Before I am able to help my clients with their legal questions, I always ask for a copy of their insurance policy. Sometimes they send me bits and pieces (riders, letters, summaries, or the initial application) and not the actual policy. Sometimes they tell me they never received a copy of the policy at all (often their employer has it in a file). Sometimes they admit they simply lost track of it. What to do?
Make sure you really have searched for your policy diligently – could you have placed it in a box when you moved? Maybe your copy is electronic and you stored it in an old computer?
Why is the original so valuable? Because in the world of law and lawsuits, nothing can truly replace the original (or, what you know is an accurate photocopy of the original). Also, as you will discover below, requesting a copy is not the simple task you may think it is…
If You Really Can’t Find It, Ask Your Broker or Your Insurer For a Copy
If you did have a broker, ask him/her FIRST. They may have kept a photocopy, and this will solve your problems easily.
If you didn’t have a broker, or he/she doesn’t have your policy on file, you are left to ask your insurer.
Requesting a copy of your policy from your insurer is not ideal, for three very big reasons.
- Your request is basically the LEAST important thing on the employee’s desk. Good luck getting a copy this decade. Yes, you probably have a legal right to a copy of your policy (see local state laws), but that won’t make them move much faster.
- Your insurer may not actually have your original policy. Some insurers keep only selected pages of their basic, form policies on file. This is particularly problematic if you purchased a specially-tailored policy. The agent will send you the basic pages that were probably used during the same time period you purchased your policy. These may not be the right pages, and he probably won’t check to see if you had any special attachments (riders) or alterations. You (or your attorney) will end up with the extra responsibility of making sure the agent sent you the correct pages and that none are missing.
- You must act with care, because once your insurer knows you are even THINKING about making a claim, they are NOT your friend. Well, truth be told, your insurer is NEVER your friend. They would rather keep your premium money than hand it back to you (this is basic economics and common sense). So, when you contact your insurer to request a copy of your policy, do this with extra care. If you are thinking about hiring an attorney, DO NOT TELL THEM. If you are thinking about filing a legal claim, DO NOT TELL THEM. Once they have flagged you as a potential complainer/litigant, your file will be treated differently and with more care. No, not care for you. Care for how they plan to annihilate your potential claim.
What If the Policy is Someone Else’s?
Generally if you are not the policyholder, you cannot obtain a copy of the policy (unless you have power of attorney for that policyholder).
There is one big exception for life insurance policies. If a friend or family member has passed away and you believe he/she had a life insurance policy, and you can’t seem to locate it, you have options. If there is a record of which company your relative purchased the policy from, you can contact them directly. However, if you do not know which company (if any at all) that your relative purchased life insurance from, you need to do some investigating. See this article by Insure.com to get started. Also, there are services that can help you, such as Findyourpolicy.com, and the Medical Information Bureau (MIB)’s policy locator service.