A certificate of insurance (COI) form provides proof of insurance coverage. To acquire a COI, you must first buy a small business liability insurance policy. After the policy has been issued, most certificates of insurance are available online.
Some providers take weeks to mail a certificate of insurance. That’s a big problem for a contractor who needs immediate proof of insurance coverage to sign a contract.
With Insureon, most businesses can receive an ACORD certificate of insurance within a couple of hours of starting our application. Businesses that are more difficult to insure can usually get their certificate within 48 hours.
You can buy insurance and get a certificate of liability insurance (COI) with Insureon in three easy steps:
Complete Insureon’s free online application, which asks for details about your business. It takes only a few minutes to complete. You’ll receive quotes from top-rated U.S. carriers when you finish the application.
Compare your quotes and choose a policy that provides sufficient protection and fulfills any requirements outlined by a commercial lease or client contract.
Small business owners can choose from many different types of business insurance to protect against different risks. For example, general liability insurance provides financial protection against accidents involving customers, while professional liability insurance pays for legal defense costs if a client sues over professional negligence or a mistake.
At this point, you can chat with a licensed Insureon agent to make sure you have the right coverage for your small business.
Pay for your policy or sign up for a payment plan. After the policy is issued, you can download a certificate of insurance. This document proves that the certificate holder is insured and includes important details about your policy. The certificate will include:
A certificate of insurance is free. Much like a receipt, the document is proof that the policyholder paid for the policy and has insurance.
The cost of the policy depends on the type of insurance, your policy limits, and business factors, such as revenue and number of employees. Read our small business insurance cost analysis for details about insurance costs.
You may need a certificate of liability insurance when you are looking to:
A client may request a certificate of insurance in the terms of a contract. It shows clients you have an effective risk management plan in the event of a lawsuit, which may give them financial protection against losses and damages.
Example: A computer repair business has a long-term contract with a local company. If a technician accidentally drops a client’s laptop during a repair, the computer repair company’s general liability policy covers the cost of replacing the broken laptop.
You may need a certificate of liability insurance to sign a lease for a new office, storefront, or other commercial space.
Example: Your accounting firm recently purchased commercial general liability insurance to fulfill the terms of its new commercial lease. A client trips on your new office’s front steps and sues to recoup medical bills from their bodily injury. This type of insurance policy protects you and your landlord from the costs of the lawsuit.
Businesses that hire contractors and subcontractors often want reassurance they will not be held responsible if someone working for them make a mistake. If the contractor has liability insurance, financial losses or damages that occur as a result of the contractor’s work are typically covered – without involving the business that hired the contractor.
Example: A construction company hires a contractor to install windows in an office. The completed windows don’t match the specifications outlined in the contract, resulting in thousands of dollars of overages. If the construction company required the contractor to obtain liability coverage, the cost of replacing the windows would be covered.
Establishing a good business reputation is hard work, especially when you’re just starting out. Liability insurance shows potential clients that your business can withstand common accidents and lawsuits, which increases your dependability.
Example: An accountant who is new to the industry offers tax preparation services to a potential client. Because the accountant has professional liability insurance, the client knows that losses will be paid for up to the coverage limits if a mistake is made. The accountant gets the contract, even though his reputation is not established.
A liability insurance policy won’t pay to repair or replace your business property. Commercial property insurance can cover the cost of business property that’s lost, stolen, or damaged. Small business owners can often combine this coverage with general liability insurance in a business owner's policy (BOP) for a discount.
Example: A frozen pipe bursts at a real estate agent’s office. Several computers are destroyed, and water damage has ruined the floor. Commercial property insurance helps cover the cost of replacing the destroyed computers and installing a new floor.
Liability insurance doesn’t cover losses if your business must temporarily close due to events like storms or fires. For that, you’ll need business interruption insurance, which can pay for day-to-day operating expenses, lost revenue, and other costs. It’s often included in commercial property insurance.
Example: A fire destroys the kitchen at your restaurant. Business interruption insurance pays your employees’ wages, rent on the building, and your lost income until you are able to reopen.
A certificate of insurance outlines important details about your insurance coverage. When those details change, such as limits or endorsements, you may need an updated certificate. That's especially true if you need to present a COI to a client or landlord to prove you have sufficient coverage.
Most insurance companies use a standard form for certificates of insurance. That means once you can read one form, you should be able to read them all.
Check out our guide on how to read a certificate of insurance form for help on understanding each section of the form. We also have a glossary of terms used in business insurance, which may help you understand your certificate.
If you still need help, feel free to ask an agent.
If you don't have sufficient coverage for a contract or lease, you'll need to go back to your insurer and increase your policy limits. Once you have increased the limits to meet the requirements, ask your insurance company to reissue the certificate so you can prove you have adequate coverage.
Each certificate of insurance covers only one type of business insurance. That means you may need several certificates of insurance to fulfill requirements for different types of coverage, such as:
For example, a general contractor might need both general liability insurance and workers' compensation insurance in order to sign a contract. The contractor would need to present the client with two certificates of insurance, one for each policy, to secure the job.