Last week I wrote about an insurance certificate issue that was discussed at some length at IIAG’s Commercial Lines Committee meeting. It concerned the scope of Georgia’s law and the regulation issued by the Insurance Commissioner on insurance certificates. A related question was also briefly discussed. Is an insurance agent required to sign an insurance certificate to make it valid?
Like most people, I had assumed that since the approved forms for insurance certificates contained a signature block for the “Authorized Representative”, that someone had to sign the certificate for it to be valid. Since agents who have signed certificates that became the subject of litigation have been sued, whether an agent is required to sign the certificate to make it valid is an important question. After reviewing Georgia’s statute and regulation, I am not sure what the answer to that question is under Georgia law.
The instructions to ACORD’s insurance certificate form state that the signature block is for the “authorized representative” of the insurance company whose policy or policies are the subject of the certificate, but they acknowledge that such a signature is not required by the law of every state. The comment was made at the Commercial Lines Committee meeting that ACORD intended to change its instructions to make clear that no signature was required unless the applicable law said one was necessary. Georgia’s statute and regulation both define an insurance certificate as a document that “is prepared or issued” by an insurance company or agent. Nothing is said about whether anyone has to sign that document to make it valid.
In the absence of any specific language in Georgia’s law or regulation, whether an agent must sign a certificate of insurance to make it valid would be governed by the rules of the insurance company whose policy or policies are the subject of the certificate. Georgia’s regulation requires all insurance companies to “provide to their producers written instructions clearly outlining the insurer’s procedures and each party’s responsibilities for issuing and servicing certificates.” Those procedures should address whether an agent’s signature on the certificate is required to make it valid. If not, it becomes an open question whether such a signature is required for an insurance certificate issued for property, operations, or risks located in Georgia. As noted in last week’s blog, for property, operations, or risks located in another state, the agent would have to look to the law of that state for an answer to this question.
Based on the comments made at the Commercial Lines Committee meeting, it seems there will be an effort made to make some changes to Georgia’s regulation on insurance certificates in 2015. This subject should be added to the ones discussed at that meeting.
On another note, the Commercial Lines Committee was told that 83 complaints have been made to the Insurance Commissioner’s Office using the e-mail address that is found on its website devoted to insurance certificates. Of those, five have been referred to the fraud division for investigation. Not bad numbers for roughly one year of operation. For anyone who may be concerned about the repercussions of making a complaint using that e-mail address, the committee was assured that the identity of all the people who make complaints is kept confidential.