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Survey: Certificate vs. Policy Limits

Author: VU Faculty

This article was the June 2003 Survey from Your "VUPoint". Here are your opinions about "Certificate vs. Policy Limits".


Your insured contractor has gotten a job where the insurance requirements include at least $1,000,000 in CGL coverage. Your insured has a $2,000,000 CGL occurrence limit. He doesn't want them to know that he has this much insurance, so he asks you to issue the certificate showing a $1,000,000 limit, as required in the contract. So, what do you show on the certificate...$1,000,000 or $2,000,000?

(Note: IIABA does not necessarily agree with any of the following viewpoints, nor attest to their accuracy. Each comment is the responsibility of the person submitting it.) 

Here are your "VUpoints":
$2,000,000 Limit    80 responses  (50%)
$1,000,000 Limit    79 responses  (50%)




We try never to issue a cert without accurate information. We would not issue the cert except with the 2M limit.

Limit should be $2,000,000. The certificate does not convey insurance coverage, it only shows current status. If a claim is filed, the contractor will not be able to hide the other $1MM anyway.

You must show the correct policy limits. The certificate may not alter any coverage information.

$2,000,000. The Cert doesn't amend the terms and conditions of the policy.


The certificate should reflect the policy limits.

$2 Mil-it's a question of ethics. Additionally you leave yourself open to suit should there be a loss and it's subsequently determined there was more coverage than you listed!

2,000,000. I would show the policy limits $2,000,000 since I am certifying the limits of the policy # shown. The certificate say that "limits shown may have been reduced by paid claims" - so if there have been any claims, they may not have the full $1,000,000.

You have to show limits issued on policy. $2,000,000.

I would use the limit of $2,000,000 as that what reflects the policy, the contract states. The only way I would use something different is if language could be drafted like many automobile ID cards, i.e. "limits meets or exceeds minimum required limits."

I believe you have to show the true limits of the policy. Otherwise you are intentionally issuing a misleading document. You do not have to show that he has an umbrella if the client does not want that information disclosed. The other question is on the aggregate. A certificate usually shows the full aggregate which very well could be less due to a claim of which we are aware of. While we might not know the amount the claim will reduce the aggregate, we have a good idea it will be impaired somewhat.


Issue at $2,000,000 as that is what policy says.

You type what the policy states. All certificates state what the policy reads any different from the policy and it is incorrect. Conversely, if he needed 2,000,000 and only had 1,000,000 would you type 2,000,000 without requesting the limits increased from the company. You state what the policy states - nothing more, nothing less.

I realize that the certificate, in general, confers no contractual rights on the holder and is for information purposes only. However, the ACORD Forms Instruction Guide, with regard to showing limits says, "Enter limits corresponding to those found on the policy declarations page." More important, if an agent is involved in a lawsuit and it is pointed out that the certificate shows a limit less than the actual limit, I believe the plaintiff's attorney would have a field day using that as "proof" that the agent doesn't mind misrepresenting coverages. The defense attorney can make a speech about the history and legal significance of a certificate, but who do you think the jury is going to believe? I believe that they'll believe the agent falsifies information as a normal business practice. Besides, by showing only $1M, who do you think you're fooling? The plaintiff's attorney will find out the true limits in short order.

I vote for showing the entire limit as you are certifying the information on the policy. Now if they also have an umbrella policy, there is no reason you would have to indicate that policy on the certificate.

$2,000,000. The cert should represent what is on the policy, period.

$2 million. The risk to the agent of knowingly showing the wrong limit is greater than the benefit perceived by the client for showing a lower limit.

Show the actual limit of liability- $2,000,000 each occurrence. The Certificate is intended to show the coverage in effect, not what you want to show as being in effect.

The agent should show the actual policy limit. Unless it's an unusual form, the signatory certifies that the insured has been issued the policies shown with the limits shown. To show a lower limit would be inaccurate and misleading.

