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Ely, Counselor at Law
Category: Legal
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Experience:  Private practice with focus on family, criminal, PI, consumer protection, and business consultation.
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I am a tenant in Florida. I accidentally started a fire in

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I am a tenant in Florida. I accidentally started a fire in the kitchen in my residence and now am being subrogated in the amount of 28,000 dollars. This was an accident. Does the insurance company really have the right to come after me for payment?
Hello friend. My name is XXXXX XXXXX welcome to JustAnswer. Please note: (1) this is general information only, not legal advice, and, (2) there may be a slight delay between your follow ups and my replies.

I am very sorry for your situation. Can you please tell me:

1) Who states that this was your fault? Was there a fire investigation, for example? Or, did you simply admit it to the fire marshal and/or the insurance company?

2) Is this the landlord's insurance company, or yours?

3) Have they filed suit, or, are they simply demanding the money but have not filed suit yet?

This is not an answer, but an Information Request. I need this information to answer your question. Please reply, so I can answer your question. Thank you in advance.
Customer: replied 3 years ago.

I got a certified letter today from the insurance company saying that it was my fault, and I did say so to the fire department. It was pretty obvious.


Exculpating factor, if one is needed: there was supposed to be a smoke detector but there was not. It had been removed.

Customer: replied 3 years ago.

They have not yet filed suit.

Thank you, XXXXX XXXXX this is very helpful.

I am guessing that this is the landlord's insurance company coming after you.

Subrogation occurs when the insurance of the landlord seeks payment from you for a fault that is your own. If they had to cover the payment on the property due to the fire that you started, then, they have the right to come after you for that coverage, I am afraid. Subrogation means "to stand in one's place," and this is allowed, indeed.

However, there is a possible way to help minimize the fault. Florida uses a "pure comparative negligence system." Fla. Stat. § 768.81(2). In a pure comparative negligence system, a court (or jury) assigns a percentage of fault to each responsible party and then apportions the damage award accordingly.

Someone in your situation may wish to write the insurance company a letter stating that (1) the fact that the landlord did not have the smoke detector added to the fire getting out of hand, and, (2) this reduces your liability (arguably) to less than 100%. Then, one can threaten to take it to Court, and have the judge (or jury) decide. Seeing how the insurance company is risk averse and cost effective, they are much more likely to settle than to go to Court.

Let me know if you need a sample of such a letter that may begin the negotiation going, or, even have them drop the matter completely.

Please note: I aim to give you genuine information and not necessarily to tell you only what you wish to hear. Please, rate me on the quality of my information and do not punish me for my honesty. I understand that hearing things less than optimal is not easy, and I empathize.

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Customer: replied 3 years ago.



Why does their insurance not cover me? I have a legal lease...If the owner was here, they wouldn't try to collect from him, would they?



The landlord's insurance covers his actions and loss to his property. Had he created the fire, then they would cover him and pay out for any damage. They would not request a repayment - this is what he has coverage for.

However, it does not cover you but just any loss to his property. In case you damaged something, they insurance company would still be obligated to him to cover the loss, but they can go after you for it.

See here for a good explanation of how this works.

Gentle Reminder: Again, surely you prefer that I be honest in my answer – please remember that rating negatively due to receiving bad news still hurts the expert – it is simply the way that the system is set up. Please use REPLY button to keep chatting, or RATE my answer when we are finished. (You may always ask follow ups free after rating.)
Customer: replied 3 years ago.

Can you send me a sample letter to the insurance company?



Sure - please allow me a moment...
Customer: replied 3 years ago.



To Whom It May Concern:

This correspondence is in regards XXXXX XXXXX demand for payment of $_______.

While I understand the concept of subrogation, please not that Florida utilizes the pure comparative fault doctrine of negligence. Fla. Stat. § 768.81(2). My landlord and your insured did not have a smoke alarm on the property, which is required under F.S. 83.51.

As such, if the smoke detector had been properly installed, the fire would not have spread so much.

Ergo, I put forth that the blame is partially his, and as such, I am not 100% responsible for the accident. I would imagine that a Judge or Jury would agree. Ergo, I propose a settlement of $___ to cover the cost.

Also please note that I will defend myself if litigation becomes necessary, and I may also have to file bankruptcy to avoid being financially crippled by any debt.




This presses them into negotiation, as they would rather not wish to chance a bankruptcy by you (which would void their claim), or, an expensive trial.

Gentle Reminder: Please use the REPLY button to keep chatting, or RATE and submit your rating when we are finished.
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