Imagine the horror of suffering a major house fire and having your belongings destroyed, badly smoke- and soot-damaged or waterlogged. Your world is officially turned upside down, yet you have crucial duties to perform to make sure it gets right-side up with a properly filed insurance claim. The furthest thing from your mind is an examination under oath (EUO). What’s that, you might ask? Read on.
As required by your policy to initiate the claim process, you promptly contact your agent…arrange reasonable and necessary emergency repairs/loss mitigation to protect the property from further damage…meet with the adjuster…begin an inventory of your personal property…keep all receipts for additional living expenses (ALE) reimbursement. You fully cooperate with the investigation, acting in good faith to hopefully hasten the process so you can get your life back to normal as soon as possible.
Things seem to be proceeding as well as can be expected when all of a sudden you receive an official letter in the mail ordering you to appear for an examination under oath (EUO) to answer questions related to your insurance claim.
What is an Examination Under Oath (EUO)?
An examination under oath is a formal proceeding during which an insured, under oath and in the presence of a court reporter, is questioned by a representative of the insurance company (usually a lawyer) to obtain the necessary information to evaluate and process an insured’s claim. “Under oath” means you legally swear that your answers are truthful. You’re not being accused of wrongdoing, but being in a room answering questions under oath from a defense attorney with a court reporter taking down every word sounds pretty intimidating to most folks.
The purpose of the EUO is to secure all of the relevant facts, determine what additional information or cooperation is needed from the insured, and make certain the insured has been afforded every opportunity to document their claim prior to making a final decision to accept or deny it.
Do I Have to Appear at an EUO?
When an insurer requests an EUO, it’s their right to do so, and a contractual obligation based on policy language. In Conditions – Section 1, under Duties After Loss, it states words similar to “…as often as we require…submit to examinations under oath…” If you fail to comply, you’re not breaking any law, but you run the risk of having your claim denied for breach of contract.
Unfortunately, some EUOs are conducted to either delay a claim, intimidate the policyholder, or as a “fishing expedition”—to conjure up some reason to deny a claim. Insureds are wise to have an advocate who may assist them in navigating the potential minefield of an EUO as well as keeping the opposition in check and honest about the process.
So I Need a Lawyer at an EUO?
Although not required, policyholders are advised to have an attorney help them prepare for an EUO. This is crucial since inconsistent answers can lead to a claim denial. A well-prepared policyholder usually appears to be a more confident, credible witness. When you know what to expect and how to answer the questions, chances are you will be calmer and more confident in presenting the true facts of your property loss and establishing your honesty and credibility.
Questions might touch on areas of the policyholder’s personal finances, credit score, bankruptcy history, past and current employment, past and current claims history, and criminal history. During the EUO, an insured’s attorney is not allowed to object as in a legal deposition, so being well-prepared is the key.
How Can a Public Adjuster Help with an EUO?
If you’ve hired a licensed public adjuster who has done his job documenting the damage, obtaining cost and repair figures, etc., it’s likely he’s the most knowledgeable person involved in your claim. Your licensed public adjuster can play a role in preparing for an EUO, such as:
Helping to gather and organize all the documentation and facts requested by the insurance company, such as bank statements, tax returns, receipts, records of past insurance claims made, etc.
Familiarize you with the structure of the EUO as well as the tactics insurance lawyers employ to make you stumble and how to counter them.
Rehearsing your testimony and anticipated questions so you are prepared and confident to present the best case for your claim.