What is an examination under oath?
An examination under oath, or EUO, is a sworn statement given by an insured in response to questions asked by a lawyer hired by the insurance company.
An EUO is given in front of a court reporter, who transcribes the questions and answers. The insured is usually asked to review and sign the transcript. The insurance company then bases its claim decision on the information contained in the EUO.
Who has to give an examination under oath?
The language contained in the insurance policy dictates who is required to appear for an EUO. Usually, the policy requires the named insureds to appear; sometimes any insured must appear. If the insured is a corporation or a partnership, these entities must designate a representative to appear and give testimony.
Do I need a lawyer to represent me at an examination under oath?
You are not required to have an attorney represent you at an EUO. In fact, the insurance company will be delighted if you appear without a lawyer. Then it can take advantage of your vulnerable position to fully exploit its already considerable advantage.
What documents can I be forced to produce at an examination under oath?
Typically, an insured is requested to produce a long laundry list of documents:
- tax returns
- Checking and savings accounts
- Loan documentation
- Credit card statements
- Utility bills
- Cell phone records
- Business income and expense records
- Deeds and mortgages
The insurance policy language controls what documents must be produced, but this language is usually quite broad and is worded in favor of the insurance company — since the company wrote it.
What rules prevail at an examination under oath?
This is a tricky issue because there is no judge present to make decisions about who is right and who is wrong, or whether a question asked by the insurance company is relevant, or whether the conduct of the insurance company's lawyer is appropriate. Only an experienced insurance coverage attorney knows what is customary to ask and what is not.
If an insured refuses to answer a question posed at an EUO, or terminates the EUO because the insured feels that the questions are unfair or overly personal, then the insurance company will likely deny the claim for failure of the insured to fully cooperate.
What will they ask me at my examination under oath?
More questions than you can believe. Generally, the insurance company's lawyer will inquire about:
- Family history
- Educational history
- Employment history
- Military service
- Claim history (other insurance claims)
- Financial history
- Criminal arrests or convictions
- Credit history, including any bankruptcy filing
- Other property owned or insured
- The circumstances surrounding the policy issuance
- The selection of policy limits
- The purchase of property where the fire occurred
- Repairs to the property where the fire occurred
- Events surrounding the fire
- Alibi for the time of the fire
- Building repair cost
- Personal property damages
Most EUOs take several hours; some take several days.
What about the recorded statement that I already gave?
A recorded statement is not a substitute for an examination under oath, even though it may cover similar topics. An EUO will usually be longer and more thorough than a prior recorded statement.
In most states, an insured is entitled to a copy of his or her recorded statement before appearing for his or her EUO.
What if I refuse to appear or answer questions at my examination under oath?
If you refuse to appear for your EUO or refuse to answer relevant questions, then your insurance company will either put your claim on hold until you comply or deny your claim altogether. Your only recourse will be to file a lawsuit, which will delay your claim even more and probably cause you to incur attorney fees and expenses.
Does a request for an examination under oath mean that the insurance company is going to deny my claim?
Not necessarily, but it does mean that the company is seriously exploring that option. An insurance company does not request an EUO unless there are significant coverage problems. An experienced coverage attorney can prepare you for your EUO so that you can maximize your chances of getting the claim paid without being forced to file a lawsuit, thereby saving considerable time and money.