Examinations Under Oath
- WHAT IS AN EXAMINATION UNDER OATH?
- WHEN DOES AN INSURANCE COMPANY TAKE AN EXAMINATION UNDER OATH?
- WHY DOES YOUR INSURANCE COMPANY WANT TO TAKE YOUR EXAMINATION UNDER OATH?
- WHAT SUBJECTS WILL BE COVERED AT AN EXAMINATION UNDER OATH?
- HOW LONG WILL MY EXAMINATION UNDER OATH TAKE?
- HOW CAN I PREPARE FOR MY EXAMINATION UNDER OATH?
- WHY DOES MY INSURANCE COMPANY HAVE THE RIGHT TO TAKE MY EXAMINATION UNDER OATH?
- WHY SHOULD I BE REPRESENTED BY MY OWN ATTORNEY AT AN EXAMINATION UNDER OATH?
- HOW DO I PICK AN ATTORNEY TO REPRESENT ME AT AN EXAMINATION UNDER OATH?
WHAT IS AN EXAMINATION UNDER OATH?
An examination under oath, sometimes called an EUO, looks and feels much the same as a deposition or sworn testimony taken during the course of a court case and should be approached by insureds with the same preparation and care as if their claim had already been denied and they had sued their insurance company.
At an EUO, you will be required to give sworn testimony in response to a lawyer’s questions in the presence of a court reporter, who will record every word that is said on a stenograph machine. Within a few weeks after the EUO is taken, the court reporter will type up his or her notes into a booklet form. You will then be asked to review and check the transcription of your testimony for accuracy and sign the EUO.
The booklet containing your testimony will then be sent to your insurance company and will be considered along with other investigative materials and the attorney’s recommendation in making a decision on your claim. Your should be aware that in some instances, your insurance company may be required to provide a copy of a transcript of the EUO along with other investigative materials to police departments who may believe that a crime was committed by you.
The EUO is typically taken in a conference room at the office of the insurance company’s attorney. However, sometimes it is taken at other locations such as your attorney’s office, at the company’s claim office or at another agreed upon site. No judge is present or has the power to control the process.
WHEN DOES AN INSURANCE COMPANY TAKE AN EXAMINATION UNDER OATH?
An insurance company typically takes an EUO when it suspects that its insured has filed a fraudulent claim. As such, you should assume that if an EUO is scheduled, your insurance company suspects that you are committing insurance fraud. It may, for example, believe your claim is phony, that you’ve exaggerated your loss or that you provided false information to it when you applied for insurance. This suspected fraud could be used to deny your claim and could also serve as a basis for criminal charges to be filed against you.
WHY DOES YOUR INSURANCE COMPANY WANT TO TAKE YOUR EXAMINATION UNDER OATH?
It wants to take your EUO for a variety of reasons:
- It is seeking information to more thoroughly evaluate your claim and make a claims decision.
- It is comparing your testimony at the EUO to the information you gave its claims people shortly after the loss to see if you are consistent in presenting the facts.
- It is committing you to a statement of the facts so that if your testimony is different in a court case at a later date, it can use the transcript of the EUO to portray you to the judge or jury as a liar.
- It is evaluating how you present yourself and therefore the impression a judge or jury is likely to have of you when they see you in court. It wants to know for example if you appear to be an honest or dishonest person, if you answer questions directly or obfuscate, whether you are likeable or not and whether you get angry and belligerent easily with little provocation or remain composed throughout the process.
- It is comparing information that you provide at the EUO to information it has gathered from other sources. These sources include such things as credit reports and other credit information, insurance industry records of other claims, public records and information provided by witnesses it has interviewed.
WHAT SUBJECTS WILL BE COVERED AT AN EXAMINATION UNDER OATH?
Most EUO’s cover far more subjects than the circumstances of your claim. This is because the insurance company is also trying to evaluate your character and whether you have a motive for pursuing a fraudulent claim.
