How to verify an insurance certificate

Get a COI in 60 secondsGet a Quote

Insurance is an essential part of all business management. And one of the most important aspects of the broader insurance umbrella is obtaining, tracking, and managing Certificates of Insurance (COI). It’s also one of the hardest parts.

This guide covers how to verify insurance certificates for all relevant parties.

Certificate management can be a complex task, especially if you work with a wide variety of vendors, contractors, or other parties who need liability coverage. In the world of small business especially, insurance certificate management often means a mess of email chains, spreadsheets, and confusion for all parties involved.

But there’s a better way to manage this chaos.

Let’s discuss.

How is insurance verified?

To prove that insurance coverage exists for a given insured party, a COI is often required by a third party. For a policyholder, the COI is a physical or digital form that proves the insured has a particular type of coverage, most often a liability or casualty coverage that protects the insured against claims by third parties.

In any context in which an insurance plan must be verified by an employer, regulatory body, legal representative, a business associate, or a client, a COI is the final proof.

A COI is not a contract, but it is evidence that an insurance contract exists, between the named insured and the insurance carrier.

COIs can be complex documents to understand. They also are targets for forgery and fraud. If you’re in a situation in which you need to verify that a client, vendor, or any other party has the proper insurance policy, you’ll need to verify that the COI you’re presented is legitimate and up to date.

An most important step toward verifying that a COI is legitimate is knowing…

What to look for on a COI

Luckily, COIs are relatively uniform documents. They usually comprise one page of information organized in recognizable patterns. This uniformity comes from the standardization of the ACORD 25 form, an industry form used to evidence some of the standard liability insurance coverages and the one which we’ll discuss below.

First, here’s the list of things to look for to ensure that what you’re looking at is a bona fide COI, not an illegitimate fraud:

Basic information about the policy issuance and parties involved, including the insured, the producer, and the coverage provider:

  • Effective date of policy
  • Producer who is servicing the policy
  • Named insured and contact information
  • Insurerars, the companies providing coverage, labeled using letters

Detailed information about the specific coverages provided, divided into rows separating specific coverages in the policy (general liability insurance, automobile liability, workers’ compensation, excess/umbrella, etc.). For each row and coverage type, the following information is presented in separate columns:

  • Insurer’s reference using the aforementioned lettering system to label the appropriate insurers providing the coverage
  • Additional Insured(s), indicated by “yes” (Y or X) or “no” (N or N/A)
  • SUBR WVD, indicating whether the subrogation right is waived
  • Policy number, in a string of digits and letters
  • Policy effective date, including time in some cases
  • Policy expiration date, including time in some cases
  • Limits for each listed coverage, where applicable, by name and dollar amount
  • Description of operations, locations, and vehicles covered, as applicable

Final information on the certificate holder, closing matters, and signature of the producer issuing the certificate:

  • Certificate holder, matching “Insured” above
  • A statement that the insurer may, but is not obligated to notify the certificate holder in the event of cancellation of the policies shown on the certificate
  • Authorization representative of the insurer

These features are present on valid COIs. For a more detailed breakdown of what each part entails, check out our dedicated guide on how to read a COI.

These features don’t just appear on all COIs by coincidence. In most insurance contexts, including all policies arranged by Thimble, a COI is a version of the standard form ACORD 25 Certificate of Insurance.

ACORD 25: Standard documentation

ACORD 25 is just one of the standards produced by The Association for Cooperative Operations Research and Development (ACORD), the nonprofit organization responsible for generating many standard forms used across the property and casualty insurance industry.

Established in 1970, ACORD’s vast library of over 1200 transaction types facilitates the work of over 36,000 participating organizations in 100 countries all over the world. It’s also responsible for training related to those standards, as well as the collection, analysis, and maintenance of data pertaining to insurance transactions worldwide.

Almost every insurance company uses some of ACORD’s tools, and for good reason.

Since much of the property and casualty industry operates on ACORD forms, insurance verification can be nearly uniform for all stakeholders, from insurance providers to policyholders. That uniformity makes efficiency and seamlessness possible in an industry otherwise defined by a rigorous accounting of so many possible contingencies.

Certificate management

Standardization is a blessing. It streamlines the verification process, making it feasible for companies to process a high volume of COIs for many different policies, coverages, and insureds. But even with standardized forms, COI management can be difficult for many larger companies with vast networks of strategic partners.

The sheer volume and complexity of data produced by COIs pertaining to each contractor, vendor, and other insured produces challenges.

That’s why Thimble has developed an all-in-one solution for certificate management.

Automate certificate management with Thimble

The Thimble Certificate Manager, currently available for early access through our Beta Program, is the simplest way to manage COIs for all the relevant parties in your organization. From verification to processing, it does it all.

In one place, you can handle every step of the insurance certification process:

  • Set up multiple projects
  • Select requirements, per project
  • Alert contractors and vendors with one click
  • Receive, verify, and record COIs automatically
  • This goes for all COIs across your entire organization. That means no more emails or tracking different file types across any number of incompatible programs. It means no more wondering if a vendor’s COI is current or legitimate.

It means no more worrying about certificate management.

The best part about our Certificate Manager? It’s completely free and you do not even have to be a Thimble customer! (Though, we really hope you will want to be!!) That accessibility is part of our overall mission of simplifying every element of insurance.

Do you manage COIs? Stay organized.

Try the Thimble Certificate Manager, a free platform to help you organize + automate approving subcontractor documents.

Thimble: COI & insurance, simplified

We’re committed to simplifying and optimizing all elements of business insurance. Our model allows us to tailor an insurance plan for the specific needs of your business.

That’s why we offer a variety of different liability coverage packages, including options tailored to over 120 professions, including:

All of our plans maximize flexibility, enabling you to purchase coverage by the hour, day, or month. That way, you only pay for the insurance coverage you need, saving money on hours you wouldn’t use. Plus, registration can be done in under 60 seconds.

Click on “Get a Quote,” or download the Thimble app, and get started today!

The content on this page has been verified by
Terri Hitchcock, JD
Chief Insurance Officer, Thimble
Terri has 38 years of industry experience and knows a thing or two about insurance, so she reviewed and approved everything on this page.

How do I get business insurance?

Get a quote from Thimble in less than 60 seconds and get your Certificate of Insurance instantly.

Get the Thimble App and experience the total flexibility of your policy anywhere, anytime, in an instant.