When you have suffered damage in a fire or other loss that your homeowner insurance company deems suspicious, the carrier will often request that you appear for an examination under oath (EUO) or sworn statement, 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 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 an EUO, a representative of the insurance company along with its attorney will ask the insured detailed questions about the circumstances of the loss, actions taken by the insured to mitigate damages, specific itemization of losses, personal background information including financial information and other matters. While these may seem like legitimate lines of inquiry, an experienced 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. The EUO process if often used to discourage the property owner from proceeding with a claim rather than as a genuine information gathering tool.
Because of this type 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.
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.
You can reach Miami Insurance Claims Lawyer J.P. Gonzalez-Sirgo by dialing his direct number at (786) 272-5841, calling the main office at (305) 461-1095, or Toll Free at 1 (866) 71-CLAIM or email Attorney Gonzalez-Sirgo directly at [email protected].