by an individual or business that owed you a duty of care, then there are some steps you can take to make your food poisoning claim easier.
Ideally, you should visit a hospital or GP as you’ll then have a medical record documenting your condition. The best way to prove you had food poisoning will be via a stool or blood sample, which can identify the precise bacteria or parasite that has made you unwell. Since the pathogen tends to only remain in your system for a few days, it makes sense that you should seek medical assistance as early as possible.
It can also be beneficial to notify the FSA about your food poisoning. Again, this will mean that you have a written, timestamped record of your illness.
In short the more evidence that you can retain about your case, the higher the chances of success of your compensation claim. Write a list of all the foods you ate in the 24 hours before you fell ill, obtain the names and contact details of any witnesses, and if you still have the food item, keep it in a sealed container ready for sampling.
Is it possible to claim without seeing a doctor?
In an ideal world, you’ll have seen a doctor and had your illness diagnosed and treated, but as food poisoning is a common illness, that may not always be the case. If you didn’t visit a medical professional to treat your symptoms, you may still be able to prove a food poisoning compensation claim.
Get in touch with personal injury solicitors to explain your circumstances and they’ll help you to explore your options. Even without a medical record, any written evidence, such as complaints raised via emails, text messages or chatbots, that you sent about your illness can strengthen your case. If you had to take time off work to recover, then evidence of your sick days can also be useful.
If your food poisoning was part of a wider outbreak that was caused by the defendant, then this evidence may support your case.
Can I claim compensation for food poisoning?
Any food business that produces food has a responsibility for handling food in-line with food hygiene regulations, as set out by the FSA. This includes supper clubs and temporary pop-ups which have become increasingly popular in recent years. If food is being sold, the operator must comply with food handling regulations.
If you contract food poisoning as a result of a business failing to meet the expected standards, then you may be able to claim compensation. You’ll need to demonstrate that:
- The food poisoning took place within the last three years;
- A third party was to blame; and
- You were owed you a duty of care by that third party.
Where a child is involved in a food poisoning case, the three year time limit does not apply. A compensation claim can be raised on the child’s behalf by their parent, guardian or a litigation friend up until they turn 18. Alternatively, the child has until they turn 21 to start a claim for themselves.
There’s no single amount that can be cited for a food poisoning claim. The amount of compensation you’re entitled to will depend on your unique situation. However, all personal injury claims consist of two components:
- General Damages: The amount is predetermined by the Judicial College and published in their personal injury awards guidelines. General damages are awarded for Pain, Suffering and Loss of Amenity (PSLA).
- Special Damages: This will be awarded for financial losses and expenses that have resulted from the accident and could cover loss of earnings, medical expenses and transportation costs.
Contact Waldrons Solicitors
Accidents happen and injuries can result in much pain and suffering, and potentially life-altering consequences. If you or a loved one has been injured through no fault of your own, whether from food poisoning, a workplace accident or a sports mishap, get in touch with our team of specialist personal injury solicitors at Waldrons for information about making a compensation claim.
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