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Keeping just your declaration page, or a few policy forms on-hand is NEVER enough. You should keep your entire policy, every page, somewhere safe and accessible.
In the event of a loss you will need your complete policy with the correct coverage dates. Often the way it works is that a carrier will send you a policy booklet the first year you purchase insurance with a few extra forms. But the years go by, and every now and then you get a few more updated forms. Most policyholders just take the new forms along with the new declaration page and put it in a file. The problem is, your current declaration page references forms not sent in the renewal package. It may refer to forms from the inception of the policy or from a year or two later; forms you may no longer have in your file.
If you are like some, you scan in your insurance forms but may have either deleted the old scan or no longer have it for any number or reasons. Keeping every form the insurance company has ever sent you is not easily done.
Some insurance companies allow you to login and see your policies online but the only way to make sure you have the complete policy is by checking off each form and endorsement listed on the declaration page. This is usually found on the bottom of your declaration page with the heading “Applicable Forms and Endorsements”.
Just one form or endorsement can change your coverage drastically either by limiting or excluding claimed damages, or it can increase your indemnity. There are also state-specific forms that show the limitation on how long you have to bring an action against the carrier. This form has important legal rights that you would not be aware of if you only have just a few pages of your policy.
Missing the form called “Duties after a Loss” can have a significant impact on your claim if you fail to follow a requirement for payment, like a Proof of Loss form deadline. Other forms allow for additional coverage for Ordinance and Law or Code Upgrade Coverage. These forms can significantly affect the claim’s final resolution.
The best practice is to request a complete or certified policy from your insurance company to make sure that both parties are referring to the same document as a claim goes on.
A certified copy of a policy will be signed by an insurance company representative and state that the policy and all the forms are correct, and is attached to the full insurance contract. When you have a certified copy of the policy there is much less confusion about the forms, and the carrier is bound to the policy forms it certified.
A carrier should always be willing to provide you an extra copy of your insurance policies but sometimes there is improper resistance. The agent may be helpful but most of the time the best place to request your policy from is the actual insurance company. But don’t be surprised if they send you just a few documents. Asking for a certified copy, may take a little longer but it will be the full document.
There is a trend where certain insurance companies now request that a policyholder pay for a copy of the policy. Requests as high as $50 and $100. The carriers who do this are likley trying to put an unnecessary burden/requirement on the insureds. Usually a phone call questioning why this fee is being imposed and reminding the representative that the policy is needed because this is something that the policyholder must see to comply with the obligations under the policy, makes the fee go away.
Now is the time to check your insurance file. Find your declaration page and make sure you have every form and endorsement listed. If you don’t, take immediate actions to get them from your carrier. Once you have the entire policy make sure you are keeping it in a safe place and always updating the file come renewal time. Remember: Locating your full policy will become urgent when you have a loss.