Additional Insured Certificates: they are just a piece of paper, unless they are part of a contract or there is an insurable interest

There seems to be a hue and cry about collecting additional insured certificates. Unless you need TP or want to wall paper an office wall, they are worthless unless the insurance company/business issuing the certificate recognizes an insurance defined insurable interest, in advance, or you have a contract that identifies an insurable interest and recognizes the need for the certificate.

The latest catch word after this fall’s conferences runs seems to be collect additional insured certificates from everyone. Although this sound’s good and an easy way to solve a problem, legally, it is just another way to kill trees. If nothing else, it will keep you in litigation for another decade between your insurance company and the one issuing the certificate fighting over whether it is valid.

Most Additional Insured Certificates of Zero value to you from an insurance standpoint.

The basis for issuing a certificate listing someone else as an additional insured, or covered by a particular policy is there must be an insurable interest.

Indemnity – Insurable Interest

Insurable interest arose out of defining indemnity. You agree to indemnify another party of their loss. The simplest way to look at this is your relationship with you and your automobile insurance policy. If you have a loss to your car, your insurance policy will indemnify you for that loss. Insurance companies have taken that one step further these days by taking over the loss and doing all the legwork, including paying the repair facility directly.

When those indemnification agreements were larger than the money on hand or the value of the business issuing the indemnification, other ways were developed to “come up with the money” to cover the indemnification. Eventually, insurance played a role in indemnifying a third party for the losses they might incur, even though the insurance policy is issued in the name of the insured.

Think about you, a certificate of insurance is issued to the insured, which was underwritten and covers someone else who was not. Don’t you think there is more to this than just issuing a piece of paper?

Issuing Policy must cover risks of the claims identified in the certificate or the agreement.

By the very nature of the definition, simplified above, you can see there are several issues present. The insurance policy is only going to cover the third party for risks that are insured. That means if the policy issued to you says it will only cover A, B and C as risks, then a claim of Z by the third party will not be covered. No matter what the certificate of insurance says, it only covers the risks insured by the original policy for the original insured.

So even before we get to whether the certificate is valid, you must make sure the policy issuing the certificate lists the claims that the certificate is expected to cover.

You have to look at the certificate itself and see if it covers anything, let alone what you need.

Legally recognizable insurable interest

The next issue is insurance policies only cover if there is a legally recognizable interest in the possible loss. That is called an “insurable interest.”

An insurable interest means the person buying the policy has a legally recognized loss that the policy will cover. The best examples are in the negative.  I cannot buy an insurance policy on my neighbor’s house. I don’t own the house; the house does not secure a debt the neighbor owes me. I have nothing invested in the neighbor’s house; therefore, I have no insurable interest in the neighbor’s house.

Another example would be life insurance. I do not have an insurable interest that would be recognized to buy a life insurance policy on my neighbor. My neighbor’s death would not cause me a loss.

Normally, life insurance policies are only issued to relatives of the insured. The exception is if you could prove an economic loss to you because someone died. So business partners can buy life insurance policies on each other because if one partner died, the other would have to hire someone to do that partners work, and you might have to buy the surviving family members of the deceased interest in the business.

Example; my neighbor and I contractually agreed upon the death of one of us to take care of the other’s property. I would then suffer a loss if my neighbor died so I might be able to purchase a life insurance policy on my neighbor. I would have to prove the contract existed and that a real value existed for the loss I might incur. I would have to prove by contract that I have an insurable interest in my neighbor.

I’m using examples in property insurance, life and health insurance and liability insurance to get these points across. An insurable interest is different in the different types of polices, health, life, property or liability, but not enough to worry about for this discussion.

Insurable interest

Insurable interests arise “naturally” in the law. When a building is purchased the bank making the loan to finance the purchase has an insurable interest. If the property is destroyed, then the banks’ chances of receiving the rest of the loan are diminished, therefore, there is an insurable interest in the bank to insure against loss. Either the bank can buy a policy covering the property or the bank can require as part of the loan that the owner/borrower insure the property for the value of the property listing the bank as an additional insured.

Landlords have a similar insurable interest. They are listed as additional insured’s under their tenant’s policy. If the property is destroyed by actions of the tenant, the landlord will lose the property or at least the rental income. Therefore, they have an insurable interest recognized by the insurance company issuing the tenant’s policy.

Another example is a ski area operating on US Forest Service land. The US Forest Service is the landowner or landlord, and the ski area is the tenant. If the ski area destroys the property, the US Forest Service suffers a loss. So the US Forest Service is listed under the ski area’s policy as an additional insured, and the Forest Service is reimbursed for the loss of value to their land.

This particular insurable interest covers two issues for the US Forest Service. It covers any loss to the property the Forest Service may have, and it protects them from lawsuits if they are joined in a suit with the ski area. The ski area, as the permittee (or tenant) was responsible for the property at the time of the injury to the guest skiing. The US Forest Service did not make the snow, groom or run the lifts; however, as the landlord or owner of the property, the Forest Service maybe sued. As such, the US Forest Service has an insurable interest covered by the ski area for a possible lawsuit.

