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Surcharges, Citations, & Insurance

As of April 1st, 2008, Massachusetts drivers will have the benefit of a competitive automobile insurance market. This means that the old system where automobile rates are set by the Commissioner of Insurance no longer exists. In a competitive market, insurance companies may set their own rates. In addition, insurance companies may choose to develop their own Merit Rating Plan or they can decide to continue to use the existing Safe Driver Insurance Plan (SDIP). In any event, all insurance company rates and Merit Rating Plans must be approved by the Commissioner of Insurance. Under this system, a surcharge appeal can save you a substantial amount of money. Consult with a traffic violation attorney to discuss your surcharge appeal.

Under the new competitive market system, insurance companies will be permitted to develop their own rules, known as Merit Rating Plans to determine if and how they will impose surcharges on your premium for at-fault accidents and traffic violations. For example, an insurance company’s Merit Rating Plan might offer an accident forgiveness option where surcharge points will not be applied for your first at-fault accident under certain circumstances. No matter what system is used, you will always have surcharge appeal rights.

An insurance company’s Merit Rating Plan shall not use any at-fault accident or traffic violation that is greater than 6 years old from the policy effective date or Increase premium for at-fault accidents or traffic violations for more than 5 years.

The Massachusetts Safe Driver Insurance Plan (SDIP)
Companies can also choose to adopt the existing SDIP system as their Merit Rating Plan. The SDIP is the point based system that lowers premiums for drivers with clean driving records, and increases premiums for drivers with traffic violations and at-fault accidents. Auto policies written through the Massachusetts Automobile Insurance Plan (MAIP) use the SDIP system as the company’s merit rating plan.

A Clean Driving Record Can Reduce Your Premium
Companies are free to create Merit Rating Plans or use the existing SDIP. These plans lower your premium based on years of incident-free driving, or raise your premium based on at-fault accidents and traffic violations. Most insurance company Merit Rating Plans and the SDIP provide good driver discounts to drivers with clean driving records. Maintaining a clean driving record will almost certainly reduce your automobile insurance premium. Under the new competitive system, insurers will still be required to report all at-fault accidents to the Merit Rating Board (MRB).

Application of At Fault Accident Surcharges to Your Record
Insurers are required to determine if a driver is more than 50% at fault for an accident by applying the Standards of Fault (211 C.M.R. 74.00). These standards are common accident types under which you are presumed to be more than 50% at fault. For example drivers are presumed to be more than 50% at fault when operating a vehicle which collides with the rear section of another vehicle.

If your company determines that you are at fault for an accident, it will send you a Surcharge Notice. This notice includes instructions for appealing the surcharge to the Board of Appeals at the Division of Insurance. Surcharge points remain on your driving record unless you successfully appeal the surcharge. Contact an auto insurance attorney to discuss your accident surcharge appeal. Note: If you receive a Surcharge Notice naming the wrong operator, call you insurance company. Your insurer will rescind the incorrect notice and reissue the notice to the correct operator.

If you have been surcharged for a traffic accident and you believe that you were not more than 50 percent responsible for causing the accident, you may file a surcharge appeal to the Division of Insurance Board of Appeals. There is a $50 fee to file an appeal. You must file your appeal within 30 days from receiving your Surcharge Notice; otherwise you may lose your right to appeal.

If a surcharge is applied to your auto insurance premium while your appeal is pending, you must pay the additional premium or your policy will be cancelled. Also, even surcharges that are under appeal will count towards license suspensions such as (Habitual Traffic Offender & 7 Surchargeable Event Suspensions). If you win your appeal, you will receive a refund or credit from your insurance company for any increased premium you paid as a result of the surcharge.

Traffic Violations
If you receive a traffic ticket - known as a civil traffic citation - that results in a surcharge, you cannot file a surcharge appeal to fight the ticket. You must challenge the ticket in court. The rules for contesting the ticket will be found on the back of the ticket. Typically, you will have a hearing before a clerk-magistrate or judge. If the court finds in your favor, you will not be surcharged for the violation. Contact an Attorney to discuss your traffic citation appeal.

Your Driving Record
You may obtain an official copy of your driving history record from the Massachusetts Merit Rating Board (MRB). The MRB is the state agency that maintains driving history records. You can receive a copy of your record by submitting a completed “Request for Detailed Driving History Record” form to the MRB, There is a $15 fee to process your request.

Your driving history record reports, by surcharge date, any surchargeable incident that occurred within the six years prior to the date your request is processed. For example, if we process your request on July 6, 2008, your record will include all incidents with surcharge dates between July 6, 2002, and July 6, 2008.