I believe you should show the $2,000,000 of coverage. As an issuer of the certificate, you are certifying that the policies listed have been issued to the insured. Not only are you certifying that the policies have been issued, but you are certifying the limits of insurance purchased. I believe understating the limits is just as wrong as overstating them.

Not to be a "spoil sport", but I don't believe we can put whatever limits we feel like on a Certificate. By definition, we are "certifying" policy limits. That is what I would show.

I think you should always show what the policy states.

Since the certificate represents coverage on the policy, I believe I would have to show actual coverages on the certificate., i.e. $2,000,000.

I do not know why you would even ask. You show the actual policy limits. If I am willing to lie about the limits what else would I lie about?

By listing $1,000,000 you may prejudice the limits available. The cert should reflect the actual contracts limits.

My understanding of the purpose of a certificate of insurance is to advise the certificate holder of the "existence of and extent of" insurance held by the

policyholder, it would not be ethical, in my view, to provide incorrect or inaccurate information. My approach would be to either present the certificate accurately or not to provide it all.

2 million.

The policy has a limit of $2,000,000 so the certificate should say $2,000,000.

$2,000,000 limit. Since the policy must be listed as primary, it should show the true limit. However, if this was an Umbrella policy, you can show just the limit required if actual is higher.

The truth is the truth is the truth. The Certificate must reflect the actual policy limits. Anything less than the truth is a lie.

The limits of the policy in compliance with my obligation to the carrier to show the limits provided by the policy. 


2,000,000. Certificates must reflect what is on the policy. 

In the unlikely event that the Loyal Opposition in a litigation matter might just file suit over an agent knowingly falsifying limits of an insurance policy, but not coverage under the policy, I should ask the underwriter for guidance. If the underwriter says OK, then I should document the discussion attach a copy to the insured's file, close the office and head to the Bahamas until the coast was clear to come back home. If the underwriter says not to do it, I should so inform the insured and prepare to lose the account or my head.

State true limit as certificate should reflect actual coverage at time of issuance.

$2,000,000 - How much he wants them to know has no bearing on anything.

You would show the 2,000,000 limit as the certificate should indicate the coverage provided by the policy.

$2mm - or it's a "representation, not a certification.

This question more often applies to excess coverage than it does to the primary policy. I will generally always show the full amount of my primary policy limits (e.g. if $500K of EL coverage is required, I will show my entire $1 million), however, if the contract calls for $5 million in excess coverage, that is precisely what I would show on the certificate, and not my entire $100 million.

I would use the policy limit of $2,000,000. because this is the limit provided by the policy.

Ethically and legally, I would show $2,000,000 and explain to the insured that this is company procedure and an E&O exposure.

Why does he not want them to know his true limits? I would put the correct limits on the cert. Makes no difference at claim time what he discloses, the full limits apply.

$2,000,000. Limit. The contractor must be worried about a claim situation. It would take the adjuster about one second to determine what limits he has in case of a loss.

You show the $2,000,000 since these are the accurate limits and due to fraud and misrepresentation you are protecting yourself on e&o.

$2,000,000. $1,000,000 would not be correct as that is not the limit on the policy.

$2,000,000 - The policy shows $2,000,000 and that is what should be shown on the certificate. I think agents that alter documents to suit the requests of insureds set themselves up for an E&O claim. In the event of a claim, the client will say they never asked for the limit to be shown differently. It will never be their fault. Unfortunately, there are many agents out there that are willing to issue documents stating whatever the insured requests, without regard to what the contract actually says. We run up against this practice on a regular basis. There are several large General Contractors who are "dictating" how we should be writing coverage, regardless of how it impacts our client or our carriers. Our agency has taken a stand against altering documents, and while we have lost some business, at least we can sleep at night knowing we have done a good job for our clients.

Put 2 mill b/c you have to show what the policy limits are. You might lose the account but deep down the insured will know his agent has integrity.

