What is a Certificate of Insurance (COI)?
A certificate of insurance is issued to you directly by your insurance company, or in some cases, your agent or broker. Typically a COI does two things: it verifies the existence of your specific insurance policy and it summarizes the conditions of your policy.
For example, a certificate of insurance for your lawyers' professional liability insurance would be issued directly to the Named Insured (the law firm, or entity, that is covered) and includes these key pieces of information:
- Certificate Holder
- The Named Insured
- The type of insurance
- The policy number
- The effective and expiration dates of the policy
- The retroactive coverage date of the policy
- The limits of liability on the policy
- The deductible on the policy
- Identification of any endorsements to the policy, if applicable
- The location of the law firm
What is a Certificate Holder?
The certificate holder is simply the individual or entity that is requesting you, as the policyholder, to provide proof of insurance with a COI. The most important thing to understand is that the certificate holder on a certificate of insurance holds no rights under a policy. A COI provides no rights or distinctions under a policy. It is simply proof of insurance at a point in time.
Three terms related to a COID that can frequently be used together, yet have significant differences between them are:
Policyholder: This is the law firm, or entity, that purchased the policy and has coverage provided under the policy's terms and conditions. Listed on the declarations page as the Named Insured, the policyholder is the only direct beneficiary of the policy.
Additional Insured: In many other, more standard, lines of commercial insurance, clients may require the policyholder to extend their insurance coverage to them as an additional insured. This is not generally done for lawyers' professional liability policies.
Certificate Holder: This is the individual or entity that requested the COI.
When Should I Request a Certificate of Insurance from ALPS?
As an attorney, you may have clients that request proof of insurance as a condition of working with you. These clients want the peace of mind of knowing that you have liability insurance.
Should I Request a Certificate of Insurance from my business partners?
The short answer is yes - a certificate of insurance provides you value in the following ways:
- It proves that your vendor or business partner is covered for the work they do with or for you. In the same way that lawyers' professional liability insurance is there to protect your client for an act, error, or omission you may make as an attorney, knowing that your 3rd party partners are protected can give you comfort and peace of mind.
- Requiring third-party coverage (and verifying it through obtaining a COI) can potentially reduce your liability exposure. When you request and document that your third-party vendor is indeed insured for their work, it can provide you the ability to potentially transfer a loss to their insurance should they make an error that impacts your clients.
If your firm uses third-party vendors to provide services to your clients, or even services to you that involve client data, requiring third-party coverage and verifying it through obtaining a COI is an additional step you can take to manage risk.
Does it cost anything to get a COI?
A certificate of insurance should be provided at no cost. If your current provider, agent, or broker is charging you, it's time to find a new option.
Requesting a certificate of insurance is easy. You can request a COI directly through your firm's account center. You can also call (800) 367-2577, email your firm's dedicated account manager, chat with us online, or schedule a call to talk on your timeline.