Certificate Tips & Tricks: How to Prevent Misunderstandings

Brenda is a Senior Solutions Specialist at ReSource Pro with over 35 years of experience in the insurance industry.

What insurance agencies should and shouldn’t attach to certificates of insurance

Do you ever find yourself wondering if it’s really necessary to attach endorsement or policy forms to certificates of insurance? And if you do attach them, should you attach only the pages that pertain to additional insured (or other) status rather than the entire form or endorsement?

While attaching complete endorsements and forms is generally not a legal requirement, it is indeed a best practice to do so. The reason why is that most state regulations have wording similar to that found in Alabama’s insurance code:

“In general, a certificate is merely informational and cannot affirmatively or negatively create, change, extend, or restrict coverage provided for in the underlying insurance policies to which the certificate refers. Neither an insurer nor a producer acting for an insurer may alter a certificate form if the effect of that alteration is to change, or create the impression of changing, the terms or scope of coverage provided for in the underlying policies.”

As a result, most experts warn against including wording in the description of operations that tries to summarize the terms and conditions of the policy. Instead, it is best to use a statement like: “Certificate holder has additional insured status as outlined in the attached endorsement CG2010 (11/85).”

While it’s not always practical to add the endorsement number and edition date, at minimum the actual endorsement(s) should be attached. This eliminates the need to include additional terms, such as “primary and non-contributing,” “as required by written contract,” and others that could be misconstrued or incorrect. It is then up to the insured or certificate holder to read the endorsement to determine whether it meets their needs.

Don’t attach individual pages

Because insurance forms give coverage on some pages, then take it away later in the definitions or exclusions sections, it is best to include the entire form so that there is no question as to what is covered and what isn’t.

This is not only applicable to additional insured or waiver of subrogation. Contracts will occasionally ask for contractual liability coverage on a certificate. Many agents will include wording that limited contractual coverage is included on a policy, but that leaves a lot to interpretation. Again, the best practice is to attach the coverage form in its entirety and use a statement like: “Limited contractual liability coverage is afforded as outlined on the attached policy form.”

Although attaching complete forms can be more labor intensive and can increase expenses if you are still paper mailing certificates, it’s a practice that could pay dividends in preventing any misunderstandings that could lead to E&O or a disgruntled client.

Find a new approach

Handling certs in a timely fashion is a challenging task for insurance professionals, and getting it right every time is critical for the policyholder. Besides offering best practices on certs, ReSource Pro can also take on the work for you, ensuring your customer receives an accurate cert as quickly as possible.

Here’s how ReSource Pro’s Certs Center is transforming certificate issuance:

  • Reporting and insight – Our certificate-specific tracking system provides unrivaled insight into turnaround times, costs per account, and the complexity of every certificate request.
  • Standardization and centralization – Achieve best practice certificate management process across all offices with white labeled service.
  • E&O risk reduction – We assume limited E&O risk for all certificates that we issue.
  • Quality assurance – We have strict quality standards for all employees and regularly audit to ensure compliance. All service team members are provided with rigorous certificate-specific training.
  • Guaranteed service levels – We work with you to determine appropriate turnaround times that meet your needs and can deliver certificates within 2 hours during U.S. business hours.
  • Flexible pay-per-use model – We match our capacity to your workload fluctuations.  

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Ready to change your approach to certificates? Let’s talk.