$2 million - you need to show the current limits on the policy otherwise it is not a "true" certificate showing the current limits of the policy.


The certificate must show the policy limits, $2,000,000. The reason is that you are certifying the limits. If a claim occurred you wouldn't want a cert. showing limits less than that of the policy limits to surface, say, in court.

2,000,000 because certificates are meant to show what coverage the insured has on his current policy.

$2,000,000 - it's the right thing to do.

$2,000,000 you list what they have on the certificate.

We show the full limits.


I would go with the actual policy limits of $2 million as I don't believe that we have the authority to alter the policy limits without company consent.

$2,000,000 - You always show what the insured HAS, not what he wants to claim he has, whether lower or higher.


You should only put what is on the policy. It is misrepresentation. Stay with the $2,000,000.

My understanding is the Certificate is a "snapshot" of the policy, so I would put $2,000,000.


$2,000,000 - The Certificate cannot differ from the policy contract. Have the contractor get 1 mil for the specific job, increase his umbrella by 1 mil and not list the umbrella on the certificate.

We show the actual policy limits on the certificate, however the umbrella may only show the required contract limit.


$2,000,000 because you are verifying insurance as shown on the policy contract. Unless you get approval by an underwriter an agent can not alter any coverage on a Certificate of Insurance.

$2,000,000 - STATED ON THE POLICY.

You could omit a policy (such as umbrella) but you cannot show liability limits other than provided by the CGL policy.


I would never issue a cert altering the limits than are on the actual policy.

It is unethical to misrepresent the insured's coverage in a Certificate of Insurance. The agent is representing the Certificate Limits to be those in force. The fact that the limits are in fact higher than required does not mitigate the misrepresentation. Further, what is more important is whether or not the insured's limits are impaired by incurred claims in the policy period. Most Certificate holders seem to ignore any attention to this issue when requesting certificates.

$2,000,000, otherwise it is a misrepresentation. Also, contact the carrier to determine if they will reduce the limit to the one million for the job in question. Certs must track the policy limits.

$2,000,000 is the coverage provided.

I think you have to show what they have, but not necessarily an umbrella policy.

I would advise him that I must show what is on his policy. Do do what he wants would be an untruth and unethical.

$2,000,000. Agents lack the authority to change terms/limits of the existing contract.

I would indicate the $2,000,000 limit on the certificate. The reason being their certificate is to reflect the actual coverages provided by the policy.

The certificate should evidence what the policy limits are. Anything less is not fully truthful.

$2,000,000 because a certificate is a snapshot of the policy.

$2,000,000 - you cannot deviate from coverage shown on dec. 




Put in the $1MM limits.

I see nothing wrong with showing a limit of liability less than the actual limit on the policy. It is no more of a variance than if you show the full limits of liability even though the aggregate limits have been reduced by previous claims. It is just a snapshot of coverage and limits to satisfy the needs of the certificate holder. In this case, the certificate holder's needs are served by showing the limit he requires.

We only show the limits requested for primary and Umbrella. We would show $1,000,000.

We show the limits they are required to carry.

1 mil limits. It's the insured's policy, the real limits will come out in the lawsuit. 

I would show the $1,000,000. I don't believe there is any issue involved in showing a lower limit to certificate holders.

I would do what the insured asks since the limit required is lower than what he actually has and he is my client.

We issue the $1,000,000 limit to comply with insured's request.

We show full policy limits unless the insured request to show minimum limits required by contract. It is to time consuming to edit limits on a per certificate basis and it is too confusing to issue renewal certificates. On a few large accounts that have $50,000,000 umbrella, we issue with a $10,000,000 umbrella as that usually meets their contract requirements.

Show the $1MM limit. Contract may have disclaimer which states regardless of limit required, the insured is not limited in its liability exposure. Secondly, if contract has "add'l insd" limit by stating the $1MM limit, it only puts insd in a position of sharing its $1MM limit with the "add'l insd." In addition, sub-note could be include to show the insd's limit as "a minimum of $1MM."

