If you’re reading this blog, chances are you (or someone you represent) has been requested to submit to an examination under oath by your insurance company’s attorney. This process can be intimidating and confusing. I field a lot of questions from insureds, public insurance adjusters, and attorneys about examinations under oath (“EUOs”). As a general rule, you need to understand that, although an EUO is not part of a court proceeding, it is taken under oath, so anything you say can (and likely will) become a part of the court’s record if your claim is taken to litigation. Therefore, it is crucial for you to understand the importance of the EUO in relation to your claims process as well as how the insurance company may utilize it to deny your claim. Here are some of the most common questions I get asked about EUOs:
- What is an Examination Under Oath? – In the past, insurance companies utilized their own adjusters to conduct EUOs, but due to the legal nature of the questioning and the consequences, EUOs are now almost exclusively conducted attorneys for the insurance company. You will be asked to bring several documents in support of your claim and you will be asked questions about those documents and specific questions about the loss by the attorney. EUOs are often demanded when there are red flags for fraud, strange circumstances, large claims, potential problems with the application for insurance, etc. There will be a court reporter present, you will swear to tell the truth, and the lawyer will ask you questions, often for hours.
- Do I have to attend or cooperate with the Examination Under Oath process? Yes. Your insurance policy has a section that provides you, as the insured, have a duty to cooperate with your insurance company’s investigation, including submitting to an examination under oath. However, you may not have to answer every question or provide every document – I plan to address the cooperation clause of the insurance policy in more detail in a later blog. For now, it is important to know that you need to cooperate with your insurance company as your failure to do so may result in the denial of your claim.
- Do I need an attorney on my side? The short answer is yes. I would advise anyone who has been requested to submit to an EUO to be represented by an attorney experienced with the examination under oath process within the context of first party insurance claims. An attorney experienced with EUOs can prepare you for the types of questions you will face, assist in the gathering (and presenting) of documentation, streamline and coordinate communication with the insurance company, and assist you in making strategic decisions, all of which can impact whether your claim is paid or denied. If you handle it on your own, you may do irreparable harm to your claim.
- But I’ve already answered an adjuster’s question that he recorded; do I still have to submit to an EUO? Yes. This is quite common. If your claim is being investigated to the degree that you have been requested to submit to an examination under oath, you have likely already been questioned extensively by the special investigator for your insurance company, maybe even more than once. Often, these questions can give valuable insight to your attorney as to the nature of the red flags that triggered the request for an EUO.
- I didn’t do anything wrong, why am I being investigated? Insurance companies get thousands of claims a year. Consequently, they send insurance claims into the examination under oath process for a variety of reasons. Some reasons are more serious than others and some reasons are legitimate while other reasons seem to be trivial. That is why it is so important to consult with an experienced attorney to be sure you are receiving the best advice possible. Your claim’s outcome may very well depend on it.