Having worked in the insurance industry for 26 years, insured thousands of businesses, and sent over 10,000 certificates, I have see many different things that have been asked to be included on a COI.  This blog will explain to you the items that are included on an Insurance Certificate.

A Certificate of Insurance is a one-page form that describes an insurance policy and certifies that it is in effect.  Keep in mind that for the most part, an insurance certificate is worthless and you can click here to understand more about that concept.  For this blog, we will focus on what a COI includes.

This form includes the names of the insured, the insurance agent, and the insurance carriers. The middle of the form lists and describes several types of coverage: Commercial General Liability, Automobile Liability, Umbrella/Excess Liability, and Workers Compensation and Employers Liability. This section also notes whether there are additional insureds or waivers of subrogation for each policy, the policy number, the effective and expiration dates, and the limits of each policy.

The Certificate of Insurance will also include a few details about how each of the policies work, such as whether the Commercial General Liability works on a claims made or occurrence basis. Occurrence means that it will cover claims whenever the incident itself occurred during the policy period. Claims-Made means that the policy will cover claims when the claim itself is made during the policy period. Since claims could arise long after the actual occurrence of the incident, you want to make sure that the “OCCUR” box is checked. If the Claims-Made box is checked, reach out to us so we can tell you other warning signs to watch out for.

You can also watch our video on the distinction between claims made and occurrence based policies.


Another important detail about Commercial General Liability reflected on the COI is how the limits work–either on a project, location, or policy basis. If it is on a policy basis, then as soon as the insured hits their aggregate limit for the whole policy (adding up the claims from any project) they are no longer protected, whereas if it is on a project or location basis, they can max out on their insurance at each project or location.

For example, let’s say that Joe the Roofing subcontractor has a policy based limit. He is sued at two other job sites, at one for half a million dollars and at the other for $450,000. Then, there is a problem at your jobsite that his insurance ought to cover for another $300,000. The problem is that he only has $50,000 left before he hits his limit, so he will be short $250,000! Alternatively, if he had a per project or location based limit, the insurance claims at other sites wouldn’t affect you and you would be able to recoup the costs of the incident.

The auto liability will list what kind of autos are covered. Be sure that if they own autos that “Any Auto” is checked and if they don’t own autos that at least autos they hire or autos they don’t own but drive will be covered.

The Workers' Compensation (Work Comp) section will state whether anyone is excluded from workers comp.

What is NOT included on a Certificate?

A certificate of insurance DOES NOT include Property Coverage  

Many  times people will ask to put the amount of coverage on a building or a piece of equipment.  This should never go on a Certificate.  There are other, more appropriate forms for this use.

Some Final Thoughts on Insurance Certificates

Note that the description of operations box near the bottom cannot say anything you want it to say, because a COI cannot change the insurance policy it can only describe it.

Also note that the section about notice of cancelation does not guarantee that you will be notified if the policy is canceled. Actually, in most cases you will not be notified.

An Insurance Certificate does not show the exclusions on an insurance policy.  We have more information right here about why you need to check the exclusions.

The last thing I will mention here is that there are a lot of Fake Insurance Certificates that are passed around and you need to be on guard for that.  You can read more about that in another blog post by clicking here.


Interested in diving deeper? Explore our comprehensive guide to Certificates of Insurance right here! Surprisingly, we've even published a dedicated book on Insurance Certificates, available for download. To all the insurance agents looking to enhance their knowledge on COIs: this one's for you! 😉

A Certificate of Insurance contains many different pieces of information.  If you have any questions, feel free to reach out to us! We are always happy to help! 

Click Here to Read our Definitive Guide to Certificates of Insurance

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Veritas Risk Management, Inc. offers proactive risk management services covering a wide variety of topics. Veritas Risk Management, Inc. does not engage in the practice of law, accounting, or tax consulting.  We encourage everyone to consult with his or her own professional advisor for details concerning his or her specific facts, situations, and circumstances.

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