812 Octavia Street, Apt. #4
Chicago, IL 00000
October 30, 20xx
High Life Insurance Company
1000 Throughway Boulevard
Chicago, IL 00000
Re: Your Insured, Anthony Stacatto
Claimant: Mary Graham
Claim No.: 93-8822 TX
Date of Loss: January 13, 20xx
Dear Mr. Salinas:
As I told you in my notice of claim letter, I was injured in an automobile accident with your insured, Anthony Stacatto, on January 13, 20xx, at the intersection of 12th Street and Loop Lane in Chicago. (The term "accident" might suggest that this was simply an unfortunate event and that nobody is really to blame. If you want to avoid this inference, you might use one or more synonyms such as "collision," "car wreck," or "crash.") This letter is my pre-filing settlement demand.
I was traveling east on Loop Lane. As I entered the intersection at 12th Street, Mr. Stacatto ran a stop sign on 12th Street and smashed into my car just behind the driver's seat, missing a direct hit on me by just a fraction of a second. (This sentence does two important things. First, it lets the adjuster know that the insured was clearly at fault for running a stop sign. Second, using the term "smashed" communicates that the collision was violent and capable of causing serious injuries.) The force of the collision spun my car around and left it facing west, pushing it almost to the curb. (By once again emphasizing the force of the impact, Mary shows how fast the other driver was going. This is more proof of the other driver's negligence, and it explains the nature and extent of Mary's injuries.)
Immediately upon impact, I felt excruciating pain in my left ankle and knee. The force of the collision nearly knocked me out. I remember screaming in pain and I also recall that several people came to assist me right away, but I can't remember saying anything other than "My leg hurts." The fire department had to use some sort of machine to get me out of my car.
I have enclosed a copy of the police report, which says that I had the right of way. A diagram attached to the police report shows where Mr. Stacatto struck my car, and my car's final resting place. Finally, I've attached several pictures taken by the reporting police officer at the scene. They show the severe damage to my car, further proving the force of the collision.
My Injuries and Medical Treatment
I was taken by ambulance to the Providence Hospital emergency room. I told the doctor about the pain in my left leg. I begged for something to take away the pain. The emergency room team examined me and ordered x-rays of my head, neck, back, abdomen, and left leg. I was diagnosed with two broken bones in my lower leg (at the ankle), as well as a partially-torn ligament in my left knee. The emergency room doctor gave me a powerful intravenous narcotic painkiller to ease my suffering.
An orthopedic surgeon, Dr. Karen Campos, did surgery the next day to repair my broken left ankle, inserting a plate and screws to hold the pieces of bone together. Dr. Campos said the partially torn knee ligament would probably heal on its own over time. (Mary describes in detail the surgery that was necessary to repair her broken bones. Learn why the type of medical treatment you receive matters in a personal injury case.)
I was hospitalized for two days. Dr. Campos ordered pain medicine that made me groggy and nauseous. I was unable to eat for several days. My mother Louise came from Florida to be with me and to help provide care and emotional support. I knew I wouldn't be able to work for a long time and I worried about how I would pay my bills. (Serious physical injuries take a long time to heal. It's normal to experience fear and emotional distress over financial matters.)
Once I was discharged from the hospital, I began a four-month ordeal of therapy, pain, fear, anger, and frustration. For the first week, I was confined to a wheelchair or had to get around on crutches. My home, built in the 1920s, wasn't constructed to accommodate a wheelchair-bound person. Fortunately, my neighbor is a carpenter and he agreed to make some modifications so I could get around. I paid him about $500 for his time and for the materials he used. (Costs to remodel or renovate living areas to accommodate wheelchairs, walkers, and other assistive devices are part of the damages you can recover. Be sure to get receipts for any work done, and keep good records.)
Two weeks post-surgery, Dr. Campos ordered physical therapy for my knee to work on my range of motion. I was still non-weight bearing on my left leg. The physical therapy was awful. The therapist, Jeff Hornsby, was very nice and very caring. But he had to push me to work through the pain. Each time I did an exercise, the pain was so severe it felt like something inside my knee was tearing. Mr. Hornsby said that was breaking down scar tissue that had already started building up in the knee.
