Allergy UK is a national organisation dedicated to raising awareness of allergies and improving the lives of those living with an allergic disease, which they estimate to be as many as 41 million people in the UK.
When living with certain types of allergies, a significant amount of trust is placed in those who prepare food for you. Allergy UK report that around 50% of those living with allergies regularly avoid social settings to avoid this risk. If you have suffered an allergic reaction after negligently being exposed to an allergen, such as eating food you understood to be safe, you may be entitled to claim for compensation. One of the reasons for doing so, other than recovering damages to compensate for your loss, would also be to raise awareness of the impact this negligence has on the individual affected, and their families.
What is an Allergy?
An allergy is described as a reaction within the body when exposed to a particular substance or food. When exposed to certain substances, the body's immune system reacts negatively. It's not entirely clear why this happens, but in many cases, there is a family history of allergies. Whilst most are affected in childhood, many adults continue to suffer from allergies beyond adolescence. The most common food allergies include nuts, fruit, shellfish, eggs and cow's milk. Allergic reactions typically present with physical symptoms within a few minutes, which include: - sneezing; red, itchy, watery eyes; wheezing and coughing; red and itchy rash; swelling; and worsening of asthma or eczema symptoms. In most cases, the best way to manage an allergy is to avoid the allergen where possible. Medicine such as antihistamines can provide relief from symptoms.
What is a Food Intolerance?
A food intolerance differs from a food allergy as symptoms typically present in the digestive system. A food intolerance is caused by the body's inability to digest certain foods. Unlike a food allergy, it is not caused by the body's immune system overreacting to a particular food. The most common food intolerance is lactose intolerance whilst others include gluten, caffeine, alcohol, histamines (found in wines and cheese), and salicylates (found in fruits, vegetables, herbs, and spices). In many cases, the symptoms of a food intolerance can take a couple of hours to present. Symptoms can include diarrhoea; stomach pain; bloating; nausea; constipation; and even headaches or joint pain.
Food Standards Scotland was established in 2015 as a public sector body with the aim of protecting the health and wellbeing of consumers. They have established fourteen main food allergens which must be highlighted on food labels and menus when they are used as ingredients. This requirement extends to restaurant staff who verbally advise what food is on offer. This information should allow consumers to make informed decisions when purchasing food or ordering in a restaurant. It is vital that this information is accurate and reliable to avoid allergic reactions. The fourteen foods are:
- Cereals containing gluten
- Sesame seeds
- Tree nuts
- Sulphur dioxide and sulphites (often used as preservatives)
Severe Allergic Reactions
For some, allergic reactions can be very serious and even life threatening. For those who suffer from severe allergies, exposure to an allergen can result in anaphylaxis, which is a severe reaction and should be considered a medical emergency. It's important that symptoms are recognised early in order that appropriate treatment can be administered. In these cases, the immune system mistakes the allergen as harmful and reacts to counter it. Anaphylaxis can affect the airways (swollen tongue, difficulty swallowing, throat tightness); breathing (chest tightness, persistent cough, difficulty breathing); and circulation (feeling faint, collapse, loss of consciousness). Anaphylaxis can be fatal or leave the individual with life-changing injuries. Given the severity of these symptoms, it is important that allergy sufferers are aware of the ingredients in the food they consume. If you suffer from a food allergy, it's vital that you make it clear to anyone preparing food for you what allergens can cause a reaction for you. Allergy UK can provide translation cards to assist when travelling abroad to help communicate any allergies.
What can you claim for if you have suffered an allergic reaction?
If you have suffered an allergic reaction, the amount of compensation you are entitled to will depend on the severity of the injury sustained as a result and the impact it has had, and will continue to have, on your life. Some of the factors to be considered when assessing the level of compensation are: -
- The degree of pain experienced and the length of time it takes to make a full recovery;
- The impact of the injury on your everyday life and the long-term impact it will have. This includes the ability to continue to work or take part in hobbies and activities previously enjoyed;
- Wage loss, both past and future, and whether any services have been required by family and friends;
- The extent of the treatment required, particularly whether surgery was needed; and
- Whether there was a pre-existing leg or mobility problems and the extent to which this was exacerbated by the accident.
What could your allergy claim be worth?
Our experienced personal injury solicitors will be able to consider the various factors and advise how much you are likely to receive in compensation.
Morton Fraser's Compensation Calculator is a handy guide which can provide you with an indication of the value of your injury. It is based on the Judicial College Guidelines which take account of recent court decisions and serve as a reference point for lawyers when considering compensation. The recommended awards for allergic reactions are set out below.
- Less severe reactions, such as those resulting in varying degrees of disabling pain, cramps, and diarrhoea lasting for some days or weeks would likely attract awards between £910 and £3,950 depending on the severity.
- Food poisoning or allergic reactions causing significant discomfort, stomach cramps, alteration of bowel function and fatigue, including those which lead to hospital admission for some days with symptoms lasting for a few weeks but complete recovery within a year or two would be valued between £3,950 and £9,540.
- For serious but short-lived food poisoning, diarrhoea, and vomiting diminishing over two to four weeks with some remaining discomfort and disturbance of bowel function and impact on sex life and enjoyment of food over a few years, the Court would typically make awards between £9,540 and £19,200. Symptoms lasting for longer or even indefinitely are likely to merit an award between the top of this bracket and the bottom of the next range below.
- Severe toxicosis causing serious acute pain, vomiting, diarrhoea, and fever, requiring hospital admission for some days or weeks and some continuing incontinence, haemorrhoids, and irritable bowel syndrome, having a significant impact on ability to work and enjoyment of life would attract an award between £38,430 and £52,500.
Who is the claim against?
Who is liable to pay compensation will depend upon the circumstances of the exposure and who is to blame for the incident occurring. Most food allergen exposures take place in restaurants where allergens have not been correctly identified. It is important to have a note of where the allergen exposure took place and what food you ate, but also what food you ate in the days before. Some reactions don't take place immediately, and so it's important to know what food you have consumed prior to the suspected exposure. It's also significant whether the restaurant's staff were aware of your allergy. Morton Fraser's Personal Injury Team has extensive experience in pursuing all types of claims and we can provide you with advice on who is liable to pay compensation once we have discussed the facts and circumstances of your claim.
We have previously recovered damages on behalf of various individuals who have suffered allergic reactions in restaurants. Despite notifying staff of an allergy, errors have occurred during the food preparation procedures and menu preparation which has led to food being contained within meals which is not listed. Once the restaurant has been made aware of the impact on our clients, they have taken steps to investigate what went wrong and rectified this so that the same thing won't happen again in the future, which has provided reassurance to our clients.
The above guidelines and our Compensation Calculator provide an initial indication of the values a Court may award for the 'pain and suffering' you have endured but do not take into account other losses such as assistance you required following your accident, the cost of medical treatment, past and future wage loss, pension loss and any other expenses you have incurred as a result of the accident. Each individual case must be considered on its own facts and circumstances. Our experienced Personal Injury team will take the time to assess your claim and can help you get the compensation you are entitled to. Contact us today on 0131 247 1000 or through our personal injury compensation enquiry form.
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