What Are Certificates of Insurance?

The insurance industry is responsible for various types of documents regarding insurance policies and coverages. They often need to provide their insurers with proof of their insurance details and explain what their coverage plans offer. That’s why, in this article, we want to elaborate on what are Certificates of Insurance, and how they affect various business operations. 

By explaining the use of this document and its key elements, you’ll gain a deeper understanding of how they work. We’ll address the common situations where these certificates are required and the challenges and limitations associated with them. Once you’ve fully grasped the topic, we’ll also include some of the best practices for managing Certificates of insurance to further help you in the process of acquiring one.

Understanding Certificates of Insurance

A Certificate of Insurance serves as proof of insurance, verifying the existence and active status of an insurance policy. Within this document, the insurer summarizes the essential coverage details, such as policyholder information, the type of policy coverage, date of effectiveness, and policy limits.

Unlike insurance policies, which are the actual contract between the insurance company and the insured, these certificates don’t outline the terms, conditions, exclusions, and obligations. Instead, they act as a quick, one or two-page reference to verify the insured has active insurance coverage without reviewing the full terms and conditions. Insurance policies also include additional, comprehensive information regarding insuring agreements, declarations, definitions, exclusions, and endorsements.

Since these certificates are most commonly used when there’s a big risk of liability and significant losses, there are different types based on their purpose. Some of the most common options you should familiarize yourself with are the following:

  • General liability: covers bodily injury and property damage on company premises or during work operations.
  • Auto liability: covers bodily injury and property damage caused by the use of company vehicles.
  • Workers’ compensation: covers bodily injury or illness for employees caused by their job.
Understanding Certificates of Insurance

Key Elements of a Certificate of Insurance

As with any insurance document, COIs include several key elements within their documentation. This information summarizes the insurance coverage and ensures that the certificate provides a clear and concise overview of the insurance policy. That being said, here are the key elements of a Certificate of Insurance you should know:

  • Policyholder and insurer information: COIs must include up-to-date information regarding both the insurance company and policyholder’s name and contact information. 
  • Description of coverage and limits: COIs must provide a detailed description of the specific type of insurance coverage included, as well as any coverage limits. This includes the maximum amount the insurer will pay for various types of claims regarding general liability, workers’ compensation, and auto liability coverages.
  • Effective dates and policy duration: besides the policy number, these certificates must also contain the policy period, which includes the dates of effectiveness and expiration.

How Certificates of Insurance Work

First, you need to identify the need for this certificate, which usually happens during business contracts, lease agreements, or professional services. Then, you’ll need to contact your insurance provider and submit a formal request for a COI. Depending on your circumstances, you may need to state any specific requirements and provide all the necessary policy information, including the policy number, coverage type, limits, and expiration date.

Once the request has been submitted, the insurance provider must verify your policy details and decide if your coverage plan meets the necessary COI requirements. If all your documentation and policy information are in order, the insurance agent will begin creating your certificate and include all the previously specified endorsements or additional clauses. In some cases, the insurance company may provide you with a draft, which you can review to ensure all the necessary information is included. 

After the insurance provider finishes the final version, they’re required to deliver the COI either by email or direct mail. It’s important to remember that you have to thoroughly review the final document and address any issues promptly to resolve any discrepancies or additional requirements.

Importance in Business Operations

The reasons why these documents play a vital role for businesses that have high risks of liability are the following:

  • Risk management and liability protection– since COIs prove that your business has valid insurance policies, they also ensure that it is covered for various risks associated with its operations. When an insurance policy covers all parties, the business can prevent potential financial losses caused by unforeseen accidents, lawsuits, and property damage. 
  • Building trust with clients– since COIs showcase a company’s commitment to protecting its employees and meeting industry standards, they can also reassure clients and partners that the business is financially secure and managed professionally.
  • Compliance and contractual obligations– lastly, many industry regulations require businesses to have a specific type of insurance coverage that ensures compliance with health and safety standards. For example, many construction companies have a high risk of worker liability and having a COI showcases the responsibility and preparedness to handle injury and accident-related claims.

