How To Get a Certificate of Liability Insurance for Your Business

A certificate of insurance is not an insurance policy

Business owner having discussion in coffee shop
•••

Oliver Rossi / Getty Images

If your company leases property or performs work for another business, the property owner or hiring company may demand a certificate of liability insurance (COI). A COI, which is similar to an auto insurance ID card, is used to demonstrate your business is adequately insured against third-party claims. Because COIs are used in many common business transactions, business owners should know what they are, why they’re used, and how to get one.

Key Takeaways

  • A certificate of liability insurance (COI) provides a summary of your liability policies and serves as proof of liability insurance.
  • A COI is not an insurance policy and does not provide any coverage.
  • You may need to produce a COI before you’re permitted to start any work or lease any property.
  • You can obtain a COI by contacting your insurance agent or insurer and providing a written description of the minimum coverage requirements.

What Is a Certificate of Liability Insurance?

A certificate of liability insurance (COI) is a document that summarizes your company’s liability insurance coverage. It serves as proof that your company has purchased general liability, auto liability, or other types of liability insurance. The document provides a general overview of your liability policies, not a detailed coverage analysis.

A COI is focused on liability coverages but it is not an insurance policy nor does it provide any coverage. Instead, it highlights key aspects of your policies, such as their effective dates, policy numbers, and limits of liability. Different COI forms are used for property and other types of insurance, including automobile and liability.

General liability insurance protects your business against third-party claims for bodily injury, property damage, and personal and advertising injury.

When Do You Need a Certificate of Insurance?

You’ll likely need a COI if your business is leasing a new location or equipment, or is trying to get hired by another company to perform work or provide a service. The hiring company may require you to provide a certificate before it allows you to initiate a lease or start any work. For this reason, you should request a certificate from your insurance agent or insurer as soon as you know you’ll need it.

What’s Included in a Certificate of Insurance?

Many insurers issue COIs on standard forms published by the Association for Cooperative Operations Research and Development (ACORD), a nonprofit research organization for the global insurance industry. Others use forms they’ve developed themselves. Regardless of the form used, a COI provides a snapshot of your company’s commercial liability insurance. It typically includes the following information:

  • Producer’s name and address (A “producer” is an agent or broker.)
  • Your company’s name, address, and contact information
  • List of insurers that provide coverage to your business
  • Details regarding your company’s liability coverage, which may include general liability, auto liability, umbrella liability, and/or workers’ compensation. Includes policy numbers, effective dates, and the limits provided by each policy
  • A description of your company’s operations, locations, and vehicles (if applicable)
  • The name and address of the certificate holder (the business that requested the certificate)
  • Signature of a person authorized by the insurer to approve certificates of insurance

How To Get a COI for Your Business

To obtain a COI for your business, there are a couple of key steps to follow.

  1. Get the necessary information: The first step in obtaining a COI is to ask the hiring business requesting the certificate for its minimum coverage requirements. In essence, this means asking the business for a written description of the liability coverages and limits your company must have to get the job or lease the property. Your agent or insurer will need this information to issue the COI.
  2. Contract your agent, broker, or insurer: Explain to either one of these parties that you need a COI. If you aren’t sure whether your existing insurance meets the requirements, ask your insurance professional to help you make this assessment. If your current coverage doesn’t satisfy the requirements, ask your agent or insurer what changes will be needed to meet the requirements and how much they’ll cost.

For instance, suppose a potential landlord requires a $2 million general aggregate limit on your liability policy. If the aggregate limit on your policy is currently $1 million, your insurance professional should communicate the cost of the additional limits. When all the required changes have been completed, ask your agent or insurer to issue the certificate.

A certificate holder, which is the hiring business or client requesting the COI, may want coverage under your liability policy as an additional insured. Once added to your policy, the additional insured will share your limits of liability.

The Bottom Line

A certificate of liability insurance serves as proof of commercial liability insurance. It provides an overview of your liability policies, including policy numbers, effective dates, and limits. You can obtain a certificate by requesting one from your insurance agent or broker or your insurer. You should seek a COI as soon as you know you’ll need one. A general contractor, property owner, or other business may prohibit you from starting work or leasing property until you’ve presented a signed COI.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

How much does a certificate of liability insurance cost?

A certificate of insurance is usually provided by your insurer free of charge because it’s not a legal contract of coverage, but rather, a proof of insurance.

Who completes a certificate of liability insurance?

Certificates are usually issued by insurers. They may also be issued by an agent or broker with the insurer’s permission.