Food Poisoning Claims
Eating out is always exciting and fun. You can try out countless new dishes, and it saves you the time and energy required to cook your own meals. Going to a cafe, pub, restaurant, or any other establishment that sells food is a popular way of meeting friends, spending time with family or even having business meetings.
Sometimes, unfortunately, the experience can turn into a nightmare. Not all business owners follow the health and safety standards required by the Consumer Protection Act 1987.
When the food is poorly stored or prepared, and there’s no proper hygiene, you might get a very unpleasant case of food poisoning. According to the Food Standards Agency, there are around 2.4m food poisoning cases every year in the UK.
Eating food that is contaminated with harmful bacteria, viruses or parasites can cause minor to very severe symptoms and even death. If you get ill after eating out or buying food from a shop, you might be entitled to make a food poisoning claim.
Can I make a food poisoning claim?
To claim for food poisoning, you don’t necessarily need to prove that a business acted negligently, but rather that what they sold you was not safe to eat. Because the symptoms of food poisoning usually resolve within a few days, it is essential to act fast if you want to build a strong food poisoning compensation claim.
Even if you have up to three years to start a claim for food poisoning, contacting a solicitor as soon as possible can considerably increase your chances of success. They can help you gather relevant evidence and build a strong case.
Even if you didn’t seek medical assistance, you could still make a food poisoning claim if your solicitor can prove you were ill because of another person or business. Any complaints, reports, emails or other evidence that you were sick can be enough to make up a solid claim.
What evidence do I need to make a food poisoning claim?
If you believe you were the victim of food poisoning because of someone else’s negligence, there are some steps you should take as soon as possible if you want to claim food poisoning compensation:
- seek immediate medical treatment
- take photographs that capture the hygiene standards of the location where you ate
- report the incident to the Food Standards Agency
- notify the local Environmental Health Department
- make a list of everything you consumed in the two days before your illness
- keep any suspect food in its original packaging
- take time off work or school until your symptoms resolve
- keep all relevant receipts from grocery shops and restaurants
- get the contact details of any witnesses
A solicitor will also look into your case in detail, help gather evidence, and enquire if other customers might have been affected by food poisoning. They can help figure out who is responsible for your illness and try to secure interim payments, which can help with your medical expenses.
What are the main causes of food poisoning?
If businesses follow proper hygiene and safety standards, you should never get food poisoning from store-bought items or eating out at restaurants, cafes or pubs. Unfortunately, failing to meet appropriate standards can cause customers to get sick. Frequent circumstances leading to food poisoning include:
- the chef or kitchen staff not washing their hands before handling food
- food that was not refrigerated or covered
- using dirty kitchen tools
- not keeping the kitchen area clean
- the food was not cooked long enough or at the right temperature
- keeping raw and cooked meat together
- being served food that’s past the expiration date
- not sufficiently reheating previously cooked food
- food contaminated with dangerous chemicals
- keeping raw meat and vegetables together
- the food was cooked and kept warm for too long
The list is not exhaustive, and all of the above situations could be valid grounds for claiming food poisoning compensation. Your claim can help to highlight safety problems, leading to changes that will prevent other customers from getting sick.
Some foods are more likely to cause food poisoning and should be consumed with extra care by pregnant women, young children, older adults or people with a weak immune system:
- raw or rare meat
- raw fish and shellfish
- raw or undercooked eggs
- unpasteurised milk and juices
- soft cheeses and pre-packed foods
Common germs that could cause food poisoning include:
- Salmonella. Found in meat, poultry and eggs, it can cause diarrhoea, fever, stomach cramps and vomiting.
- Norovirus. Found in leafy greens, fresh fruits and shellfish, it can cause diarrhoea, nausea, stomach pain, vomiting.
- Escherichia coli. Found in meat, unpasteurised milk and juices and raw vegetables can cause severe stomach cramps, bloody diarrhoea and vomiting. It poses life-threatening problems in 5-10% of the patients.
- Clostridium botulinum. Found in improperly canned or fermented foods. It may cause a rare form of food poisoning called botulism, which can be fatal. Symptoms include difficulty swallowing and breathing, blurred or double vision, muscle weakness and paralysis.
What are the symptoms of food poisoning?
Food poisoning is caused by eating contaminated food, in most cases by bacteria such as salmonella or Escherichia coli. Most often, it’s not a serious illness and should resolve within a few days, even without treatment.
Bacteria, viruses, parasites, or toxins can contaminate the food at any time during storage, handling and preparation. Following ingestion, this could cause one or more of the following symptoms:
- nausea or feeling sick
- upset stomach
- stomach cramps
- abdominal pain or cramps
- feeling tired and weak
- loss of appetite
- body aches
You should see a doctor, especially if you experience severe symptoms like:
- bloody diarrhoea or vomit
- fever above 38° C
- inability to keep down fluids due to repeated vomiting
- severe dehydration that leads to confusion, rapid heartbeat, dizziness, weakness and no urination
- extreme pain and abdominal cramps
- diarrhoea for more than three days
- neurological symptoms such as blurry vision and tingling
Most people would only experience mild symptoms, lasting several hours to several days. Severe food poisoning may lead to hospitalisation and could have long-term consequences like:
- chronic arthritis
- brain and nerve damage
- kidney failure
- Listeria infection can lead to miscarriage, stillbirth, premature birth or long-term neurological damage and delayed development in infants.
