In this sample demand letter, the claimant slipped and fell on commercial property. The claimant suffered torn knee cartilage requiring surgery, underwent "nontraditional" medical treatment including acupuncture, and had a long recovery period.
A slip and fall claim is a type of premises liability case. If you're pursuing a personal injury claim involving a slip and fall accident, have a look at this article describing the basics of a premises liability claim. A fall on business or commercial property may put increased legal responsibilities on the property owner. Find out what you need to include in your slip and fall demand letter.
We are not your lawyer, and this sample letter is not a replacement for qualified legal advice. It is for instructional purposes only. If you think you have a personal injury claim, you should consider hiring an experienced personal injury attorney. This is especially true if the facts are complicated, your injuries are serious, or there are difficult legal issues involved. An attorney can guide you through the process and help you to maximize the value of your case.
236 Sunset Grove
Fontana Beach, FL 00000
September 15, 20xx
Atlantic Risk Insurance Company
2400 Causeway Boulevard
Miami, FL 00000
Re: Your Insured, Medellin Investments
Claimant: Seiji Kurosawa
Claim No.: T11889 PX
Date of Loss: January 13, 20xx
Dear Mr. Casey:
As I told you in my claim notice letter of February 18, 20xx, I was injured in a fall on January 13, 20xx in the underground parking garage of a building at 6750 Palm Avenue, Miami, owned by your insured, Medellin Investments. This letter is my pre-filing settlement demand.
The accident occurred at about 6:00 p.m. as I was heading for my car parked in the garage. It was dark outside. I am an employee of the South Florida Import-Export Exchange, which leases offices in the building from your insured. As I crossed the dark garage floor, I slipped on a patch of oil, badly twisting my left knee and falling to the ground. As I fell, I immediately felt a sharp, searing pain in my left knee. To my knowledge, no one saw me fall, and no security or surveillance camera recorded it.
My Injuries and Medical Treatment
That night, my knee swelled to the point that it was constantly painful and I could hardly walk. The next morning, I went to see my physician, Dr. Rose Parker, who advised that I stay off the leg, ice and elevate it, and use over-the-counter anti-inflammatory medications as needed for the next several days. I went home and followed Dr. Parker's orders, missing the next three days of work.
The swelling in my knee subsided after about a week, but the knee continued to be painful and to catch when I walked or bent it. Dr. Parker sent me to an orthopedist, Dr. Ralph Brancusa, who started me on physical therapy in his office. Although I got some relief from the soreness, the physical therapy did not eliminate the catch inside my knee when I bent or twisted it. When it became clear that the physical therapy would offer no more benefit, I ended the sessions voluntarily. I saw no point in needlessly incurring costs for therapy that was ineffective, and I decided to explore alternative treatments. (The insurance adjuster may try to argue that Seiji abandoned treatment against medical advice, or because he really did not need more treatment. Seiji's response preempts that argument. It also serves another purpose: it shows that Seiji took reasonable steps to "mitigate" or reduce his damages, which is something the law requires .)
I received acupuncture treatment from Dr. William Chan, which relieved some of the pain in my knee. (Insurance adjusters are sometimes skeptical of nontraditional treatments. If nontraditional treatment had positive results in your case, be sure to let the adjuster know.) In addition, Dr. Chan referred me to a chiropractor, Dr. Lilly Sing Rhee, for manipulation to treat the catch in my knee. Dr. Sing Rhee stopped treatment after a short time, fearing that my knee might have suffered a structural injury. Dr. Sing Rhee suggested that I see an orthopedic surgeon.
Dr. Parker referred me to Dr. Walter Frisch, an orthopedic surgeon. Dr. Frisch X-rayed my knee and performed an arthroscopic surgical examination, which showed torn cartilage in my knee. Dr. Frisch removed the torn cartilage arthroscopically. Following surgery, Dr. Frisch ordered me to remain at home, avoid walking as much as possible, and ice and elevate the knee to reduce swelling and pain. Dr. Frisch prescribed pain and anti-inflammatory medicines.
I missed another week of work, then resumed walking and began home exercises prescribed by Dr. Frisch. After about eight more weeks, I was able to begin running again. Before I fell, running was my regular daily exercise; I was unable to run for almost eight months because of my injury and the pain it caused. (Mentioning Seiji's inability to exercise for several months does two things. First, it is proof that Seiji's injury was severe and took a long time to heal. Second, it proves that Seiji was unable to engage in an activity that was important to him, which is proof of Seiji's "noneconomic" damages (discussed below). Learn more about how long-term or residual injuries can impact the value of your claim.)