$1,000,000 - this is what I was taught where I worked - citing the same reasoning as the insured's request. Only show the limits of insurance requested - same goes if someone asks to be named as additional insured on another's policy. Endorse only the limit of insurance requested, even if the policyholders limit is much higher.

This is a tough one! Both ethical and legal considerations. I would chat with underwriter for guidance & discuss pro & con issues with policyholder. Clearly, the $1,000,000 limit meets the requirements of the certificate holder and is within existing policy limits; it is good business for a policyholder to not reveal extraneous information. I'm not sure exactly how I'd do it but I'd strive to accommodate the policyholder's request within legal framework.

$1,000,000 - The certificate simply shows he is in compliance with the insurance requirements. The certificate is not a contract between the insurance company and the certificate holder, it is simply a way to show that the insured has the required coverages and limits.

I'd show $1,000,000. The COI is for informational purposes, and as long as coverage meets the contract requirement, that's enough for me. It is comparable to omitting the umbrella coverage on a COI when it's not requested or required. In the event of a claim, ALL of the limits and coverages will be discovered, regardless of what's on the COI... trust me!

$1,000,000. You are certifying that insured has the required limit asked for. This meets the contractual obligation. If our insured had an umbrella, I would not show it either.

Show the $1,000,000 limit.

$1,000,000. They have the required amount. What the insured purchases over and above that is not the certificate holder's business. In many cases this will be a $1M CSL primary policy with an excess policy above that, and we will list only the primary policy on the certificate.


Several times I have been asked by my clients to issue certificates with limits that do not accurately reflect the actual policy limits. I have set a precedent in our agency that doing this is ok. To answer your survey I would have to answer the $1,000.000 limit as that is what I have done in the past.

A certificate of insurance is not a contract between the preparer and the recipient. Certifying limits of something less than are carried is in no way deceiving the recipient who may happen to require lower limits than those carried. Such a certificate does not change the insurer requirement to respond to the limits being carried.

$1,000,000 Would think excess limits over what Certificate holder asked for

is private information of the insured.

I would show only $1,000,000 per request by Insured.

Why not issue the certificate the way the insured wants, at 1,000,000? It's his coverage, the limit shown would meet the contract requirement. And it's not as if you are adding coverage, you're just showing what's required.

A certificate is issued as a matter of information only. Does not amend, extend, or bla bla bla.............Issue it for $1,000,000 - as long as it is lower than the actual policy limit there should be not problem. NEVER, of course, show a limit that is higher than the policy limit.

I would be comfortable showing $1,000,000 as the contract only calls for at least $1,000,000.

$1,000,000 as it is the required limit per the contract.


I would issue, per the insured's instructions, showing the $1mill limits but indicate in the comment section of the cert: "limits shown are per insured's request--policy may, or may not, exceed limits shown". (I would also ask for the underwriter's opinion/approval.)

If the contract only requires $1,000,000, we would just show the GL policy and not the Umbrella. If the primary GL limit is $2,000,000, we would probably only show $1,000,000.

I see no reason why the agent cannot comply with the insured's request. As long as the limit "certified" is not greater than that provided by the policy. Where is the harm if he certifies less than the policy limits? The insured is not damaged, he asked for certification at the lower limits. The certificate holder got a certificate that certified to the limits he requested, he didn't object when he got the certificate - he has no right to object later. There is no agreement between the agent and the certificate holder - the agent owes no duty to the certificate holder, the agent's principal is the insured and he is bound to follow his direction absent any duty to the certificate holder. If there is any dispute it is between the insured and the certificate holder but I find it difficult to believe that a court would hold the insured responsible for certifying only the amount required and not the full limits. The insured's valid argument would be he was attempting to reserve the additional limits for other jobs where the certificate holder was not an additional insured, etc.

