Legal Question in Personal Injury in Florida

We own a house in Florida, which we rent, but live and work in Washington State. Today, we received a letter from an attorney in Florida stating that some woman sustained injuries from a pit bull attack on November 17th on our property. The attorney is asking for our homeowners insurance.

In the letter, the attorney states "as you may be aware Ms xxx sustained serious injuries." We were not aware of the situation at all. The tenant does not have a pit bull, to our knowledge and she, nor the property manager, has contacted us saying that this incident even took place. Two doors down from our property is a family that lets their dogs run wild and one of them is a pit bull so we were wondering if this woman was trespassing and the dog bit her. Incidentally, I looked up their client online and she has an arrest record.

We would like to get an idea of our rights since we have no information regarding this situation. The tenant has her own insurance but if she was not there when the woman was on the property, is she responsible for any expenses? If this person were visiting the tenant, would she be responsible?

If the dog belongs to our neighbor, should I inform this attorney to contact them?

Do we have the right to sue the woman who filed this claim due to the stress she has caused us? I only work part-time and my husband is on workmens comp - we are not rich people if this woman is trying to make a killing!

Thank you for your help!

Asked on 12/24/11, 12:12 pm

2 Answers from Attorneys

Jason Neufeld Neufeld, Kleinberg & Pinkiert, PA, a personal-injury and elder law firm

You need to report the claim to your homeowners insurance company. You will tell the adjuster all the pertinent information (e.g. not your pitbull, your renters do not own a pitbull, you live out of state, your renters have their own insurance policy, your neighbors own dogs that are regularly let loose, etc...). Your insurance company will investigate - they have a duty to defend your interests. If the claim is BS, it will be denied...if necessary they will hire a lawyer to handle the matter for you. This is why you have insurance, so you don't have to deal with these things on your own.

You will most likely not be able to sue your neighbor for bringing a claim against you or for causing you stress.

Happy holidays and good luck to you.

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Answered on 12/24/11, 12:22 pm
David Burns David H. Burns, P. A.

You should contact your tenant and the property manager to see if they know anything about this. If not, just forward the letter on to both the tenant's rental insurer and your homeowners insurer. They will sort the whole thing out, and you do not need to worry. Simply sending you a letter inquiring as to your insurance coverage does not give you a claim against the injured victim. Pit bulls are a very dangerous breed of dog, and if the woman was attacked she has every right to pursue a claim. It appears from the information that you provided that there is simply a mistake as to who is the owner of the dog. You could also write back to the attorney for the victim and let him/her know about the neighbor who owns a pit bull and allows it to "run wild". It may very well have been that dog that attacked the woman in the vicinity of your property. It doesn't appear that you have anything to be worried about.

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Answered on 12/26/11, 8:52 am

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