Dr. Campos started physical therapy on my ankle once the cast was removed, roughly six weeks post-surgery. This therapy was even worse than the knee therapy. At first, even light weight-bearing exercises were very difficult; I couldn't balance because of the pain. We also started range of motion exercises for my ankle, which were agonizing. It was more than two months before I could balance well enough to walk without Mr. Hornsby holding on to make sure I didn't fall. Each day after therapy, I went home, took ibuprofen, and iced and elevated my knee and ankle while lying in bed.
Today, about ten months after the collision, I still get very tired walking any distance. Both my knee and ankle continue to swell and cause pain. Going up or down stairs, walking on uneven surfaces, and bending and squatting cause me a great deal of pain and discomfort. Dr. Campos says these limitations are likely permanent, and that they'll probably worsen with age. I'll be living with the pain for the rest of my life. (If your injuries are expected to be permanent or to cause lasting disability, be sure to discuss these things in your settlement demand. The same goes for future medical, therapy, and other expenses. All of these are compensable as future damages. You'll need medical testimony to prove future medical needs should your case go to court.)
My mom was only able to stay with me for two weeks. After that, I had to hire in-home care to assist with all of my activities of daily living: bathing, dressing, personal care and bathroom needs, cooking, housekeeping, laundry, grocery shopping, and more. Pamela, my home health aide, was very nice. But it was frustrating not being able to take care of myself.
I fear that as I age, these injuries will limit my ability to work and live independently. Dr. Campos said additional physical therapy might help to preserve strength and range of motion, but I worry that it will be too little, too late.
Mr. Stacatto's Negligence
In addition to failing to yield the right of way, Mr. Stacatto did not even slow down, let alone stop, at the stop sign. This was apparently due to the fact that Mr. Stacatto was looking down at his phone. A witness to the accident reported this fact. (It's a good idea to let the adjuster know there are witnesses to the insured's wrongdoing if the witnesses will back up your version of what happened. If you've talked to the witnesses and have favorable written statements from them, this would be the place to name them and attach the statements. But you're under no obligation to identify witnesses at this point, if you choose not to.) As you know, if this matter ends up in a lawsuit, I will have access to Mr. Stacatto's cell phone records. You must also know that the use of a hand-held cell phone while driving is illegal in this state. Mr. Stacatto's negligence is clear.
My medical records and bills are attached. (Have a look at this introduction to personal injury damages.) Here is a summary of my medical expenses:
|A-One Ambulance Co.
|Karen Campos, M.D.
|Loop Radiology Group
|Bendright Physical Therapy
|Best Home Care, Inc.
As a result of the accident, I missed a full month of work as a teacher at Grover Cleveland High School. My annual salary is $43,800. My prorated wage loss ($43,800 divided by 12) comes to $3,650. This brings my total economic damages to $36,060 ($32,410 in medical bills plus $3,650 in lost wages). I seek full payment of that amount.
I also seek compensation for my noneconomic losses, including pain and suffering, emotional distress, and loss of enjoyment of life. Because of Mr. Stacatto's unlawful use of a cell phone and resulting reckless driving, I went through surgery and several excruciating weeks of difficult and unpleasant physical therapy. I continue to suffer daily pain and stiffness now, ten months after the accident. (Learn more about pain and suffering in a personal injury claim.) The trauma of so narrowly missing a direct hit by Mr. Stacatto's car has made me fearful of driving and causes me daily anxiety when I have to drive anywhere. (Driving is an important part of most people's lives. Fear of this common activity is a legitimate component of damages in a car accident claim.)
My medical expenses are $32,410. My noneconomic losses for pain and suffering, emotional distress, and loss of enjoyment of life are easily five times that amount, or $162,050, bringing my total damages to $198,110. (Calculating Mary's noneconomic losses at five times her medical expenses is not unusual, given her serious and permanent injuries. Even if it is a bit high, it's a reasonable starting point for negotiations with the adjuster.) In view of your insured's dangerous driving and clear negligence, I believe that a jury would not hesitate to award me this sum or more.
I demand the sum of $198,110 to settle my claims against your insured. If we are unable to reach a settlement and I am forced to file suit, my trial demand will be much higher. (The adjuster knows you'll ask for more at trial, but it never hurts to give a friendly reminder.)
This demand is an attempt to settle my claims against your insured. If I must file suit and the case goes to trial, evidence of this settlement offer will not be admissible at trial.
Please let me hear from you within 30 days from the date of this letter.