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Insurance Policy and Certificate of Insurance - Definition

 Insurance Policy - General
Insurance Policy - General

The regulations on the insurance policy (ie the insurance policy itself) can be found in § 3 VVG. However, it has no legal definition. As a rule, however, this is a document related to the concluded insurance contract. However, § 3 para. 1 As per VCA, the policyholder receives this document only on request. Otherwise, the text form is sufficient according to § 126b BGB. This formal requirement is already fulfilled if the transmission takes place, for example, by e-mail or, according to prevailing opinion, even if the insurer offers the insurance policy for downloading.

According to  3 para. 1 Insurance Contract Act, however, the insurer is obliged to pass on the policy accordingly. According to § 18 VVG, however, this obligation is semi-available, i.e. it can only be diverted to the benefit of the insured. Furthermore, the insurer is obliged according to  3 para. 3 sentence 1 VVG to issue replacement documents in the event of loss or destruction.

Reproduction of the content of the contract

The insurance certificate reflects the content of the contractual agreement. This includes, in particular, the indication of the insured risk, the duration of the contract and the sum insured. In this respect, the insurance policy is a unilateral declaration by the insurer.

The insurance policy is not a prerequisite for the conclusion of the contract. The contract is finally assumed. Therefore, an addendum to the insurance certificate is merely an addition to the document that documents an agreement that has come about (cf. OLG Bamberg r+s 1991, 206, 207). This also has the consequence that the content of the contract does not change because a replacement insurance certificate that is transmitted for a lost insurance policy accidentally lacks an agreement restricting benefits from the original policy (cf. OLG Karlsruhe r+s 1992, 218 ).

The insurance policy essentially serves as proof of the existence of an insurance relationship.

If the insurance policy is a bill of exchange or a so-called lame bearer document [see below], Section 952 BGB applies, which is why the claimant - i.e. the insured - is the owner of the insurance certificate.
In the case of so-called real and bearer bonds, on the other hand, the insurance policy is a real guarantee.
Insurance Policy - General


The certificate of insurance is a bill of exchange.

As a rule, the insurance policy is also a (simple) bill of exchange within the meaning of  371 BGB. The insurer then has the right to return the policy after the end of the insurance relationship. This protects it from the fact that the certificate of insurance can still be used as (presumed) evidence.

In exceptional cases, the certificate of insurance can also be a qualified promissory note in accordance with Article 4(2) VVG. In this case, the insurer only has to pay when the insurance policy is returned. The prerequisite is therefore that the policy was issued as a document.

It should be noted that if the insurer pays the insured without having the insurance certificate returned, this service does not have a discharging effect. In concrete terms, this means that the insurer is not relieved of his debt, so the policyholder can reclaim payment when the insurance policy is returned. The meaning and purpose of this provision are manifested in particular in cases where the policyholder assigns the insured object to his creditor as collateral for a loan. Lenders usually have insurance claims assigned to them. be financially secure – in the event that the object of the guarantee is damaged or destroyed. However, the transfer of the insurance policy from the policyholder to the lender requires the consent of the insurer.

Structure of the insurance policy as a bearer document

In accordance with  4 para. 1 VVG, which, like para. 2, requires the issuance of a certificate, the insurance policy can also be issued as a document to the bearer, i.e. to the owner. In this case it is a so-called lame bearer document, which represents a qualified identification document within the meaning of § 808 BGB. With this agreement, the insurer reserves the right to pay the respective owner of the document. The recipient of the service is therefore not necessarily to be seen in the person of the insured. This holder policy then develops a legitimizing effect, with the result that the insurer is basically released from his contractual obligations by making payments to the holder.

In exceptional cases, however, the insurance policy can also be configured as an order or a real bearer document, for example in transport and marine insurance. This facilitates the transfer of claims from the insurance contract (cf. §§ 363, 784 HGB [Commercial Code]).

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