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Can a Certificate of Insurance Change My Coverage?

Can a Certificate of Insurance Change My Coverage?

A Certificate of Insurance, sometimes called a COI is simply a description of what the insurance policy actually says, it does not change the policy.  In my 26 years of insurance and reviewing tens of thousands of certificates of insurance, I have seen many companies ask to add things to a certificate where there is no coverage. 

That being said, even an inaccurate Certificate of Insurance can sometimes create an obligation to provide the coverage it describes. To be safe, you should review the language of the insurance policy itself and not merely rely on the certificate.

Almost all Certificates of Insurance have a disclaimer at the top stating that it does not grant any rights and it does not amend the insurance policy. It also says that it does not constitute a contract. Further, it specifies that additional insured or subrogation waived status requires an endorsement on the insurance policy, not just a mark on the certificate.

Because of this, you cannot request that the Certificate of Insurance say something not present in the policy. For example, you cannot request specific language to be added to the Certificate of Insurance by the agent unless that language is in the policy already, or you ask the person whose insurance it is to add it to the policy. If you do so, you will be in violation of TN Code § 56-7-114 (2021), part c, which prohibits preparing, issuing, requesting, or requiring a Certificate of Insurance that misrepresents the insurance policy or claims to make changes to the insurance policy.

 

Can I trust a Certificate of Insurance?

If a Certificate of Insurance grants no rights, how can you be sure it is correct? While it is best to check the insurance policy and not just the Certificate, there are some safeguards in place to make the Certificate of Insurance reliable. First, as mentioned above, it is illegal to write inaccurate information on a Certificate of Insurance, and thus the certificates must be truthful to obey the law.

Further, insurance carriers and agents have been required to pay for insurance coverage that appeared on a Certificate but not in the policy. In T-Mobile USA Inc. v. Selective Insurance Company of America in 2019, Selective Insurance was required to pay for coverage listed on the Certificate of Insurance, but not in the policy. This was because the court held that the insurance agent, as a representative of Selective Insurance, represented to T-Mobile that T-Mobile was insured, even though they were not. Thus the court held the insurance company to the representation that they made. Some have concluded that because of this a Certificate of Insurance does indeed provide coverage in the absence of policy language providing that coverage.

However, the waters are still muddy around this issue, and different jurisdictions might rule differently on this issue in lawsuits. There seems to be a trend towards greater protection for recipients of Certificates of Insurance in this regard, but it is still prudent to check the insurance policy itself to be sure that the policy actually reflects the certificate.

WANT TO KNOW MORE?

Want to delve further into the topic? Dive into our extensive guide on Certificates of Insurance right here! And guess what? We've even released a special book dedicated to Insurance Certificates, ready for you to download.

Calling all insurance agents looking to boost their COI knowledge: this one's a must-read 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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