Starting next Wednesday, we will start a weekly series regarding examinations under oath which are sometimes called sworn statements under oath.
The series will discuss the practical, legal and coverage aspects of the following articles we have lined up for you each Wednesday for the next thirteen weeks:
- Examinations and Sworn Statements Under Oath: What Are They and Their Relevance to Insurance Coverage From a Historical Study of Older Cases
- What Happens if A Policyholder Does Not Attend an Examination Under Oath?
- Where Do and Can Examinations Under Oath Be Held? Does a Policyholder Have to go to Timbuktu?
- Who Can Be Compelled to Attend Examinations Under Oath? Do Public Adjusters, Contractors and Employees Have to Attend Examinations Under Oath?
- Under What Circumstances Can a Policyholder Refuse to Answer a Question at an Examination Under Oath and Not Lose Policy Benefits?
- The Practical Reasons Insurers Take Examinations Under Oath and Why Policyholders Need Representation By Legal Counsel
- What is the Impact of a Wrong Answer at an Examination Under Oath? Do all Incorrect Answers Lead to Denial?
- How to Prepare for an Examination or Sworn Statement Under Oath if You are a Policyholder or Public Adjuster.
- What Public Adjusters Need to Tell Their Clients About Examinations Under Oath and Why Public Adjusters Need to Be Careful About Giving Legal Advice.
- The Examination Under Oath is Over: What Now?
- Typical Questions Asked During an Examination Under Oath of an Arson or Suspicious Fire Case.
- Typical Questions Asked During an Examination Under Oath of a Questionable Theft Loss.
- Typical Questions Asked During an Examination or Sworn Statement Under Oath of a Disputed Structural or Personal Property Valuation Claim Suspected of Being Inflated, Exaggerated, or Made Up.
For those that have not studied the examination under oath clause, it is one of the few property insurance clauses to be specifically addressed by the United States Supreme Court. In Claflin v. Commonwealth Insurance Company, 110 U.S. 81, 94-95; 3 S. Ct. 507, 515; 28 L. Ed. 76, 82 (1884), the Supreme Court stated:
The object of the provisions in the policies of insurance, requiring the assured to submit him-self to an examination under oath, to be reduced to writing, was to enable the company to possess itself of all knowledge, and all information as to other sources and means of knowledge, in regard to the facts, material to their rights, to enable them to decide upon their obligations, and to protect them against false claims. And every interrogatory that was relevant and pertinent in such an examination was material, in the sense that a true answer to it was of the substance of the obligation of the assured. A false answer as to any matter of fact material to the inquiry, knowingly and willfully made, with intent to deceive the insurer, would be fraudulent.
In Claflin, the insured’s false statements during the examination under oath were not made to deceive the insurer, but to cover-up false statements previously made to other parties. Nevertheless, the Supreme Court held the false statements regarding the ownership and value of the insured goods were material, and therefore, a breach of the conditions of the policy and a bar to recovery.
…it is no palliation of the fraud that Murphy did not mean thereby to prejudice them [the insurer], but merely to promote his own personal interest in a matter not involved in the contract with them. By that contract the companies were entitled to know from him all the circumstances of his purchase of the property insured, including the amount of the price paid and in what manner payment was made; and false statements, willfully made under oath, intended to conceal the truth on these points, constituted an attempted fraud by false swearing which was a breach of the conditions of the policy, and constituted a bar to the recovery of the insurance.
Id. at 97.
For a number of practical and legal reasons, any policyholder being asked to undergo an examination under oath should always hire insurance coverage counsel and carefully consider who that counsel is going to be. I would suggest that opposing insurance company counsel and claims managers consider who the legal opponent will be if a denial is contemplated.
Good, experienced and reputable policyholder attorneys add value to claims and sometimes prevent claims disasters and litigation from ever occurring.