to civil litigation and criminal histories.
These records will help the insurer:
E Explore any concerns it may have about
the insured’s financial status.
E Confirm where the insured was at the
time of the fire.
E Confirm the insured’s testimony.
My work on a recent insurance fraud
investigation following a suspicious resi-
dential fire provides an example of the
vital role records play in corroborating or
dispelling testimony from the insureds.
This case was complicated by the fact that
the homeowner’s handyman died as a
result of being burned in the home fire.
During the examinations under oath, the
homeowners misrepresented and con-
cealed information about the condition
of the home, their financial situation, and
their relationship and recent contact with
the handyman. The homeowners changed
their testimony when asked to produce
cellphone bills but still failed to provide
accurate dates for the phone calls.
Phone records later indicated a number of recent calls to and from the handyman to the insureds’ cellphones, including calls to the homeowner husband on
the day of the fire. The facts showed that
the husband had hired the handyman to
set the fire, and based on all of the information, the claim was denied. Addition-ally, the police used information from
the insurance inquiry to supplement the
criminal investigation, which ended with
considerable prison sentences for both
Selecting the Right Attorney
Though there is no requirement that an
attorney conduct an examination under
oath, in practice, attorneys conduct the
majority of them because they are trained
in the examination and cross-examination
of witnesses. Importantly, the attorney
conducting the EUO should be experienced and familiar with arson claims. A
familiarity with basic fire principles is
also essential to understand the responses
given about the circumstances of the fire.
The insured has a right to representation
by counsel at his or her own expense. Also,
a public adjuster has no specified right to
attend but often is allowed to do so.
An attorney with experience taking
EUOs in fire cases and property claims
is an invaluable asset to the investigation. Ask for referrals, and meet with
the attorney to determine if he or she is
the best possible representative for your
company. Based on his or her expertise,
a knowledgeable attorney can identify issues early on and then focus the examination under oath on issues pertinent to the
arson fraud investigation. K
Melody S. Mosley is a partner at Cummins & White, LLP. She focuses on insurance law with a specialization in providing advice on concerns arising from
commercial, homeowners’, renters, and
auto policies. Mosley has 25 years’ experience taking examinations under oath in
arson fraud, and all other types of claims.
She also teaches a class for firefighters
about how to testify in the courtroom at
the annual California Conference of Arson
Investigators. For more information, visit