Responsibility of Your Insured
On the Monday following my fall, I returned to the parking garage and examined the area where I fell. As the enclosed photographs taken that day show (I tried to take the photos under lighting conditions similar to those when I fell), there were grease and oil spots all over the floor, some of which had obviously been there for quite a while. (By mentioning that the grease and oil had "obviously been there for quite a while," Seiji shows that the unsafe condition existed for long enough before the accident that the insured, had it been acting carefully, should have known about the danger and done something to correct it. This is an important element in a premises liability claim.)
In addition to the greasy and oily floor, several of the overhead lights were burned out, leaving dark areas on the floor and making the oil and grease spots difficult or impossible to see. The fact that there were several lights burned out makes it clear that no one had bothered to check or replace the bulbs for quite some time. Obviously, your insured doesn't maintain the garage in a reasonably safe manner, and is content to allow dangerous conditions to exist. (Seiji lets the adjuster know what an investigation of the scene near the time of the fall revealed. The discussion of burned out lights and the insured's failure to check on or replace them is more proof of the insured's negligence. Get more tips on gathering evidence in a personal injury case.)
The situation in the garage is so dangerous that at least two other people in the building have recently slipped on oil spots in the garage. (Here Seiji lets the insurance adjuster know that Seiji has witnesses to support the claim of dangerous conditions in the garage. If Seiji has favorable written statements from them, this would be a good place to identify the witnesses and refer to attached witness statements.) Further investigation may, of course, show that others have slipped and fallen in the garage as well. (Learn more about proving fault in a slip and fall case.)
I've attached all my medical records and bills to date. This is a summary of my medical expenses:
|Rose Parker, M.D.||$800|
|Ralph Brancusa, M.D. (including x-rays/therapy||$3,460|
|William Chan (acupuncturist)||$770|
|Dr. Lilly Sing Rhee (including x-rays)||$900|
|Walter Frisch, M.D. (including x-rays)||$5,500|
|Southside Outpatient Surgery Center||$9,800|
The enclosed letter from my employer, South Florida Import-Export Exchange, shows that I missed eight days of work because of my injuries (three days immediately after the fall and five more days after surgery). My prorated monthly salary is $250 per day, meaning my total wage loss comes to $2,000. (For more information about how to describe your injuries and damages, check out Detailing Injuries and Losses in a Demand Letter.)
As described above, my knee injury caused severe, ongoing pain from the instant it happened. While the non-surgical treatments did offer temporary, intermittent relief, I had to endure the "catching" sensation in my knee from the time of my injury until Dr. Frisch was able to surgically remove the torn knee cartilage. Despite my best efforts to get relief, I lived with significant pain, limited mobility, swelling, and general discomfort for more than eight months.
In addition, I wasn't able to run until several weeks after Dr. Frisch repaired my knee. Running has, for much of my adult life, been my primary source of exercise, relaxation, and stress relief. To make matters worse, while my knee injury has healed as much as can be expected, I find myself in constant fear of another slip-and-fall injury. I also worry that as I age, the injury may cause arthritis to develop in my knee, which would once again limit my ability to engage in recreational activities. In short, my ability to enjoy life has diminished since the fall in your insured's garage. I doubt I will ever again be able to enjoy simple things like walking and running as I did before I was injured.
Others encountered the dangerous conditions in your insured's parking garage before me, and my investigation shows that your insured appears indifferent to the risks those dangerous conditions impose. For these reasons, I am confident that a jury would award me five times the amount of my medical expenses to compensate me for my pain and suffering, emotional distress, and loss of enjoyment of life. (A multiplier of five times in a slip and fall case is aggressive. If Seiji's case goes to trial, it's likely that a jury would find him at least partially responsible for his fall. Even so, it makes sense, as a negotiation tactic, for Seiji to start with a number that's more than he's willing to accept in settlement. That way, he leaves himself room to negotiate.) My total noneconomic damages are $106,800.
My damages total $130,160. In the spirit of compromise, I'm willing to accept the sum of $125,000 in complete settlement of all my claims against your insured. Of course, if we are unable to settle and I'm forced to take my case to court, I will ask a jury to award substantially more. (If you're finding it difficult to decide how much to ask for in your demand, see How Much Should You Ask For in Your Demand Letter?)
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.
The statute of limitations requires me to file a lawsuit against your insured within three months from now. Please let me hear from you within 14 days from the date of this letter. (Seiji has a limited time, under the applicable statute of limitations, to file a lawsuit, and the clock is ticking. It's fine to let the adjuster know this, and to ask for a prompt reply.)
Very truly yours,
Some material excerpted from How to Win Your Personal Injury Claim by attorney Joseph Matthews (Nolo).