General or Special Liability Policies and Insurable Interest

Liability interests work the same way. If a skier hits a tree in the ski area and suffers injury, the skier can sue the ski area or the US Forest Service. The ski area is the tenant who received value for the skier being on the land, and the US Forest Service owns the tree. Both can be sued. The agreement between the Forest Service and the ski area then says the ski area must protect the Forest Service from any lawsuit due to the ski area’s occupation or control of the land. By contract and law, the Forest Service has an insurable interest that will be recognized by the ski area’s insurance company.

The owner of the land where a rafting company takes their passenger’s and boats out of the water has an insurable interest. If someone falls down getting out of the boat, both may be sued. Was it the rafting companies fault for where they put the boat or the landowner’s for how the takeout was created? Since the landowner has limited control over the takeout while being used by the rafting company, he should be covered as an additional insured because he has an insurable interest. The chance of a lost due to the acts of someone he contracts with creating liability for him.

What about a restaurant that provides lunches to the rafting company? Who should receive the certificate of additional insured from whom? The rafting company could be sued because the lunch made a customer ill. The rafting company should receive a certificate of insurance from the lunch provider. At the same time, the illness may have been caused by the way the lunch was stored or prepared, so therefore the lunch provider should be an additional insured on the Rafting company’s policy.

It is these situations where both insurance companies can struggle during litigation or a contract properly written in advance might save one or both company’s time and money.

What if the rafting company stops and has their customers walk up the bank and have lunch in a restaurant at the side of the river? If the lunches are part of the trip and the restaurant is the only option, maybe the rafting company should receive a certificate of insurance from the restaurant. However, if the customer is free to pick any meal, they want from one of the several restaurants, probably not. That would be like a restaurant on the side of an interstate asking for certificates of insurance from all trucking companies.

Would the possible insurable interest change if the rafting company received a commission from the restaurant? Yes, the insurable interest would be more compelling because there is a clear financial benefit flowing between the parties. What if the restaurant provided free lunches to the raft guides?

Unless the insurance company recognizes, either by industry or insurance practice that an insurable interest exists or that one is created by contract, that is covered under the policy, having a piece of paper with additional insured on it with you name means nothing. You must prove an insurable interest to prove legal coverage.

(And that is not even getting into the disclaimers listed on many certificates.)

Where are certificates of insurance valid by practice in the outdoor recreation industry? Between:

·         Retailers and Manufacturers

·         Landlords and Tenants

·         Federal Land Managers and Concession or Permit Holders

·         Contractors and the Hiring Company

Every other situation you should check with your attorney or get a contract that identifies the insurable interest and requires a certificate of insurance is issued with coverage for the issue. Even better, require that the contract be given to the insuring insurance company and the necessary language into the contract be incorporated into the certificate of insurance. Otherwise, you may spend more time and money litigating with the certificate issues covers the issue that was litigated.

Issuing additional insured certificates without thinking the process through is also a risk. First insurance companies look at how many and who you issue certificates too. If they see large number or risks or big risks, they can and do increase your premium to cover the additional risks.  So make sure you understand why and the value of issuing a certificate of insurance from your policy also.

Every year when prior to your policy coming up for renewal, you should look through your list of parties you issue certificates of insurance to and see if they still need to be issued. Once you list someone the list is never reduced or culled except by you. I’ve seen insurance policies with over a hundred business listed as insurable interests. When we got done, we only had twenty certificates to issue. Many of the old certificates were issued to companies the client was no longer doing business with or with business who had gone out of business.

This does affect your premium so be aware!

Do Something

Without an insurable interest, a certificate of insurance is worthless and probably is going to be costly. Any insurance company paying a claim is going to look for anyone else to share in that claim. Consequently, they will pull the insured into the claim knowing it may not be valid, but willing to fight that issue out in later years. You requesting your insurance company to issue certificates could pull you into litigation both the original and the later certificate validity litigation for years, for something you had no legal interest in.

Just issuing the certificate or receiving one is not enough. You must identify when and how it is valid. That requires a contract. That contract must say more than you will issue a certificate of insurance. It must identify what the certificate is insuring and why. It must identify an insurable interest.

Insurance companies are not going to issue a check just because they issued a certificate. Make sure everyone understands how, when and why, and you’ll make that process quicker, easier and without litigation.

Think about all the work you had to go through to purchase the policy in the first place. Do you believe your insurance company is going to issue another policy just because you said so? Not unless the insurance company believes the chances of paying a claim under the certificate is very very slim.

What do you think? Leave a comment.

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Author: Outdoor Recreation Insurance, Risk Management and Lawclip_image002_thumb.jpg

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By Recreation Law         James H. Moss

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