As insurance attorneys who have been helping policyholders with their property damage claims for decades, we have seen insurance companies demand an examination under oath (“EUO”) many times. EUOs are usually requested only in cases where the insurer suspects fraud or some sort of illicit reporting by the policyholder. However, recently we have seen insurance companies demanding an EUO in straightforward property damage cases that do not require extensive questioning of the insured in order to pay the claim. The reason, we suspect: intimidation. We want you to be aware of tactics like this so you are informed and prepared to defend yourself and your insurance claim.
What Is an EUO and Why You Must Attend
As we have explained here on the blog before, an EUO is a sit-down between you and a representative of your insurance company (usually an attorney) where the attorney asks you questions about your insurance claim, and you answer under oath—creating a sworn statement as a result of the EUO. Know that the EUO is not a deposition. It is not governed by the protections the Florida Rules of Civil Procedure offer and, if you do not have an attorney present to protect you during the EUO, the insurance company will likely use the opportunity to ask hundreds of questions and pry into any matter they feel is remotely relevant, or helpful, to their investigation, with the intention of using any answer you give to their advantage.
Know that you must attend the EUO. Attending an EUO is one of many “post-loss obligations” you have under your policy, like giving prompt notice of the claim, allowing reasonable inspections of the property, providing documents as requested, etc. Florida courts have found a policyholder's failure to sit for an EUO can constitute a breach of the insurance policy, allowing the insurance company to deny your claim simply because you failed to attend the EUO. Meaning, the demand for an EUO is a serious request from your insurance company that can come with grave consequences. Recently, we have seen insurance companies using the EUO more often as a weapon to defend to deny the claim, rather than a magnifying glass to investigate the claim.
Recently Insurers are Using the EUO Demand to Intimidate Rather Than Investigate
Previously, we saw requests for an EUO more often in cases where the insurance company suspected arson or there was some type of red flag on the claim. Let's say the policyholder was claiming thousands of dollars in damaged contents for rare art she could not prove she owned. Or, perhaps, the policyholder was claiming he had paid a large sum in rent to family members while staying with them after a storm, but he could not provide a lease or cancelled checks to prove it. These types of issues in a claim would traditionally prompt the insurance company to request an EUO.
However, we are seeing EUOs being demanded quite frequently in very straightforward property damage claims where, for example, the house was undamaged, then a tornado or storm strikes, and the insured files a claim for the property damage that occurred. A claim like this—without any reason to suspect fraud or anything untoward from the insured—should not require an EUO for the insurance company to gather the information they need to pay the claim timely and in full. It appears insurers are using the EUO demand more frequently now as a way to intimidate and harass their insured. Don't let this tactic cost you your claim.
Do Not Ignore an EUO Demand and Do Not Attend an EUO Without Counsel
While your obligation to attend the EUO is required in the policy, how best to respond to a demand for an EUO is a tactical decision where you could really benefit from the guidance of an experienced attorney. One thing to consider is whether the EUO demand was timely? Did the insurance company waive its right to take the EUO? Did the insurance company deny the claim or materially breach the policy? These are all things your attorney will consider in deciding how best to handle the EUO request. At the very least, you will want to have your attorney present during the EUO to make sure the insurance company's questions are fair and relevant, and that your testimony is recorded accurately so there can be no dispute later.
If your insurance company has asked you for an EUO, you should contact an experienced insurance attorney immediately to advise you, guide you through the process, and make sure your rights are protected and preserved. At Taylor, Warren, Weidner & Hancock, our experienced insurance attorneys never charge any fee or cost to review your claim and discuss your rights. If your insurance company is asking you to sit for an EUO, contact us immediately to ensure you take the right actions to preserve your claim and protect your interests.