Anyone who successfully concludes an insurance contract subsequently receives a so-called insurance policy from the insurance company. This is an important document that you should always keep in a safe place. The following guide will enlighten you as to why the policy is so significant and what you can do if it is lost.
The most important facts in brief
- An insurance policy contains all important individual contract data and the general terms and conditions of the insurance company.
- An insurance contract taken out is not valid until the policy is received.
- Insurers are obliged to issue the document.
- In the event of a claim, you often have to show the insurance policy.
Definition: What is an insurance policy?
An insurance policy – also known as an insurance certificate – is a document that serves as written proof of a concluded contract between the policyholder and the insurance company.
After the insurance contract is signed, the insurance company issues the document in text or written form and gives it to the person to be insured. This can refer thereby in the case of loss to its contractual rights. However, the contract has full legal validity only with the acceptance of the policy. Without a valid insurance certificate, consumers do not have the opportunity to prove that they have the appropriate insurance at all. For this reason, the document is sometimes also referred to as a certificate of evidence or legitimation paper.
Did you know? The word "policy" goes back to the Latin term "apodixa", which can be translated as "proof" or "confirmation". Via the Italian language ("polizza"), the term was first translated into French ("police") in the 16th century and then into German ("police") at the beginning of the 17th century. At the beginning of the twentieth century, the term "insurance policy" was also used in German dictionaries (initially as "policce").
For which insurances is the insurance policy important?
You must show the insurance policy in many cases if you want to claim benefits. The policy plays an important role in the following types of insurance, for example:
- Car insurance
- Life insurance
- Term life insurance
- Death insurance
- Professional liability insurance
- Private health insurance
What data does the insurance policy contain??
An insurance policy is not just a record, but also contains information on all important contract details and the contracting parties. Thus, the policy also represents a shortened version of the contract. Among other things, the insurance policy contains the following elements:
- General insurance conditions of the provider
- Information on the policyholder and, if applicable, on other insured persons
- Type of insurance
- Insurance number
- Insurance value
- Start of insurance
- Benefit entitlements of the insured person
- Individual agreements/special arrangements
At the same time, the insurance policy also includes exclusions of benefits. These are certain cases where the insurance does not provide protection.
Special note: Since the insurance policy contains all important benefit claims, you should neatly check the policy before signing the document. This also applies to the case of possible changes to the contract. In the event of errors, you should definitely draw your insurance company's attention to them.
Insurer obliged to issue the policy
A concluded insurance contract is only valid upon receipt of the insurance certificate. For this reason, the insurance company must issue a corresponding document to the person to be insured. The obligation arises from paragraph 3 of the Insurance Contract Act (VVG). It says: "The insurer must send the policyholder an insurance policy in text form, or at the policyholder's request as a document".
So you don't have to apply for a policy, you will receive it automatically after signing the contract. Whether the insurance was applied for over the Internet, through an insurance broker, or directly on site is irrelevant in this context. Normally you receive the insurance policy by mail. However, there are also digital insurers who dispense with paper documents altogether. The insurance company sends the document either by e-mail or via its own online portal.
As can be read in section 33 of the Insurance Contract Act, policyholders do not have to pay the initial premium until after the policy has been issued. There is therefore a right of retention. However, the insurance protection also begins only with the payment of the same (see paragraph 37 VVG).
Different versions possible
Depending on the type of insurance, there are different versions of the document:
- In the case of life insurance, it is often a real document.
- Policies of a motor vehicle insurance or health insurance are usually available as a classic paper printout.
- Some online insurance providers limit themselves to a digital document.
In the case of benefits often insurance policy in the original necessary
In many cases, you can only claim the benefit of an insurance policy if you present the original insurance certificate. This applies to life insurance and death benefit insurance, for example. Since the document is equivalent to the insurance contract or proves its legal validity, you should handle the policy with care. In the event of a claim, it is also advisable to send the insurance certificate by registered mail. Only in this way you will receive a proof that the documents have reached the insurer.
Furthermore, insured persons should keep the original insurance policy for three years after its expiry. Within this period, it is namely still possible to receive benefits – but only on presentation of the original document.
Lost insurance policy – what to do?
Whoever loses the insurance certificate must inform the insurance company. In the case of ordinary property insurance – such as motor vehicle or household insurance – the loss of the policy usually has no consequences. As a rule, it is possible to request a duplicate from the insurance company without any problems, for example by calling the customer service or by sending an informal letter.
With personal insurance – for example, life insurance – the situation is more problematic, because whoever owns the policy is also entitled to draw on it. Consequently, if someone else finds the insurance certificate, there is a risk that they will have the insurance paid out to them. Therefore, in such a case, you should definitely submit a written declaration of loss with a signature to the insurance company. Such usually allows you to have a new policy issued to you.