Examinations Under Oath are ways for insurance companies to deny your claim. There, I said it. I realize that may come as a surprise to you. Why would an insurance company want to deny your claim? Obviously I'm being a bit facetious here, but, nevertheless, the reality is that EUO's are used by insurance companies to find reasons to deny your claim. Many would be surprised at how often an EUO is not actually about the claim itself. Sometimes it's about the application. Sometimes it's about the conversation that you had with your insurance agent when you were signing up for insurance. Often it's about your financial history. If you had a fire, it may feel like they're accusing you of setting fire to your own house. I read a transcript of a EUO where the insurance company wanted to know everyone a policy holder had slept with in the last three years. There are some things that you can know in advance to make your EUO a bit smoother.
1. Bring the Right Documents
First, come prepared with the documents that are requested. Most insurance policies have a requirement that an insured fully cooperate with the insurance company. While this is not without reason, if you do not have a lawyer guiding this, you will not want to make that reasonableness determination yourself. Many insurance companies ask for a large amount of documents. Please make sure you have these, and you actually bring them to your EUO. I never cease to be amazed at how many insurance companies will go on the offense and actually sue an insured for a judgment that they don't know anything under the policy for something as innocent as an insured not bringing the right documents or forgetting to show up to the EUO. I saw one person sued for cancelling because she couldn’t get off work. While common sense and fairness dictates that there should be second chances, the reality is that many insurance companies really don't care.
2. Only Answer the Questions You Are Asked
The second thing you can do is make sure you answer the questions that are asked and only the questions that are asked. It is the insurance company's job to ask the questions and receive the answers that they are looking for. It is not your job to figure out what you think they want and try to provide it. Many policy holders want to try to please the person asking the questions. As a result they get pseudo verbal diarrhea. Just answer the question.
3. Honesty Is The Best Policy
Third, be honest. If you lie during a EUO, even if it seems relatively unimportant, it could still hurt you down the road. I would strongly suggest making sure that you are honest in the EUO, even if something can trivial or invasive. It is tempting to lie when something seems invasive such as “how many people have you had a relationship with in the last three years.” Even lying about this could somehow lead to denial of the claim based on the argument that you failed to cooperate. Also, you should keep in mind that an EUO is exactly what it sounds like. It is an examination under oath. This means that you were sworn in, and they will argue that you lied under oath if they find out later that you lied about something – even something silly. They will also use it to attack your credibility about the big things.
4. Look Over All Relevant Documents
I always recommend that you prepare for any EUO in advance. if you were required to bring documents, look over those documents to get an idea of what those documents say. Have an idea as to what happened with the loss, what's going on with the loss now that an adjuster has come in etc. It's very important to make sure that you are familiar with what you think they might ask. Our office often spends hours preparing for an EUO. We want to make sure our clients know what is coming and have an idea as to how they might answer those questions. We don’t want our clients getting nervous and hurting their claim.
5. Bring Your Lawyer
The final thing is to make sure that you bring a lawyer. While the sounds obvious, I'm amazed at how many clients come to us only after they have sit for an examination under oath and after things have gone terribly wrong. While many times we can help someone in these situations, we can do a much better job if we can stop the bad situation from happening in the first place. You do have a right to an attorney at an examination under oath. in fact, an attorney is one of the only people you can have in the room with you for an examination under oath.
Many insurance companies will actually prohibit you from having any other insured in the room with you. This can include your husband or wife. This could include your domestic partner. This might even include your roommate if you were both on the insurance policy. Also, people often want to bring in moral support. Many insurance companies will not allow this. They are a business and why would they hurt their business.
In Conclusion ...
At the end of the day an examination under oath is a tool that the insurance company created. The insurance company uses it as a sword to strike down your claim and prevent it from being paid. The best thing you can do is make sure you are prepared for every aspect of this examination under oath and make sure you bring an experienced property casualty attorney who knows what examinations under oath are really about.