Just a handful of the many subjects that may be covered include whether you have used any names other than the one on your policy, your employment history, all the addresses where you have resided, your financial circumstances in terms of debts, assets and payment history, your personal relationships with friends and family, your medical history, other insurance claims of various types that you have filed preciously, whether you’ve been convicted of any crimes and whether you have enemies that might have intentionally caused your loss to occur. You will also be asked your social security number.
Many of these subjects are complex and don’t lend themselves to simple answers. Preparation and careful thought before the day of the EUO are exceedingly helpful in doing a good job in responding to inquiry.
HOW LONG WILL MY EXAMINATION UNDER OATH TAKE?
EUO’s typically take a few hours, but can be longer or shorter. In some cases they even take more than one day. The length of the EUO depends on the type and complexity of the case; the personality, preparation and style of questioning of the attorney taking the examination; and on the witness’s ability to formulate responsive answers. It may also depend on whether the witness has the physical and mental stamina to complete the EUO in a single day.
HOW CAN I PREPARE FOR MY EXAMINATION UNDER OATH?
The best way to prepare is to anticipate the questions that will be asked and spend some time organizing your thoughts and gathering necessary information. If you wait until you’re sitting in the EUO to consider your answers, you have waited too long and may leave out crucial information or inadvertently provide inaccurate information to important questions. An attorney can help you anticipate what will be asked and help you think through your answers in advance so that you can truthfully and fully answer the questions. This will result in you making a more favorable impression, thereby increasing the chances of your claim being paid, and will likely shorten the length of the EUO.
At an EUO, in a case in which an insurance company suspects that you set your own house on fire by using accelerants (gasoline, lighter fluid, pain thinner, turpentine, etc.), it is common to ask an insured to answer where accelerants were stored in the house. It may take some thought to remember all the places and consider all the accelerants that apply. If your answer is incomplete, it could seriously jeopardize your case if traces of accelerants are found elsewhere, even if your answer at the EUO was not intended to be misleading.
It is also useful to become familiar with the procedure followed in an EUO and to practice answering questions in that format. By becoming more familiar and practicing, you will become less nervous and do a better job.
WHY DOES MY INSURANCE COMPANY HAVE THE RIGHT TO TAKE MY EXAMINATION UNDER OATH?
Most insurance policies have a provision that both authorizes the issuing insurance company to take your EUO and requires an insured to submit to the examination under oath. If you fail to appear for and cooperate with the EUO, the insurance company may well deny your claim for failing to comply with your duties under the policy.
If you believe that you may be charged with a crime in connection with the events that lead to your insurance claim, serious issues need to be considered in regard to how to proceed?
WHY SHOULD I BE REPRESENTED BY MY OWN ATTORNEY AT AN EXAMINATION UNDER OATH?
The attorney for the insurance company is not your friend. He or she represents the interests of your insurance company and owes allegiance to it. You need your own advocate and advisor.
The attorney for the insurance company has taken many EUO’s and has a plan for how he or she wishes to proceed. That attorney has not shared with you the basic information on this website or more detailed information you will receive from your own counsel. That attorney has not told you in advance the questions he plans to ask you or why he is going to ask you these particular questions. That attorney hopes that you will show up unrepresented.
You need your own attorney to assist you for the following reasons:
- To thoroughly familiarize you with how an EUO is taken including certain rules you should follow while at the examination under oath.
- To familiarize you with techniques insurance company attorneys use to take advantage of you and how you can counter them.
- To help you practice providing testimony.
- To assist you in anticipating the questions that will be asked you, to help you think through your answers and to organize your documents in advance.
- To represent your interests on the day of the EUO by advising you as to what questioning is appropriate, keeping the other attorney within appropriate bounds and helping you to do a good job, sometimes by asking additional questions.
HOW DO I PICK AN ATTORNEY TO REPRESENT ME AT AN EXAMINATION UNDER OATH?
It is best to hire an attorney who regularly represents insureds who have disputes with their insurance company. As in any area of life, knowledge and experience are helpful and can be crucial.