When you request a certain amount of insurance and sign an agreement, you expect to be covered, says CEO Mary Warrick, whose mover assured her she would be. That assumption led to complications that nearly cost her her business.

Last November Warrick hired an equipment-moving specialist to haul machinery from Vernon, Calif., to White City, Ore., where she was relocating Sattex Corp., a small buffing-compound factory. A semitrailer showed up and packed the equipment onto its flatbed. A few days later the truck crashed, scattering fragments of mixers and melters over the freeway.

Unbeknownst to Warrick, the trucker had not been a regular employee of the moving company but was an independent owner/operator who, it was discovered, carried cargo insurance for only half the $100,000 Warrick had requested. The moving company she had hired refused to make up the difference, complaining that the loss had been overstated. Warrick filed suit. While the lawyers argued, at least she'd get half the amount back.

Indeed, the adjuster deemed the machinery a total loss and agreed to pay Sattex $50,000, but nothing arrived. "The check's coming soon, but we're still working on the paperwork," she was told. The vigil ended when the insurer declared bankruptcy.

No matter, Warrick thought. The California Insurance Fund, a public ministry that aids distressed parties in defaults, would make good on some of it. But the agency refused when it found that four freight brokers had fed off the original contract, each sharing a portion of the $2,175 Sattex had advanced to the moving company, its prime contractor, for doing, essentially, nothing. Of that sum, about $700 had trickled down to the late trucker. To add insult to injury, Sattex received a bill for nearly $2,500 from the salvager who had scraped the shards from the highway and stored them. When insurers declare a total loss, Warrick learned, you, not they, own the worthless junk.

What $104,675 worth of advice does Warrick offer?

* Request to see the certificate of insurance; don't accept a contractor's word.

* Check with the named insurer to make sure the coverage is still in force.

* Don't be timid; repeat demands whenever the situation changes or is cloudy. "Our troubles were the result of our not asking repetitive questions," Sattex vice-president Karlene Larson admits.

* Check the financial status of the insurance company.

* If necessary, get a good lawyer. -- Robert A. Mamis