After a car accident involving injuries, an Examination Under Oath (EUO) gives an opportunity for a representative of a car insurance carrier to question their insured, under oath, in the presence of a court reporter. As a policy holder, you are required to comply as part of the car insurance company’s accident claims investigation process. It is a contractual obligation. The insurance company has no duty to perform its major responsibility (to cover your losses) unless you comply with the terms of the contract.
The purpose of an Examination Under Oath is to determine:
The obligation to submit to an EUO is codified in Florida Statutes, but goes back over a century. There is a US Supreme Court case called Claflin v. Commonwealth Ins. Co. from 1884 that explains how the insurance company has a right to obtain all information with regard to facts material to their rights so that they may determine the extent of their obligation and to protect them against false claims. That last part is essentially the real purpose of an EUO — your carrier is looking for a reason to deny coverage.
If you fail to appear for an EUO – it will be deemed willful noncompliance of the terms in your insurance policy. That is not to say that you cannot reschedule, within reason, but you cannot unreasonably delay the examination. Normal scheduling conflicts are normal and no insurance company can deem you in breach of their insurance contract for trying to reschedule at another reasonable time and date (i.e. it would be unreasonable to only be available on Saturday at 5:00am in two years).
An EUO is not a recorded statement (an verbal statement, usually over the phone, made by the insured and recorded by the insurer’s representative). Just because you gave a recorded statement, does not mean you can opt out of the EUO. They are not the same thing and both may be required.
An EUO is not a deposition. While their structure is similar (right to an attorney, court reporter present and swearing in, etc…), an Examination Under Oath is part of the claims investigation process and is requested prior to the filing of a lawsuit. It provides the carrier with information that will contribute to its decision to provide, limit or outright deny coverage.
All reasonable questions allowed and there are much fewer objections allowed.
First – get your car accident lawyer a copy of your car insurance application.
An adjuster will usually take the EUO, but some car accident insurance companies retain defense counsel (car accident lawyers who tend to represent insurance companies instead of the injured). Information from recorded statements, further investigation may direct the line of questioning. Tell the truth. If they catch you in a lie re: any material item related to the policy may void the policy.
Good/valid questions: scope of the loss, events leading up to the loss, where were you coming from/going…what you did right after the accident. Opinion as to who was at fault and why?
They will compare what you say at a recorded statement and what you put in your insurance application to what is said at EUO. Your car insurance application is a common source of gotcha questions used to show you lied to the insurance company.
Court decisions have ruled that you may refuse to respond to wholly impertinent and improper questions (such as unrelated criminal history) which had nothing to do with the merits of the claim. This notion was specifically upheld in De Leon v. Great American Assur. Co., 78 So. 3d 585 (Fla. 3d DCA 2011).
More often than not, when we receive a request for an EUO, it is because the car accident insurance company believes that there might be a material misrepresentation in the insurance application that they might use to disclaim coverage.
The car insurance company (e.g. State Farm, GEICO, Nationwide, Allstate, Progressive, USAA, United Auto, Infinity, Imperial Fire, Liberty Mutual, Foremost, Direct General, etc…) uses your application to determine what premiums to charge you. Common questions where people feel compelled to misrepresent themselves are:
Personal injury clients can get in trouble when they feel that the insurance company doesn’t need certain information. For example, if you have your niece, long-time girlfriend, aunt or grandmother living in your house, you may decide not to include this person because she wont drive the cars listed on the auto-insurance policy. Perhaps she drives her own car with its own separate policy. While this makes sense, it is also a misrepresentation on your insurance application. The question becomes relevant because your niece/girlfriend/grandmother could drive one of the vehicles listed on your policy. Naturally, it follows then she could get into an automobile accident with one of the insured vehicles and the car insurance company, then, might want to charge a slightly higher premium for this slightly higher risk.
Once a client claimed that a car she owned, but was not listed on her insurance application, was broken down and not driven by anyone, which is why it is wasn’t listed on the application (if this were true, it would be a valid reason). However, the insurance company ran a report about 300 pages long that showed the car (verified by license plate) traveling all around the state (traffic cameras now capture almost each and every license plate and keep these records for long periods of time). It turned out that my client bought the car to help a friend who was unable to get insurance or financing. Unfortunately, this nice gesture cost my client a lot of money.
Policy sets guidelines. But all EUO questions relevant to the claim/loss or the policy must be answered. Any subject relevant to the insurer’s investigation is relevant. Refusal to answer may result in legitimate denial of a claim. Even irrelevant questions that MAY lead to relevant information is allowed.