$1,000,000 - is not incorrect, and my duty is to my client not the certificate holder.

$1,000,000. The contract as described says contractor must have that limit. The policy does provide that limit, and more.

$1,000,000. If that satisfies the certificate holder, that should be all that is needed to be shown.

You can show $1,000,000 due to the disclaimer located on the reverse side of the cert. "nor does it affirmatively or negatively amend, extend or alter the coverage afforded by the policies thereon." Also the 2 disclaimers on the front.

$1,000,000. The contract usually states to provide evidence of the insurance required. Only $1MM is required by contract, why show $2MM?

If that's what the client wants we would show the $1 Million. Typically we develop a "template" certificate that would show all coverages up to and including a $1 Million or $5 Million umbrella depending on the type and size of jobs/clients they do work. Anything over that we only supply by request if required by contract. Having a template results in less errors upon issuance.

$1,000,000 - The certificate simply shows he is in compliance with the insurance requirements. The certificate is not a contract between the insurance company and the certificate holder, it is simply a way to show that the insured has the required coverages and limits.

$1,000,000; limits carried by the contractor in excess of those required by the contract are basically none of the other party's business (except that more may be available if other claims have been paid within the aggregate limit) and I don't see how anyone is harmed by this understatement of the actual limits. I choose to interpret the limits shown on the certificate as "not less than...." I would also not show the separate $5,000,000 umbrella carried by my contractor. What's the difference? From my point of view, one problem with automated (web-based) certificate issuance systems is that (I assume) they can only show the policy limits as recorded in their system.

I would use $1,000,000. It's not a misrepresentation. He does have $1,000,000. If he chooses to have more its none of the certificate holder's business.

You are perfectly legal to submit certificates with less limits - just not legal to state higher limits than policy limits. Too much information is not a good thing. Especially where customer service is concerned.

$1,000,000 - the contract calls for $1mill, and we are certifying that he is in compliance with the contract. Client does not have to disclose any more info than the contract demands - so why would he? Further, the COI issued is indeed accurate. Just as you would not disclose the existence of an Umbrella on a Certificate if it is not necessary by reason of limit requirements, how far does one need to go to detail the coverages or extensions of a policy noted on a COI? (I'm thinking of Pollution extensions, E&O extensions - or restrictions, for that matter. I was always taught that if there is a claim going on, the LAST thing the insurer wants to have on the street is the limits carried! Same thing as the Cert, that's my feeling.

$1,000,000. It's a white lie, but it is all the information the certificate holder is entitled to. He has no contractual relationship with me.

To me this is no different than having 3M umbrella limit but only showing 1M on a cert. Since the CGL is owned by the insured then he/she should be able to show only the limit that is required by contract and as long as the insured's cert does not EXCEED the actual limit available then in my opinion this is a prudent action on the insured's behalf and should help to minimize a litigious minded person from thinking they may have the possibility to score "BIG" by filing suit against the insured. The certificate is a representative document of available limits, NOT a listing of MAXIMUM limits available to the insured under their policy. If the insured has auto coverage but is not required by contract to have the coverage nor required to evidence it on a cert, is the insured wrong if they do not disclose this information on a certificate?? Not in my opinion.

Since they aren't legal docs anyhow, sure I'd do it.

$1,000,000 as it meets the contract, the client requested this and a certificate does not change or alter any policy coverage, etc.

We typically type the required limits (if less than policy limits). On many of our clients contracts they are required to include the certificate holder as additional insured in addition to just providing evidence of coverage. Often our companies will provide blanket additional insured endorsements that provide coverage up to the limit required in the contracts. The certificates even if not showing additional insured do not add or limit coverage and are just evidence that certain limits are carried. We also do not typically show additional coverages, such as professional liability and pollution liability on the certificate, even if potentially needed for the contract, unless required.

$1,000,000 - I don't believe we are obligated to provide any more info about an insured than the certificate holder requests.