Common Situations Requiring a Certificate of Insurance

Although COIs hold great importance in business operations, some industries require them more than others. Since not every workplace has the same potential risks and liabilities, here are some of the most common situations requiring a certificate of insurance:

  • Construction and contractor projects: before starting a construction project, many contractor agreements require COIs to ensure the subcontractor has the necessary liability and workers’ compensation insurance. Due to the high-risk nature of the construction industry, general contractors use these certificates to protect themselves from being held liable for any accidents caused by subcontractors.
  • Events and venue rentals: COIs are also commonly required when leasing properties. They ensure that landlords and tenants are protected against various risks, including property damage and on-site injury. Regarding events and short-term rentals, the property managers use these certificates to protect venues and furniture from damage, theft, or loss.
  • Professional services and consultancy agreements: many consultants and service providers turn to professional liability insurance, also known as E&O (errors and omissions) insurance, to protect themselves against potential claims of negligence and errors for their services. Clients often require legal, medical, financial, and IT consultants to have these certificates to prevent any potential risks of financial loss.

Challenges and Limitations of Certificates of Insurance

To ensure you don’t run into any potential difficulties in the long run, here are some common issues you should be mindful of:

  • Misunderstandings and misinterpretations: one of the most common challenges for COIs is misinterpreting the actual coverage provided. Since it doesn’t provide complete information about the policy terms, exclusions, and conditions, many businesses can get misleading assurance because they aren’t aware of the potential changes or cancellations of the insurance plan. 
  • Limitations in coverage and exclusions: since some insurance plans have special endorsements and additional clauses, it’s important for companies to be aware that they aren’t fully explained in the COI. Additionally, these certificates may leave out some limitations within the insurance policy, which might exclude coverage for specific risks.
  • Keeping COIs up-to-date and accurate: these certificates only prove the existence of insurance coverage on the date they have been issued. That’s why many businesses struggle with getting timely updates and reissued COIs when policies are changed, renewed, or canceled.
Challenges and Limitations of Certificates of Insurance

Best Practices for Managing Certificates of Insurance

Lastly, we want to introduce you to some of the best practices for managing Certificates of insurance. Here are some of the tips and tricks we’ve gathered while working for the insurance industry.

Maintaining an Organized COI Tracking System

Having an organized COI tracking system can help you stay updated on any policy changes and improve your overall operations. Since most businesses turn to the use of organization software, platforms, and tools, this technology can help automate the process and improve its efficiency. Most of these platforms act as a centralized repository where you can easily access and store your documentation. Additionally, most software has built-in notifications that alert you of any upcoming expirations and compliance reminders. So, if you’re looking for the best way to mitigate risks and enhance visibility, these tools allow you to monitor and report your data in real time. 

Outsourcing Solutions

Since collecting, verifying, tracking, and maintaining COIs is a time-consuming and complex task, many agencies turn to insurance outsourcing services to help them with this task. 

By outsourcing COI services, agencies gain access to expert advice and a specialized team that manages risks and ensures compliance. This not only reduces the administrative burden but also minimizes errors and enhances efficiency. 

Additionally, outsourcing allows agencies to stay current with regulatory changes and industry standards, ultimately improving their overall operational effectiveness and client satisfaction.


Let’s recap. What are certificates of insurance? These documents act as proof of having active insurance coverage and offer a quick review of the policy. However, you should always be mindful that COIs don’t fully cover the insurance plan and that you should maintain an organized tracking system to ensure timely updates. 

Since our team at CLICKVISION BPO understands that the insurance industry often struggles with complex and time-consuming operations, we offer tailored insurance back office outsourcing services tailored to your agency’s needs. 

By specializing in end-to-end outsourcing services in the insurance sector, we aim to streamline your back-office operations and develop effective solutions for your unique circumstances. So, contact us today and discover how CLICKVISION BPO can optimize your overall business operations!