I had the pleasure of discussing Examinations Under Oath with a group of public adjusters at Merlin Law Group’s Los Angeles Fall Seminar on November 14, 2013.
An insurer requests an Examination Under Oath to obtain the information necessary to evaluate and process the policyholder's claim. If a policyholder is asked to attend an Examination Under Oath, an attorney should be called to assist the policyholder in preparing for the Examination Under Oath and to attend the Examination Under Oath with the policyholder since an Examination Under Oath is similar to a deposition in that the insurance company will be represented by an attorney and the examination will be conducted in front of a court reporter who will record all of the questions and answers verbatim. This examination is under oath, meaning the policyholder legally swears that answers to the questions are truthful. Preparation of a policyholder is crucial as inconsistent answers can lead to a claim denial. It is important that the policyholder is comfortable during the examination and has been prepared to answer the insurance company attorney’s questions which may be in the areas of the policyholder’s personal finances, credit score, bankruptcy history, past and current employment, past and current claims history, and criminal history. Examinations Under Oath are also used to evaluate the policyholder’s credibility and to evaluate what kind of witness he or she will be if his or her claim or coverage dispute ends up in litigation. It has been my experience that a well-prepared policyholder always presents as a more confident, credible witness.
The insurance company may also request that the policyholder produce estimates, appraisals, receipts for items purchase, pictures of items damaged or lost, documentation regarding prior claims, proof of income, copies of insurance applications, and credit card statements, among a litany of other documentation. I have found policyholders get overwhelmed and defensive when asked to produce these items. An experienced attorney can make the policyholder feel at ease and assist in the production of these items. An experienced attorney can also document production of these items and tactfully and politely request reasons from the insurer as to why documents are being requested. Although the insurer may not give any reasons why it is requesting the documents, a successful Examination Under Oath from the policyholder’s perspective may maximize his or her payment from the insurance company as a jury may believe that the insurer was simply attempting to intimidate and bully the policyholder rather than attempting to investigate a covered loss and pay a valid claim.
Please feel free to respond to this blog with any questions you may have regarding Examinations Under Oath.