Insurance Companies and Statements Under Oath

A statement under oath (“SUO”) or examination under oath (“EUO”) is a legal proceeding initiated by an insurance company pursuant to the terms of your insurance policy. An SUO or EUO is not just another deposition, and your counsel must be well-versed on the contractual duty you have to submit to an SUO – as well as the consequences of not cooperating.

The Cooperation Clause

After a loss, the insurance policy dictates what obligations the insurer owes to you, and what obligations and duties you owe to the insurance company. The number one tool in an insurance company’s arsenal is what is called “the cooperation clause.” While every policy may have different wording, the vast majority of policies have a term that is similar to this:
In the case of a loss to which this insurance may apply, you shall… as often as we reasonably require… provide us with records and documents we request and permit us to make copies… and submit to examinations under oath and subscribe to the same.

At Sawan & Sawan, our insurance lawyers are frequently asked about the extent that an insured must cooperate with their insurance company during an investigation into the claim. For example, many insured ask whether they really need to produce wide ranging financial documents, tax returns and phone records. Frequently, insured individuals wonder why the insurance company is making their lives so difficult during an investigation. You don’t need to look any further than the “cooperation clause.” The number one way that insurance companies can trigger a contractual denial of your claim is by making cooperation cumbersome and difficult, and then claiming that you didn’t communicate.

Document Everything

In the face of the risk that a denial can be predicated on “lack of cooperation”, what should you do? Well the first answer is – cooperate. However, instead of merely producing documents, it is always wise to follow up with a cover letter to the insurance company outlining every step you have taken to cooperate. This way, if there is ever a dispute as to the level of your cooperation, there is a paper trail to substantiate the efforts you have taken. An experienced insurance Attorney knows the value of this documentation trail when dealing with an insurer that is acting unfairly in the processing of your claim. The right documentation can lead to a successful bad faith claim against an insurer that is acting unreasonably. This is because, in many jurisdictions, a duty to fully cooperate can be excused by “substantial cooperation.” Many jurisdictions require the exercise of diligence and regular communication between the insured and the insurer. However, as a general rule, when an insurance company asks for personal information, the insured must do their best to cooperate – and it’s wise to document those efforts in painstaking detail.

Insurance Companies and Bad Faith

Insurance bad faith is a legal term that generally means that an insurance company acted in bad faith (or dishonestly) in the processing of an insurance claim. Under applicable law, insurance companies owe their customers a duty of “good faith and fair dealing” when handling the claims of the people they insure. When an insurance company violated this covenant, you may sue your insurance company for the tort of “bad faith”, as well as the standard breach of contract claims. These types of claims make punitive or exemplary damages available – and thus are a great way to level the playing field with an insurance company that is acting unfairly or unreasonably. This means that an insured can sometimes recover an amount larger than the original value of the policy if successful in bringing a bad faith claim.

Do I Need a Lawyer for an SUO?

Although not required, it is wise to seek the counsel of an experience insurance lawyer for any formal legal proceeding. Remember that, just because there isn’t a judge or jury present for the SUO, it is a recorded legal proceeding that can have profound effects on your rights. It also is conducted by insurance company lawyers who are trained to elicit responses intended to damage your position, and help the insurance company. At Sawan & Sawan, our insurance lawyers can help you with an EUO by:

Contact the Toledo Ohio Insurance Lawyers at Sawan & Sawan today to learn more about how we can assist in maximizing the amount of your claim settlement and ensure you receive everything you are entitled to under your insurance policy.

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