When you have suffered damage in a fire that your homeowner insurance company deems suspicious, they will often request that you participate in an examination under oath (EUO), which in theory is designed to gather factual evidence about the claim. If you are asked to participate in a EUO, it is very important that you seek legal advice from an experienced Miami property insurance claims attorney. While this process is a legitimate method for gathering information when the insurance company is investigating a claim, the EUO process is often misused in ways that can benefit an insured.
During a EUO, a representative of the insurance company along with legal counsel will ask the insured detailed questions about the circumstances of the loss, actions taken by the insured to mitigate damages, specific itemization of losses and other matters. While these may seem like legitimate lines of inquiry, an experienced Florida homeowner insurance attorney might be able to use the questions and information provided to prove bad faith by the insurance company. If the EUO involves requests for a litany of documents or long lines of questioning with marginal relevance, this may suggest that the insurer is using the process to delay settlement or frustrate the insured.
Florida fire damage insurance claims attorney J.P. Gonzalez-Sirgo carefully evaluates the EUO process to determine if it is being used to discourage the property owner from proceeding with a claim rather than as a genuine information gathering tool. Mr. Gonzalez-Sirgo might depose the representative of the insurance company to explain why information was requested and how the information was used when adjusting the claim. If the representative is unable to confirm that the information was used or the manner in which it was used when processing the claim, this might suggest the EUO process was abused.
Because of this pattern of abuse, some courts in a number of states require insurance companies to establish that a EUO is “material” to the insurer’s investigation and adjustment process. Courts may also scrutinize the scope of the inquiry and document requests. When document requests are not focused and reasonable, this may suggest that the EUO is being used improperly. When the insurance company representative is forced to take the stand at trial, Mr. Gonzalez-Sirgo often will ask questions to establish that the representative does not know why the information was requested or how it was used in processing the claim.
The case of De Leon v. Great American Assurance Company, 78 So.3d 585 (Fla. 3d DCA 2011) provides an illuminating example of how abuse of the EUO process might be turned against an insurance carrier. The court commenting on the EUO stated:
“ . . . [T]he carrier apparently decided to use the usual policy provision requiring a sworn statement as a license to make unwarranted and intrusive inquiries into the personal life of any insured who had the temerity to make a claim against it.”
The court in a concurring opinion specifically noted the length of the EUO in evaluating the legitimacy of the process. The insurer forced the individual to endure seven hours of questioning under oath to process an $8,000 tire loss claim. Although the coverage in this case was not a homeowner policy, the same principles apply when the EUO process becomes a tool of abuse instead of a tool to gather legitimate information that will be used to process a homeowner policy claim.
If you have suffered damage to your home and have questions about an examination under oath, an experienced Florida homeowner insurance claims attorney might be able to help. Miami property damage claims lawyer J.P. Gonzalez-Sirgo welcomes the opportunity to answer your questions and explain your rights. Mr. Gonzalez-Sirgo handles disputed claims in Miami and throughout Florida. The Law Firm of J.P. Gonzalez-Sirgo, P.A. offers free consultations and case evaluations. No Recovery, No Lawyer Fees. Call 305-461-1095 or Toll Free 1-866-71-CLAIM.