If you're one of the 15 million Americans that have food allergies, you're probably very conscious about what you eat. You have learned to read food labels meticulously. When you're in control, you're very confident that you're not going to eat anything you're allergic to, but what happens when you're at a restaurant? Can you trust them to make sure your food isn't contaminated with allergens? The simple answer is no.
Although they are legally bound to make sure you're not fed something you're allergic to, chefs and wait staff make mistakes. When they do, you can seek damages through a lawsuit. However, you must take measures to protect yourself legally if you expect to win your case.
If you have food allergies, it's your responsibility to inform your waiter before you order your meal. If you fail to alert the staff up front, you won't be able to seek damages after the fact. Not only will alerting the staff protect you legally, it could protect you from a potential life-threatening situation. You see, most menus don't have full ingredient labels for you to peruse, which means you can't possibly know every ingredient that's in a dish.
If you start to have an allergic reaction while you're at the restaurant, alert the staff immediately so they can document the incident. If you have already left the restaurant, have someone call them and put them on alert. Doing so can strengthen your case and may also save other diners. This is especially true in cases of contamination where an ingredient is accidentally introduced to a dish. At the very least, alerting the staff will make it evident that you're not filing a frivolous lawsuit.
Personal injury cases involving food allergies are very complex. They are hard to prove. Additionally, it may not be apparent who the guilty party is. Lawsuits may be levied against wait staff, the chef or the restaurant in general, but you have to make sure you're suing the party who is at fault. For this reason, it's always a good idea to have a lawyer (from firms like Hornbeck & Moore) that can help you hammer out the final details and collect all the evidence you will need to prove your case.
If you have food allergies, there are several things that you must do to protect yourself legally. Always tell staff at restaurants about your allergies even if you're fairly certain that the ingredient that you're allergic to isn't in the dish that you're ordering. You never really know what ingredients are used behind the scenes.