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Certificates of Insurance: What You See Is Not Necessarily What You Get

By: Michael Rodman, CPCU


Sometimes a document is not what it appears to be by its title. This article explains how little a Certificate of Insurance really tells you about the actual insurance coverage you may have.

Your company or organization regularly enters into contracts for services and goods with provisions to protect your interests by requiring that the other party to the contract maintain insurance covering you as an Additional Insured on a primary and non-contributing basis. This means that if a claim arises, your own insurance will not be called upon to pay out. Further, the contract may require that the insurance carriers for the other party waive any rights the carriers may have to turn around and seek recovery of their pay-out from you based on an allegation that you were responsible for the action that caused the claim. This is called a Waiver of Subrogation.

These contracts invariably include a provision that you be provided with a Certificate of Insurance confirming that the coverage required has been purchased and is in force. It is important for you to know just how far the Certificate Insurance goes in proving you are truly protected.


Certificates of Insurance are issued by the Insured’s insurance agent or broker, and provide the Certificate Holder with the names of the insurance companies issuing the insurance, the types of policies issued, their policy numbers, inception and expiration dates, and limits of liability. In addition, for Liability insurance policies, the standard form has boxes indicating whether the policies cover the Certificate Holder (you) as an Additional Insured and/or that a Waiver of Subrogation has been provided. There is also a space on the Certificate of Insurance entitled “DESCRIPTION OF OPERATIONS / LOCATIONS / VEHICLES / EXCLUSIONS ADDED BY ENDORSEMENT / SPECIAL PROVISIONS” in which additional policy provisions and conditions, such as the inclusion of “Primary and Non-Contributing” endorsements should be listed.

Most Certificate Holders erroneously believe that the insurance provisions shown in the Certificate of Insurance are binding against the insurance carriers listed. This is not the case. Wording near the top of the Certificate of Insurance states:

THIS CERTIFICATE IS ISSUED AS A MATTER OF INFORMATION

ONLY AND CONFERS NO RIGHTS UPON THE CERTIFICATE

HOLDER. THIS CERTIFICATE DOES NOT AMEND, EXTEND OR

ALTER THE COVERAGE AFFORDED BY THE POLICIES BELOW.

Thus, a Certificates of Insurance offers some evidence but not conclusive proof that the appropriate insurance is in force. We recommend that you also require that copies of the relevant insurance policies be provided upon your request so that they may be reviewed by your insurance advisor to ensure that required coverage is being maintained and that that the wording of the policies themselves confer the level of protection envisioned by your contract.

Being uninformed about the level of proof that Certificates of Insurance represent can result in you being uninsured.

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