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Massachusetts Auto Insurance Surcharges And Premium Increases

The Museum of Fine Arts in Boston is outstanding. It has a permanent collection that includes an incredible collection of Impressionist Masters (Monet, Renoir, etc.). It also features special exhibits from time to time, ranging from King Tut’s tomb to modern artists. Strolling through the museum on a Friday evening or perhaps as a Valentine’s Day gift for that special someone is a great way to relax.

The MFA is easy to get to by car, driving in from the North Shore on Route 1 or Route 93 or from the west on the Mass. Pike. However driving through Boston can be a pain and the risk of a fender bender is real. You could be driving slowly down Huntington Avenue and be rear-ended. Such a collision is unlikely to result in serious personal injury but may cause property damage. It doesn’t take much of an impact to cause $1,000s of dollars in repairs.

If something like that happens, you should file a claim with your insurance company to start the process of getting approved repairs.

How you communicate and what you say in any written or other statement may be critical to how your insurance company responds. The insurance company may try to use your statement as a reason to hit you with a surcharge or premium increase.

A driver can be charged a surcharge on his or her insurance premium in the following three circumstances:

  1. The insurance company determines that the driver was more than 50% at fault;
  2. The driver pays a traffic ticket or is convicted of a traffic violation; or
  3. The driver is involved in an accident for which it is presumed that he or she is more than 50% at fault.

According to the insurance regulations there are 31 categories in which it is presumed that a driver is more than 50% at fault, including when a driver collides with a person or a parked vehicle, whether its parked lawfully or illegally; if a driver fails to signal before turning or changing lanes; or if a driver is involved in a crash when making a left hand turn.

commerce-acts-books-477966-mIf you are hit with a surcharge you are entitled to challenge the insurance company’s decision by appealing it to the Board of Appeal on Motor Vehicle Liability Policies and Bonds. To preserve your right to challenge the surcharge you must appeal within thirty days of being assessed. We highly recommend that you consult with an experienced personal injury attorney quickly to meet any deadlines and to assure that your appeal is worded effectively and accurately.

Once an appeal is filed, the Board will schedule and in most cases, hold a hearing. The hearing is the driver’s opportunity to challenge the conclusion that he or she was more than 50% at fault, or that the insurer failed to prove that the driver fit into one of the three circumstances in which a there is a presumption of more than 50% at fault.

For example in Coffin v. Board of Appeal on Motor Vehicle Liability Policies and Bonds, 86 Mass. App. Ct. 1118 (2014), no surcharge could be assessed because the insurance company did not provide evidence that James Coffin was the driver at the time of the collision. The company submitted the police report as evidence to the Board trying to prove fault, but the report only stated that the “operator” was involved in the crash and that it was an “unknown operator.” Mr. Coffin submitted his statement that he was not the driver and the Appeals Court found that the Board incorrectly allowed the insurance company to raise Mr. Coffin’s premiums because it never proved that Mr. Coffin was driving the vehicle at the time of the crash. It took a hearing before the board of appeals and then to the court to reach this result.

An attorney experienced in car accidents can help you navigate making a claim with your insurance company or if you must, to fight against an unfair surcharge or premium increase. The sooner you discuss your situation with your attorney, the better.

Additional Resources
FAQ’s for Appealing a Surcharge
Massachusetts Safe Driver Insurance Plan