What is an examination under oath?
When you file an insurance claim, your insurance company will conduct an investigation to determine the validity of your claim. One tool that is often used by insurance companies during an investigation is the Examination Under Oath (EUO). The EUO arises contractually. Although policies may vary as far as coverage, most insurance policies will contain a provision that allows your insurance company to demand that you submit to an EUO whenever it is reasonably requested. At least in theory the EUO is meant to allow your insurer an opportunity to question you about your claim so that they may properly evaluate its merits. Thus, an EUO requires you to present yourself at a location designated by your insurer (typically the insurance company’s office or their lawyer’s office) and answer all questions that may be relevant to their investigation.
Anything that is reasonably related to the claim may be asked. The types of questions that will be asked will vary with the type of claim, but generally they will want to know things like: the cause of the damage, the extent of the damage, whether you are the owner and how you acquired the property claimed, at what point did you notify your insurer of the loss, what steps you took after the loss, your personal background information, and whether any of the things you claim can be corroborated by witnesses.
Must you comply with your insurer’s demand that you submit to an examination under oath?
As stated, the right to demand an insured to submit to an examination under oath is a contractual right. As such, a failure on the insured’s part to submit to an examination – especially when such examination is properly noticed – can result in your insurer denying your claim. Courts often find these denials proper, so an insured’s duty to submit to an EUO should not be taken lightly. Furthermore, because it is a contractual right (as well as a corresponding duty on the insured) you cannot refuse to answer questions that are reasonably related to your insurer’s investigation.
That being said, the Florida Supreme Court recognized certain limitations on an insurer’s right to request an EUO. Since the EUO is intended to be an investigatory device used by the insurance company during the claims process, the tool must be used in good faith and not simply as a stall tactic. If your insurer fails to request the EUO before suit is filed on the claim your insurer may not thereafter deny your claim simply because you refuse to submit to an EUO. However, if the insurer has requested an EUO, then the EUO is viewed as a condition precedent to filing suit and a claim may properly be denied on this ground. Moreover, the statutory requirement that an insurer conduct its investigation diligently and in good faith necessarily limits the application of the EUO. A failure to conduct an investigation in good faith can lead to a bad faith lawsuit against the insurer. Thus, your insurer may not simply make such a request as a delay tactic or for other improper purposes.
What is the format of an EUO?
An EUO is similar to a deposition in certain aspects, but very different in others. The EUO, as the name states, is conducted under oath. As such, the insured submits to this examination under penalty of perjury and can result in a claim denial or worse criminal sanctions. Similarly, those that may be present during an EUO include the insurer’s lawyer, there may be a court reporter or notary present, an insurance company representative may be present, and the insured may have her own attorney present as well. On the other hand, the focus of the EUO is the insured and only the insured. The insurance company wants to look the insured in the face, and ask questions relating to the claim. The insured does not have the opportunity to ask questions of the insurer.
What should you do to prepare for an EUO?
Your insurance company is looking for a reason to deny your claim. The claims process is critical in an insurance claim, and a failure on your part to comply with your duties has harsh consequences. You need to be prepared to answer any question that may be asked. Before you submit to an EUO you should obtain ALL documents that may relate to your claim because your insurance company will be looking for inconsistencies. Make sure that you have thoroughly reviewed everything and that you answer every question as truthfully and consistently as possible. Unfortunately, the EUO is typically treated as an adversarial process and the things that happen here may harm your chances of success if litigation is later required. The claims process may be a tricky and daunting thing, especially for those who have just suffered a major loss. If you feel that you are being treated unfairly by your insurance company or you simply need help dealing with your insurance company, you should not hesitate to contact an experienced attorney to help you through the process. Hiring an experienced insurance claims lawyer prior to your EUO is highly recommended.
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].
State Farm Mut. Auto. Ins. Co. v. Curran, 135 So.3d 1071 (Fla. 2014).
Fla. Stat. §624.155