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An Appellate Court Chastised an Insurance Company for its Conduct during an Examination Under Oath and Awarded Attorney Fees to the Insured

interrogation.jpgAn insurance company was chastised by the Third District Court of Appeal for its conduct during an examination under oath.

An examination under oath is a common condition precedent to the filing a lawsuit against an insurance company that is found in just about every insurance policy. Should an insured fail to sit for an examination under oath then the insured jeopardizes potential insurance coverage for the loss.

Along those same lines, it is not uncommon for an insurance company to deny coverage even after the insured appears for an examination under oath but fails to answer certain questions asked during the examination. Often times the insured appears at an examination under oath without the presence of an attorney. In such circumstances it is not uncommon for the attorney hired by the insurance company to attempt to bully and intimidate the insured into either not answering certain questions by inquiring into areas that are simply not material to the claim, or by intimidating the insured into dropping the claim out right.

In light of such tactics it is of paramount importance to be represented by legal counsel prior to sitting for an examination under oath. At our firm, we worked for the insurance companies prior to opening our doors for business. We know the tactics that an insurance company will use to stonewall and delay your claim. Better to contact us today and before an examination under oath to ensure that your claim is properly handled and to maximize the potential recovery from the insurance company.

Court Ruling Taking an Insurance Company’s Conduct to Task

In a case decided by the Third District Court of Appeal, the appellate court admonished an insurance company for its conduct during an examination under oath.

In that case, a truck owner had his truck stolen. The truck owner had prior unrelated criminal convictions on his record. The truck owner then made a claim with his insurance company seeking reimbursement for his stolen truck.

The insurance company then required the truck owner to come and sit for an examination under oath. The truck owner did just that, but without an attorney.

The truck owner felt so intimidated by the insurance company’s attorney during the examination under oath that he walked out. The reason being is because the attorney for the insurance company spent almost the entire examination focusing on the truck owner’s prior criminal convictions and spent very little time discussing the actual loss.

The truck owner then retained the services of an attorney, and filed a lawsuit against the insurance company. The insurance company ultimately paid the full amount of the claim. However, and despite obtaining a successful result from the insurance company, the trial court denied the truck owner’s claim for attorney fees. The truck owner then filed an appeal with the third District Court of Appeal.

The Third District Court of Appeal concluded that the trial court was wrong and that the truck owner was entitled to attorney fees. In so ruling, the Third District Court of Appeal placed boundaries on the appropriate conduct during an examination under oath. Indeed, the Third District Court of Appeal concluded that the insurance company had unfortunately “decided to use the usual policy provision requiring a sworn statement as a license to make unwarranted and intrusive inquiries into the personal life of any insured who has the temerity to make a claim against it.” The court also found that when the insurance company “invited [the truck driver] to withdraw his claim in lieu of responding” to questions was improper and harassing.

In light of those circumstances, the Third District Court of Appeal found that it was necessary for the truck driver to resort to litigation in order to resolve his claim. Reasoning that the “statute was enacted for the very purpose presented in this case – to discourage the games insurance companies play,” the Third District Court of Appeal concluded that the trial court “improperly employed” the statute and that the insurance company could not “escape the consequences of what it tried to get away with in this case.”

As such, the truck owner was awarded attorney fees to be paid by the insurance company.
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This case should serve as a reminder that insurance companies will try just about anything in an effort to not pay on a certain claim. Therefore, if you are facing a dispute over an insurance claim in Florida, contact Alvarez & Barbara, LLP at 305-263-7700 or toll free at 866-518-2913 for a free and confidential consultation to discuss your rights.

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