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How a Food Poisoning Attorney Can Help

Our experienced E. coli lawyers will carefully review your case and analyze whether you have a legal claim.

E. coli - a bacterium commonly found in the intestines of humans and other animals, some strains of which can cause severe food poisoning.
E. coli - a bacterium commonly found in the intestines of humans and other animals, some strains of which can cause severe food poisoning.

This depends on several factors, like whether you were formally diagnosed with E. coli, whether you suffered financial harm, such as medical bills and lost wages, and if the infection can be traced to its source.

When you have a valid legal claim, a highly experienced attorney in E. coli cases will pursue maximum compensation for your damages, including:

  • Medical expenses
  • Lost income and employment benefits
  • Pain and suffering
  • Emotional distress
  • Permanent physical limitations

E. coli and its complications can also tragically lead to death. If your relative passed away from an E. coli infection, talk with a lawyer as soon as possible about pursuing a wrongful death claim.

Who Is Liable for an E. coli Infection?

Whether or not another party is liable for your E. coli infection depends on the specific circumstances that led to the contaminated food or beverage and your exposure. There are situations in which you can hold food producers and sellers responsible for selling or providing you with defective and dangerous foods.

To do this, you must trace your specific infection back to a particular restaurant, grocery store, convenience store, or other establishments where you received or purchased foods. The bacteria would also need to be traced back to a particular manufacturer, distributor, or farm to hold the producer responsible.

Tracebacks are performed by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) whenever there is an outbreak of E. coli or another foodborne disease. If you are diagnosed with E. coli, your doctor or the medical facility will report it to the local or state health department. States then report E. coli cases to the CDC voluntarily. A CDC investigation can provide you with information regarding why and how you were infected.

Notable Recoveries

$10 million

Seven infants were sickened after consuming a contaminated food product marketed to infants

$6.5 million

Verdict on behalf of a little boy who contracted a severe Salmonella infection from chicken

$7.55 million

Verdict on behalf of a little girl who contracted E. coli at a petting zoo

$2.25 million

E. coli infections contracted from a major fast food chain

$45 million

An over-the-counter medication caused severe kidney damage to multiple users

$3.4 million

A pregnant woman contracted a Listeria infection from contaminated fruit and passed the infection to her child

$3 million

Multistate Cyclospora outbreaks

$275,000

A couple contracted Salmonella from a restaurant

$525,000

A pedestrian was struck by a left-turning car, fracturing her tibia

$700,000

A semi-truck rear-ended a motorcyclist causing a collapsed lung, rib fractures and road rash

What is E. coli?

Escherichia coli, better known as E. coli, is a naturally occurring bacteria, and you can find it in the environment, food, as well as human and animal intestines. E. coli is best known for causing diarrhea, but can also cause serious and sometimes life-threatening symptoms. While healthy children and adults usually fully recover, it can also lead to urinary tract infections, respiratory illnesses, and other severe complications.

There are various strains of E.coli, including:

  • Shiga toxin-producing E. coli (STEC)/ Verocytotoxin-producing E. coli (VTEC)/enterohemorrhagic E. coli (EHEC)
  • Enterotoxigenic E. coli (ETEC)
  • Enteropathogenic E. coli (EPEC)
  • Enteroaggregative E. coli (EAEC)
  • Enteroinvasive E. coli (EIEC)
  • Diffusely adherent E. coli (DAEC)

The strains of E. coli that produce the Shiga toxin (STEC, VTEC, EHEC) cause illnesses. The most common strain to cause illnesses in North America is E. coli O157:H7. When the news reports on E. coli outbreaks, it is often referring to O157.

How Is E. coli Contracted?

E. coli, specifically STEC or another Shiga toxin-producing strain, lives in animal intestines. According to the CDC, a significant source of human infections is through cattle, though it can also be found in goats, sheep, deer, elk, pig, birds, and other animals.

Most people contract E. coli through eating contaminated foods, like unpasteurized milk, apple cider, and soft cheeses, or drinking a contaminated beverage, like raw milk or unclean water. It can also occur from contact with cattle or feces.

Contact may be apparent, such as if someone works around cattle or unpasteurized dairy. A child may also come into contact with E. coli at a petting zoo. But, the majority of E.coli cases are less obvious and arise from undercooked meat or contaminated produce.

Anyone can contact E. coli, from very young children to the elderly. No one is more or less at risk. However, age, physical condition, and medical conditions do impact how harmful the E. coli infection is.

After contacting E. coli, it is essential to get to the bottom of how you or your loved one were infected. The nature of the exposure can impact who is liable for the harm you have suffered.

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Common Symptoms of E. coli

While the symptoms associated with Shiga toxin-producing E. coli vary, the most common signs of an E. coli infection are:

  • Severe stomach cramps
  • Diarrhea/Bloody stool
  • Vomiting
  • A slight fever

E. coli, like many bacteria and viruses, has an incubation period. This is a delay between when someone is exposed to the bacteria and when that person displays symptoms. For E. coli, the incubation period can last between one and 10 days, with an average of three-four days for when symptoms begin to show.