Show $1 million limit.


I would show the 1MM limit the client requested - the certificate is not a contract of insurance, only certificate of compliance with coverage requirements.

I always show what is asked for and never show my entire limit on the policy. This is just a preference, as we almost always have higher limits than what is required. There is no need to get people thinking that they can obtain higher judgments or present a larger claim by showing you have significantly higher limits on your policy.

You can issue showing $1m, but that will not limit the amount of available coverage. A claimant can still recover up the actual policy limit; in this case $2m.

$1,000,000--c/b material misrepresentation if there is a claim.

Normally companies write $1,000,000 of basic coverage then go to an umbrella policy over and above that. For this reason it's easy, you show the $1,000,000 basic limit and don't show the umbrella coverage as it's not requested.

I'd issue with the lower limit.

The insured is required to certify at least a certain limit and that is all that needs to be shown. The insured is not being requested to "disclose all the insurance you have."

$1,000,000 because the goal of the cert is to provide proof that the minimum requirements are met and coverage is in place, nothing more.

$1,000,000. The fact that the insured's policy provides more coverage than is required is privileged information between the agent, the company and the insured. As the certificate is issued for the benefit of the certificate holder, he should be provided no more information than is required and authorized by the policy owner.

$1,000,000 as requested by the Insured. As long as it isn't less, I believe you are providing the coverage for both parties.

$1,000,000 - He gets what he asked for. I have clients who understand the Certificate process and only want the minimum requested shown.

$1,000,000. Since we are not providing higher limits on the certificate than the insured actually has, it would seem that there could be no downside to doing the certificate this way.

$1,000,000. Insured's request. Policy provides at least this limit (plus some). Insured has a legitimate reason for such a request. If attorneys want to find out the total liability limit they can wait till the discovery phase of a trial.

To be completely accurate, you should use $2,000,000. But they actually do have $1,000, $1,000,000 it seems reasonable that you could put just the $1,000,000. If you do a property or inland marine certificate you can limit the amount shown to only that portion of the total limit which concerns the cert holder, but I'm not so sure it's legal to do that with GL limits.

We would show $1,000,000. The certificate is no more than a piece paper used for information only, it's not a binding document. I see no reason not to show a lesser limit if that is all that is required.

$1 Million - this limit meets the job requirements and insured pays the bill!

Show whatever he wants... up to the actual policy limits. We do it all the time on an account or two around here. Why alert the potential plaintiff just how large your wallet is when all he wants to know is do you have at least this much?

We show $1,000,000.

$1,000,000--no need to show the higher limit of coverage. Just show what is required as long as adequate coverage is in force.

I think that you can issue the certificate reflecting the requested policy limit of $1,000,000. because it is an amount that is less than the policy limits.

I'd go with the client's request. By doing so you are not restricting nor limiting coverage.


I would put $1,000,000 per the insured's request. Not really a big deal because his limits meet the insurance requirements.

I haven't run into this on the primary CGL but have often on the excess or umbrella where a contract requests a lower amount than what the insured carries. Clients will often ask us to show only what is required by their contract and we comply. We do discuss with the insured that the usual contract wording does not limit their liability to the required limits.

$1,000,000 on certificate.... the cert holder only required that limit to be met therefore that is what the insured requested and that can be the limit on the cert. The contract language is satisfied.

The request is to satisfy a requirement, not respond to an inquiry. Many insureds have very high limit excess policies. In response to a requirement to verify a specific limit, it is perfectly appropriate to give that limit and not the total limits of all available coverage.


The cert is intended to be a snapshot of available coverage. Even that is questionable since if some of the aggregate limit has been used up, the cert may not reflect actual remaining limits. So, I would go with what my client requests and put $1,000,000. It is not a lie that the contractor has $1,000,000 available. Of course, I would never go the other way and put higher limits than his policy on the cert!

Show limits request of insured, which satisfies the contract.

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