An examination under oath, or EUO, is an insurance company’s opportunity to learn more about you and your claim. An overview of what this process is can be found here.
I am often asked why an insurance company is conducting an EUO. People ask, “is this common?” and “why me”? I believe there are two reasons an insurer conducts an EUO. First, claims with many pieces need some explanation that is hard to do in writing. For fire or water claims where the insured is making claims under multiple coverages, such as contents or alternative living expenses (or ALE), the details of these claims need to be flushed-out in an EUO. For an ALE claim, it can be more efficient for an insured to describe their pre-loss lifestyle in an EUO than through correspondence. If an insured claims that his fire damaged home had a gourmet kitchen that was used for gourmet meals four times a week, and ALE coverage requires an insurer to pay for that many gourmet restaurant meals, the details behind this claim can be more efficiently learned at an EUO. The same principle applies to contents. If old or unique contents derive value for unique reasons it can be more efficient to describe the value in an EYO.
Sometimes EUOs are called because the insurer suspects fraud, or a lack of cooperation. Fraud and lack of cooperation void coverage under an insurance policy. Insured property owners will never know with certainty the insurer’s intent prior to an EUO. That’s fine because preparation for an EUO is the same no matter the insurer’s intent.
Preparing for the EUO
The key to preparing for an EUO is the preparation itself. Insured property owners have an obligation to testify to what they know. They do not have an obligation to testify to what they do not know. Insured property owners hire contractors and public adjusters because they do not know the details of building or insurance policy interpretation. Good preparation for an EUO is a refresh of what the property owner knows and does not know.
Long before an EUO, a property owner or his or her contractor a public adjuster, should have assembled the documents that constitute the claim. I have never seen an EUO conducted before a property owner had assembled estimates for repair, invoices for hotel expenses, etc. Prior to the EUO the insured property owner should review that document to refresh his or her memory of what they know, but also to refresh their memory about subjects delegated to others, such as a spouse, builder, or public adjuster.
THE SCOPE OF AN EUO
Insurance companies have a right to inquire about any subject that deals with the allegedly lost or damaged property. Insurance companies have a right to ask for documentation to verify a luxury sofa, big screen TV, or unique heirloom existed. That does not mean an insurer has the right to ask for repetitive documents or repetitive testimony about the same subject. The default rule is that the scope of an EUO is very expansive. An insurer can ask about friends and relatives and whether they truly occupied a home while the owners were away for the winter. Insurers cannot ask questions about why a divorce happened years before the fire when the divorce has nothing to do with the lost or damaged property. Questions that speak to the existence and value of property are fair game. Questions designed to do nothing but intrude on someone’s personal life are not.
Please email me if you have questions about how to prepare for an EUO and how to draw the line with an insurer.