Certificate of Insurance: What It Is, How Businesses Can Get One

A certificate of insurance proves your company has business insurance. You may need to show it to your clients.
Rosalie Murphy
Katherine Fan
By Katherine Fan and  Rosalie Murphy 
Edited by Ryan Lane

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A certificate of insurance is a document provided by your business insurance provider that summarizes your company’s coverage. A COI proves that you’re insured in case of an accident or lawsuit, so potential clients and business partners may want to see a copy.

Some insurance companies allow you to access your certificate of insurance instantly online, but others may require you to request a copy.

Keep a copy of your COI on hand so you can show it to anyone who asks. It’s also a good idea to know how to have your insurance company send a copy to the person you’re doing business with, in case they’d rather receive it directly.

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What is a certificate of insurance?

A certificate of insurance for business is proof of your business insurance coverage. It typically includes a summary of the different types of insurance you have, as well as the terms of your coverage.

Commonly included information includes:

  • The business name, address and phone number.

  • The business owner’s name.

  • The name of your insurance company and contact information.

  • Your policy number(s).

  • Your policy expiration date.

  • The amount your insurance policy will pay for individual claims, as well as the maximum amount you are eligible to claim for the year.

  • Names and contact information of any other individuals listed on the policy, such as a business partner or an additional insured.

A certificate of insurance describes your insurance policy, but it is not your policy itself. That document is typically much longer and includes detailed information about what your insurance company covers and excludes.

Why do you need a certificate of insurance?

A COI allows you to quickly show others that your business is insured. For example, a commercial lease application may require you to provide a copy of your COI to show that you have general liability insurance in place.

Your company, in turn, can request COIs from other businesses to ensure that you are working with equally trustworthy partners.

If you hire subcontractors to help you complete your work, for example, you’ll want to request a copy of their COI. If you hire someone who does not have adequate insurance coverage, you and your business could be held liable for their mistakes if anything happens on a project you oversee.

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How do you get a certificate of insurance?

Online business insurance companies often allow you to view your COI online. You may even be able to share an electronic copy with businesses that ask for it or to have your insurance company email them a copy.

In other cases, you may have to request a copy of your COI via phone, email or your online account.

If you don’t already have business insurance, you’ll need a policy before you can access a COI. Getting business insurance is relatively straightforward if you know what types of coverage you need. You can easily get a business insurance quote online, or go the traditional route of calling an agent over the phone to sign up.

How do you add an additional insured to your certificate of insurance?

When you add a person or company as an additional insured on your certificate of insurance, your policy’s insurance coverage extends to them.

It’s common for contractors to add the business that hired them as an additional insured. For example, say you’re a fitness instructor teaching classes at a local studio. The studio may require you to carry general liability insurance and ask you to add their business as an additional insured. That way, if a client accuses you of hurting them and files a lawsuit, it’ll be your insurance policy that pays for the legal defense — not the studio’s.

Some insurance companies allow you to add additional insureds online, but others require you to call and talk to a staff member. Either way, your insurance company should be able to send a copy of your COI to your additional insureds.

How do you see another company’s certificate of insurance?

If you need to see another business owner’s COI, you’ll have to ask them to show you a copy. To make sure you’re seeing an original document, you may want to see if their insurance company can send you a copy directly.

Viewing another company's certificate of insurance lets you make sure their coverage is authentic and up to date. This is especially important when you’re hiring subcontractors, since you could end up being held liable for their work if they’re uninsured.

If you asked a business partner to add you as an additional insured, you should request a copy and make sure you see your business’s name on the COI.

How much does a certificate of insurance cost?

Most insurance companies will provide copies of your certificate of insurance for free.

How much business insurance costs depends on many variables, including your industry and number of employees, as well as the amount of coverage and types of insurance you choose to carry.

How long does it take to get a certificate of insurance?

Some business insurance companies let you access your COI instantly through your online account. In other cases, you may have to request a copy and you or your business partners will receive it via email.

For example:

  • When you buy a policy through online insurance company Next, you immediately get access to an online certificate of insurance that you can share with others electronically.

  • With Hiscox, you can enter your email address and policy number online and generate a copy of your COI.

  • If your policy is with The Hartford, you can request a copy of your COI online and receive it via email, typically within a few hours.