E. coli often starts as an upset stomach and non-bloody diarrhea, which will then escalate over several days.

Up to 10% of individuals suffering from a STEC infection develop hemolytic uremic syndrome (HUS), which is a life-threatening condition. HUS develops about seven days after the first E. coli symptoms appear and when the diarrhea is improving. HUS can cause a person’s kidneys to stop working. If you notice the signs, you should get yourself or loved one to the hospital for treatment right away.

Symptoms of HUS include:

  • Fatigue
  • Frequent urination
  • Loss of pink color in cheeks and lower eyelids

Many people diagnosed with HUS recover within a few weeks with proper treatment. However, HUS can cause permanent physical harm and death.

If you had to be hospitalized for E. coli or HUS, this increases your potential for damages. Your illness is no longer just uncomfortable and inconvenient. With a hospitalization comes medical bills, extended periods of lost wages, and significant pain and suffering to be compensated for.

How is E. coli Diagnosed?

An official E. coli diagnosis is made through a stool sample. Your physician or the emergency room will send a sample of your feces to a lab to test for the presence of Shiga toxin-producing E. coli and other infections.

If you suspect you have E. coli, it is imperative to go to the emergency room or a trusted family physician. Doctors can diagnose E. coli based on your symptoms, but this is not conclusive. Only a lab result confirming the presence of a strain of E. coli will definitely prove the cause of your illnesses and enable you to pursue compensation from a liable party.

How is E. coli Treated?

For most healthy adults and children, treating E. coli requires rest and fluids to prevent dehydration. Physicians recommend drinking clear liquids and avoiding apple and pear juice, caffeine, and alcohol. Those infected should eat low-fiber foods and avoid dairy, fatty foods, and overly seasoned foods.

The Mayo Clinic recommends individuals with E.coli avoid anti-diarrheal medication because it prevents the body from ridding itself of the toxins as quickly as possible. Antibiotics are generally not recommended for E. coli because they increase the risk of complications.

Treatment will differ for individuals with compromised immune systems and those who are diagnosed with HUS. In these situations, hospitalization is important. Those with HUS you may require IV fluids, blood transfusions, and dialysis.

If you had to be hospitalized for an E. coli infection, you should talk with an attorney about pursuing compensation for your illness.

Past E. coli Outbreaks in the U.S.

If at least two people are infected and become sick from the same contaminated food or beverage, then the CDC classifies it as a foodborne disease outbreak.

The most recent E. coli outbreaks in the U.S. include:

Flour, December 2018 – May 2019, E. coli O26:

There were 21 reported cases, three hospitalizations, and zero deaths. This outbreak involved several brands of flour, including Brand Castle, LLC mixes, Pillsbury Best Bread Flour, King Arthur Flour, and ALDI Baker’s Corner All Purpose Flour.

Ground Beef, April – May 2019, E. coli O103:

There were 209 reported cases, 29 hospitalizations, and zero deaths. Grant Park Pack and K2D Foods d.b.a Colorado Premium Foods were sources of the contaminated beef.

Romaine Lettuce, October – December 2018, E. coli O157:H7:

There were 62 reported cases, 25 hospitalizations, and zero deaths. The CDC traced the contamination back to Adam Bros. Farming Inc. in Santa Barbara County, California, and other farms in northern and central California.

Ground Beef, July 2018, E. coli O26:

There were 18 reported cases, six hospitalizations, and one death. The contaminated meat was traced back to Cargill Meat Solutions in Colorado.

Romaine Lettuce, April – June 2018, E. coli O157:H7:

There were 201 reported cases, 96 hospitalizations, and five deaths. The CDC traced the contaminated romaine back to the Yuma region.

Relevant E. coli Laws

Many food and beverage regulations are meant to prevent E. coli infections. Health regulations strive to avoid contamination during cultivation, harvest, manufacturing, packaging, transporting, and preparing of food and beverages.

Specific food safety standards and contamination prevention techniques are required by food manufacturers, distributors, grocery stores, and restaurants. The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) has a zero-tolerance policy for six strains of E. coli (E. coli O26, O45, O103, O111, O121, and O145) in addition to E. coli O157:H7. The USDA also implemented a “test and hold” policy in December 2012. This required facilities to hold products until microbiological testing determines the meat, poultry, or egg products are safe.

Businesses that fail to uphold food and health regulations may be liable when customers contract E. coli infections from food or beverages those businesses sold.

Speak to Our E. coli Lawyers Now

Don’t wait until it is too late to discuss your rights after an E.coli infection. You deserve to know the facts, who is responsible, and your options regarding compensation. With decades of experience in the food safety field and millions of dollars recovered, the OFT Food Safety & Injury Lawyers have the skill and resources to handle any E.coli case.

Call 888.828.7087 today or contact us online. We offer 100% free, initial consultations, and no fees unless you recover compensation.

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