Law Offices of Heist, Weisse, and Wolk, P.A.
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You go to the post office, pick up the mail and while thumbing through it see a letter from a personal injury attorney whose name you saw on a billboard. Of course you become nervous, and it is the first letter you open. Reading it, you determine that an attorney is representing one of your residents in a slip and fall on the rental property, and the attorney is demanding insurance information. What should you do?

Sooner or later you will be faced with the situation of an attorney for your current or past resident demanding insurance information from you. This is standard procedure for the personal injury attorney, and it should not worry you. It does not matter what the attorney is alleging, if anything, in his or her demand letter. The resident may be suing on a slip and fall, mold related claim or any possible injury she may claim has been sustained on the property you manage or managed. The key is to comply or make sure the property owner complies with the demand letter as required by Florida law.

The Law

Florida Statutes 627.4137 is called Disclosure of Certain Information Required” and sets out what the insurance company and the insured must disclose to an attorney who is representing an injured party. While you may feel this does not apply to you, the statute requires the “insured,” i.e., the owner of the property you are managing, or maybe even your company, to disclose certain information. Although you most likely are not the “insured”, you are the agent of the insured, and need to communicate with the owner of the property and make sure that either you or the owner complies with the law and provides the information to the lawyer. It may be as simple as making a phone call to the owner’s insurance agency or faxing them the demand letter received from the attorney, and the information will begin to flow. If it does not, follow up.

The Resident is a Fraud!

You might be flabbergasted or angered at the allegations the resident’s personal injury attorney makes in his demand letter. You may know for a fact that the resident is committing a fraud or has completely made up a story about getting injured on the property. None of this matters. What matters is that you get the information to the attorney, or at a minimum, make sure the owner of the property complies with the law.

What Does the Letter Demand?

The letter you received from the attorney most likely quotes all or part of Florida Statute 627.4137 and demands the name of the insurer, the name of each insured, the limits of liability coverage, a statement of any policy or coverage defense and a copy of the policy. Most of this information may not be readily available to you or the property owner, but the owner’s insurance company will have everything. Usually all it takes is a call to the insurance agent, and they will get the ball rolling. The information must be provided to the attorney within 30 days of receipt of the demand. Additionally, the statute requires that the insured disclose the names of all known insurers. The owner may have insurance with one company and umbrella insurance with another. All this must be disclosed. Read the letter carefully to see if the attorney is demanding insurance information from you, the owner or both.

The Purpose of the Insurance Information Demand

The insurance information demand and the law requiring the disclosure of information allows the attorney to deal directly with the insurance company if one exists. Hiding this information from an attorney or ignoring the demand will result in greater problems for the property owner, as the attorney may directly file a lawsuit against the owner, rather than dealing with and possibly settling with the insurance company.

Notification to the Insurance Company

Besides complying with the law under the statute, it is crucial that the owner’s insurance company is notified whenever an attorney is indicating that he or she will make a claim. Many insurance carriers will try to refuse coverage of a claim if it is not reported to the insurance company within a certain amount of time as required under the policy. Once you receive the letter from the attorney, you are fully put on notice that there is some sort of claim, and this needs to be reported. If the claim is against you or your company, make sure you notify your insurance company immediately. If the claim is against the owner of the property you manage, take swift action to notify the owner, and most importantly, be able to prove you did.

Notification of the property owner

In these days of email communication and faxes, it is easy to fall into the trap of just scanning the letter and emailing the owner. Is the owner now on notice? We recommend you not only email the insurance information demand letter to the owner, but also send it to him by certified and regular mail following up with a phone call. The last thing you want is to be accused by an owner of not notifying him of a possible claim, having his insurance company deny the claim for failure to notify according to the policy rules, and have the property owner try to say that you were at fault. It is bad enough that many owners who receive the insurance information demand letter do not take the matter seriously, but to be accused of not notifying the owner is an avoidable problem. Questions? Call your attorney if you receive the insurance information demand letter.

  • The Curable Noncompliance Examined PART 1