If you own a home in Florida, your residence can be damaged by a diverse array of perils that are covered under a standard homeowner’s policy. These perils can range from natural disasters like hurricanes to losses caused by malicious acts like theft or vandalism. Our Miami property insurance claim lawyers point that almost every standard Florida homeowner’s policy requires an insured to cooperate with insurers adjusting a claim. One of the most important elements of this duty to assist the insurance company in adjusting a claim is the requirement of participation in an examination under oath (EUO).
An EUO request provides your insurer with an opportunity to obtain your sworn statement. Florida appellate courts have ruled that compliance with an EUO can constitute a “condition precedent” that must be satisfied before the insurer has an obligation to pay a claim. Because of the fundamental role of an EUO in the claims process, it is critical that an insured understand the function and role of this claim adjustment tool. An attorney or representative for the insurance carrier will ask questions that facilitate evaluation of the claim and permit an analysis of the value and nature of your loss. The insurer typically also will require a policyholder to provide supporting documents.
Understanding What Constitutes “Compliance” with a Request to Participate in an EUO
While policyholders are required to comply with a request for an examination under oath as part of the claims process, a recent decision by the Florida 4th District Court of Appeals* makes clear that “substantial compliance” might be sufficient to satisfy this condition precedent to payment under a policy. The policyholders’ residence suffered significant damage during a hurricane. The policy, like other standard Florida homeowner’s insurance policies, required cooperation by the insured in adjusting the claim, which included submitting a sworn proof of loss, permitting an inspection of the subject property, and participating in an examination under oath.
The policyholders retained the services of a public adjuster who submitted a sworn proof of loss on behalf of the insureds in the amount of $200,000. Several supplemental proof of loss documents were also submitted that increased the value of the loss. The public adjuster and a representative of State Farm also jointly conducted an investigation of the property. The insurance carrier requested that the insured submit to an EUO. A similar request was made of the public adjuster in the event the insured intended to rely on the opinions and knowledge of the public adjuster.
The husband participated in an EUO and provided the insurer with a 4th sworn proof of loss. The husband deferred to the public adjuster almost completely with regard to the value and nature of the loss while deferring to his spouse on other issues. The husband provided information regarding his personal observation of the losses after the hurricane and the status of repairs. When the insurer demanded that the wife also submit to a EUO, the husband refused this request because he believed a 2nd EUO on the same day would pose an undue burden on his wife. The insurance carrier also asked the public adjuster to participate in an EUO, and the public adjuster indicated he might be willing to do so in the future, though he contended that he was under no obligation to do so.
Although the wife eventually agreed to honor the request for an EUO, the insurer cancelled the EUO after the policyholders filed a lawsuit for breach of contract. The trial court granted summary judgment for the insurer because the insured allegedly failed to provide a full and meaningful EUO, which was a condition precedent to recovery under the policy.
On appeal, the court agreed that compliance with the EUO provision was a condition precedent to payment of the claim. However, the court considered the cooperation provided by the insurer, including the following:
- Husband appearing at the EUO and answering some questions
- Wife agreeing to participate in an EUO
- Public adjuster providing an affidavit as opposed to testifying in an EUO
- Submitting a substantial volume of documents (including many specifically responsive to the insurer’s request)
- Husband arranging for the public adjuster to “participate” in the EUO
The court also noted that the insured did not have the ability to compel the public adjuster to appear at an EUO. The appellate court reversed the trial court and found that a jury could reasonably determine that the policyholders’ conduct constituted “substantial compliance” with the EUO condition precedent justifying recovery under the policy.
An EUO can have a dramatic impact on an insurance claims dispute in terms of the information that you provide, and any questions you refuse to answer. When you are represented by one of our experienced Florida Insurance Claims Lawyers, we can help you prepare for the questions you will hear, protect your rights, and guide you past potential insurance company traps.
Greenberg Stone and Urbano: Seeking Maximum Recovery for Policyholders from Homeowner’s Insurance Companies
If you have questions about an examination under oath or your insurer refuses to pay your homeowner’s claim, our Miami Property Damage Attorneys at Greenberg Stone and Urbano will tenaciously pursue the full compensation you deserve. For over 130 collective years, our firm has assisted accident victims in personal injury and wrongful death actions across South Florida. We seek to obtain compensation for your tangible and intangible damages, including medical bills, lost wages, pain and suffering, and more. Our skill and dedication has earned us an AV rating from Martindale Hubbell and recognition as one of South Florida’s top firms by the Miami Herald. Call us at (888) 499-9700 or (305) 595-2400 or visit our website to schedule your initial consultation.
Solano v. State Farm, Case No. 4D12-1198 (4th Dist. 2014)