Can I make a claim if I get food poisoning on holiday abroad?
When you go on holiday abroad, you expect to have a fun and relaxed time. Becoming ill from food poisoning is not only unexpected but can also be very distressing.
If you booked your stay through a UK based tour operator who arranged your meals (e.g. you booked an all-inclusive or half-board hotel), making a hotel food poisoning claim is simpler. According to the Package Travel Regulations, tour operators must conduct risk assessments on the hotels and restaurants they are reserving.
If you get sick after eating in a restaurant picked by the holiday company, you have up to three years to make a food poisoning compensation claim against them. To support your claim, you should keep essential evidence like:
- photos of the hygiene standards in the restaurant
- a food diary of what you ate before getting sick
- contact details of any other tourists that might have suffered food poisoning
- written confirmation that you informed the hotel or restaurant and tour operator of your illness
- any medical records attesting to your food poisoning
If your food poisoning was not related to a holiday package, you might still be able to claim against the relevant restaurant or business that acted negligently. Getting legal advice might be imperative since the laws and time limits for making a food poisoning claim abroad differ from country to country.
How much is a food poisoning compensation claim worth?
The amount of compensation you can get in a food poisoning compensation claim depends on the extent of your illness, the financial losses you incurred, and how it affected your life.
For a successful claim, you need to be able to prove you have been suffering from food poisoning, and the best way to do so is by seeking medical attention as soon as possible after developing symptoms. If you didn’t already seek medical advice, your solicitor would promptly arrange a medical assessment for you.
To negotiate your compensation, your solicitor will take into consideration all the aspects in which the food poisoning affected you:
- the time you had to take time off work and the resulting lost wages
- medical treatments and hospital stay
- travel costs to medical appointments
- how the illness affected your social life
- the pain and suffering you endured
- any psychological injuries like anxiety and stress
- further treatments and care costs
- how your disease affected your family
- changes in life quality
Due to the unique nature of every food poisoning claim, it’s hard to say precisely how much compensation you could receive. Solicitors and courts use the guidelines published by the Judicial College as a starting point when calculating compensation amounts:
- £860 to £3,710 for disabling pain, cramps and diarrhoea that last for some days to several weeks
- £3,710 to £8,950 for symptoms that persist for weeks but with complete recovery within a year or two
- £8,950 to £18,020 for severe but short-lived symptoms that might have affected your enjoyment of food or sex life
- £36,060 to £49,270 for severe toxicosis that may cause irritable bowel syndrome, haemorrhoids or incontinence, affecting a person’s ability to work and enjoy life
How long do I have to make a food poisoning claim?
Generally, you will have up to three years after getting sick to make a food poisoning compensation claim. The countdown will start from the day your symptoms developed or were diagnosed by a healthcare professional.
The three-year limitation date does not apply in certain situations:
- If the victim of food poisoning was a child, a litigation friend (usually one of the parents) could claim on their behalf at any point before they turn 18. Afterwards, they have another three years to start a claim in their name.
- There is no limitation date to claim food poisoning compensation on behalf of a person that lacks mental abilities or is too ill to claim on their own. This includes learning disabilities, mental health conditions like clinical depression or bipolar disorder, and stroke patients.
- Some illnesses caused by food poisoning can be fatal, especially in people with underlying conditions or immune system disorders. A close family member can claim compensation on their behalf within three years from the day they died.
If you get sick abroad, you can make a holiday food poisoning claim. The time limit for international claims could vary from country to country and be as short as 6 to 12 months.
Given the particularities of food poisoning, it’s essential to contact a solicitor as early as possible after getting sick. This will make it a lot easier to recall everything you ate in the past days and find the responsible party. If they accept liability, your claim could settle in as little as six months.
For a free consultation with a legal adviser, call 0800 678 1410. They can let you know if you may be eligible to make a claim and answer any questions you may have.
Start your no win no fee claim today
If you got sick from eating out, making a food poisoning compensation claim might not be your first thought. You might be worried about the time and effort it requires, not to mention the costs of hiring a solicitor and paying the legal fees.
Without the certainty you’ll win the case, claiming compensation might be financially risky. On the other hand, if your claim is successful, you could receive compensation for medical expenses, lost earnings, future treatments, and the pain and suffering you endured.
Fortunately, most claims can be made on a no win no fee basis. After assessing all the aspects of your situation, a solicitor will decide whether you have a valid claim. If they consider you have a fair chance to succeed, you will reach a conditional fee agreement.
The no win no fee agreement makes it possible for you to start a food poisoning compensation claim without paying any upfront or hidden fees.
Furthermore, thanks to the After the Event (ATE) insurance, you won’t have to pay a single penny even if your case fails. This also gives you the certainty your solicitor will do their best to represent you, seeing that the outcome of your claim also impacts them.
After reaching a no win no fee agreement, your solicitor can help gather evidence, contact witnesses, and handle all the legal paperwork. They will also give you relevant advice and might be able to secure interim payments to help with your recovery if required.
If you receive food poisoning compensation, your solicitor will take a success fee that you previously agreed upon, which cannot be more than 25% of the compensation amount.