Examinations Under Oath (EUOs)
Most first party insurance policies include a provision allowing the insurance company to take the sworn testimony of one or all insureds, called an Examination Under Oath (“EUO”). An EUO is like a deposition. The insurance company’s attorney verbally asks questions of the insured under oath. A court reporter records the questions and answers. An EUO may also be videotaped. Sitting for an EUO is typically an obligation of an insured under the insurance policy, although that obligation is dependent on several factors.
Oftentimes, the notice seeking an insured’s EUO demands the insured provide a variety of documents at the EUO, including highly confidential and personal information such as tax returns, income statements, credit card statements, phone records, water bills, previous (and unrelated) insurance claim documents, criminal records, arrest records, lawsuits the insured has been involved in, divorce records, bankruptcy records, credit reports, etc., as well as other documentation such as photographs of the loss and damage to the property, police reports (if the loss is the result of a fire or theft), documentation of any of the property that has been repaired or replaced since the loss/damage, and receipts for the items of personal property lost, stolen or destroyed, etc. Insurance companies believe they can dig into a policyholder’s finances and other personal matters, searching for anything to avoid paying. In an EUO the insurance companies are looking for reasons to deny the claim rather than trying to find reasons to pay the claim and upholding its obligations to pay a valid claim promptly.
In theory, the EUO procedure should be a useful and efficient method for assisting the insurance company in reaching a wise and fair coverage decision regarding a claim. In practice, it is employed to pigeon-hole the unrepresented insured, catch him or her off-guard, and fish for irrelevant and personal information with the goal to obtain anything to support the already-made-decision to deny the claim. These strong-arm tactics are intended to intimidate and discourage the policyholder from making the insurer pay. Oftentimes, by the time the insurance company has requested an EUO, it has already submitted the insurance claim to a special investigation unit (SIU), suspects fraud or misrepresentation on the part of the insured, and is already planning to deny the claim.
During the EUO process, an insured will face experienced insurance defense lawyers who are trained in the art of investigation and cross-examination. A member of insurer’s SIU or other investigator may also attend. Just as the insurance company has an attorney present and asking questions of the insured, an insured should also have his or her own attorney to protect their rights. While an insured may feel confident that his or her claim is legitimate, it is not a good idea to participate in an EUO without sound legal advice and representation. Having a lawyer represent a policyholder in an EUO levels the playing field, encourages the insurance company to take the claim seriously, and deters the insurer and its lawyer from taking advantage of the policyholder and using bullying tactics.
Contact Us for Experienced Counsel
A knowledgeable lawyer can help guide you through the EUO process. To arrange a free initial consultation at our office in Dallas, Texas, please contact us online or call 214-219-4220 (800-963-3378 toll free).