What Is a Certificate of Insurance & Why Do I Need It?

A certificate of insurance (COI) is a document that serves as proof of business insurance. It is a snapshot of an insurance policy containing all the most important details of the policy, and helps protect against third-party risk.

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Published January 18, 2019   •   3 minute read

In short, a certificate of insurance (COI) is to business insurance what an auto ID card is to auto insurance. It is a proof of insurance for your business. 

When you purchase an auto insurance policy, you also receive a companion document—the insurance card. You keep this in your car to produce as proof of insurance in the event of an accident or traffic stop. Likewise, when you purchase a general liability policy, you should also procure a certificate of insurance that you can use to prove the insured status of your business when entering into new contracts.

Just as an insurance card is a small, compact version of an otherwise lengthy contract, a certificate of insurance contains all of the most pertinent details of your general liability policy on a standardized, single-page form. The most commonly used type of COI is the ACORD 25 form. 

It is important to note that the insurance card itself is not an insurance policy; rather, the document’s sole purpose is convenience. Once again, the same is true of a certificate of insurance. A COI is simply intended to streamline access to the most important information in your policy, including the type of coverage, who it covers, the effective date of the policy, and the policy limits.

Who Needs COIs?

Certificates of insurance are essential documents within any industry that utilizes contracted labor. Whether you work in construction or hospitality, logistics or healthcare, once contracts are signed and work begins, good insurance standing is all there is to protect an entity from third-party liability.

If you are a business owner, you should have a certificate of insurance. It really is that simple.

Things become more complex as more entities enter the picture. As a project owner, not only are you responsible for the insurance policy of your business, but you're also vulnerable to the details of every one of your vendors’ policies, and each individual worker comes with their own risk of personal injury or property damage. More vendors mean more liability, and certificates of insurance help protect against third-party risk.

Okay, I’ve Collected COIs. Now What?

To mitigate your risk, you should have processes in place for verifying and tracking your vendors’ COIs. Here are several things you’ll want to consider during your COI assessments:

  • Is the document real? COIs are easily doctored. To verify the authenticity of a COI, contact the issuing insurance agent.
  • Do the policy limits provide adequate protection for the project at hand?
  • Are the effective and expiration dates in line with the duration of the policyholder's expected participation in the project?

Hot Tip: Beware of vendors who undercut the prices of their competitors, as this is often an indication that a business is underinsured.

Large projects, such as hotel construction, for instance, often involve hundreds of workers and therefore, hundreds of COIs. Collecting and tracking all of these with accuracy can quickly become a massive time suck. If you outsource a lot of labor, your best defense against costly insurance document oversight is to outsource your document management to a COI tracking service provider, such as Business Credentialing Services (BCS).

How BCS Does COI Tracking

COI tracking is Business Credentialing Service’s prime service offering. With help from our own proprietary software, the BCS App, not only will we collect and review COIs on your behalf, we’ll also work with insurance agents and vendors to correct any insurance discrepancies we inevitably encounter. Here’s how the sausage is made, step-by-step:

  • First, a trained team of compliance analysts facilitates the collection and storage of insurance documents.
  • Next, the documents are reviewed. Depending on your unique needs, we may limit our review to COIs, or we can extend it to include endorsements and policy pages.
  • During the review process, we will identify insurance deficiencies and plot ameliorative changes.
  • Then, we’ll communicate with vendors and agents to ensure optimal contractual compliance is restored, with relationships still intact.
  • Maintaining insurance compliance is an evergreen task, however, and that is why, even after all the necessary corrections are made, BCS will continue protecting you from liability by tracking data expirations until you are no longer vulnerable to risk transfer.

To learn more about COI tracking, read this guide: Everything You Need to Know About Certificates of Insurance, or schedule a demo today.

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