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Understanding Your Certificate of Insurance

Understanding Your Certificate of Insurance

If you have a small business, you are probably aware that you need a Certificate of Insurance (COI).

You might have been asked to provide one by a savvy consumer or potential landlord. Or perhaps your independent insurance agent advised that you have one.

You may not even have the slightest clue what it is.

As Central Florida-based independent insurance agents, we not only know what a Certificate of Insurance is, we’re also used to answering questions about them. Let’s answer some of your top questions about your Certificate of Insurance.

What is a Certificate of Insurance?

A Certificate of Insurance (COI), also known as “Proof of Insurance,” is simply a document provided by your insurance company that verifies and describes your coverage with them.

It isn’t an insurance policy, but a snapshot of your coverage at the time the certificate was issued. As such, it can be issued at any time.

COIs are based on templates developed by the Association for Cooperative Operations Research and Development (commonly known by its acronym, ACORD) and are available as proof of liability, personal property, and commercial property policies.

 

Why You Need a Certificate of Insurance

So if your COI is not your policy, why do you need a certificate at all?

Think about it this way. Your Certificate of Insurance acts like a letter of recommendation from your insurance company complete with its stamp of approval.

Without it, any shady contractor could lie about having general liability coverage to avoid paying hefty premiums. As you might guess, this could get extremely messy in the event that s/he causes irreparable damage to a client’s property or body.

 

How to Read Your Certificate of Insurance

Your Certificate of Insurance can be broken down into nine main sections and each of these sections has a different, yet crucial, purpose.

Sample Certificate of Insurance

1. Disclaimer

The disclaimer states that the Certificate of Insurance is merely a representation of your existing coverage and does not “amend, extend, or alter” your policies.

2. Producer

This section will list the name and address of the insurance agent or broker who issued your COI.

3. Insured

The legal name and address of the business covered under the insurance policies described on the COI.

4. Insurers Affording Coverage

This section will list all of the insurance companies that the Insured has policies under. They are listed A through F.

5. Coverages

Your “Coverages” section is the longest, as this is where you will find all of the details of the insurance policies, including insurance type, effective dates, and limits. This area is where COIs tend to get a little confusing, so let’s break it down.

At the far right, you’ll see a column labeled “INSR LTR.” This is short for “Insurer Letter”; the letter you see here will correspond to the Insurer Affording Coverage as described earlier.

For instance, if there is a “B” in this column, it means that the insurance company holding that particular policy is the same insurance company listed next to “B” in the “Insurers Affording Coverage” section we talked about earlier.

Detail of certificate of insurance

“Type of Insurance” refers to the type of coverage afforded by policy, whether general, auto, garage, excess, or worker’s comp liability coverage.

Next you’ll see two columns labeled “ADD’L INSRD” and “SUBR WVD.” The first one stands for “Additional Insured,” as you might have guessed. An X placed in this column indicates that the person being issued the Certificate is an additional insured on the policy.

“SUBR WVD” stands for “Subrogation Waived” and is a very crucial part of your Certificate of Insurance, especially if you are providing this document as a subcontractor. If this box is checked off, that means that the insurance company of the named insured will not be able to pursue legal action against specified parties that usually include the Certificate Holder (see #7 above) in the event of a claim, even if they were directly responsible for the damages.

Next is listed the appropriate policy number, as well as the effective dates of the policy. The last column shows the limits (in dollars).

6. Description of Operations

If there are any specific operations, locations, or projects that the COI applies to, they will be listed here. This is also where the Certificate would list information about any Additional Insured or Subrogation of Waiver.

7. Certificate Holder

The name and address of whoever is requesting the Certificate of Insurance. In some cases, this may be the business itself; in other cases, it may be their client or another institution.

8. Cancellation

This is another disclaimer that lists the number of days that the insurance company will send notice to the Certificate Holder in the event that any of the policies are cancelled before the expiration date listed. Thirty days is standard.

9. Authorized Representative

Your Certificate of Insurance must include the signature of your insurance agent/broker or a representative of the agency.

 

Conclusion

Understanding your Certificate of Insurance is an important part of owning a small business.

Accidents, shoddy work, negligence, and other claims occur all the time in commercial settings, which is why it’s important to have the right level of insurance coverage.

If you have questions regarding your specific COI and/or policies, speak to your insurance agent. And if you’re looking for affordable coverage that meets your needs, request a quote today. At Harry Levine Insurance, we’ve been meeting Central Florida’s insurance needs for more than 30 years and we can’t wait to see how we can help you!

About the Author

Jason Levine

Jason received a Masters of Science & Management in Risk Management & Insurance from Florida State University. He has been with Harry Levine Insurance for 9 years and handles the leadership of daily operations. He was the 2013-2014 Florida Association of Insurance Agents Young Agent Council's Agent of the Year. Currently serves on FAIA Board of Directors.

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