When you’re recovering from the events of an accident, the last thing you need is a notice from your insurance provider telling you the accident was your fault and your insurance rates will increase as a result. Unfortunately, this is a common occurrence for drivers involved in certain types of accidents in Massachusetts. Under Massachusetts law, specific types of accidents are automatically determined as “at-fault” accidents where it’s deemed the driver was more than 50% responsible for the accident. The good news is, the decision isn’t necessarily final with an insurance surcharge.
When you receive an at-fault accident determination notice, you have 30 days to file an appeal. If you can successfully explain to the Board of Appeal that you were not at fault, your at-fault driving surcharge will be removed from your driving history. This guide can help you understand why you received an insurance surcharge notice and how to file an appeal.
Why Did I Receive an Insurance Surcharge?
Insurance companies are required to use the Massachusetts standards of fault to determine if the operator is more than 50% at fault in an accident. These situations automatically classify a driver as more than 50% at fault.
- Collision with a parked vehicle
- Rear-end collision
- Out-of-lane collision
- Failure to signal
- Failure to follow traffic sign instructions
- Wrong side of the road collision
- Operating in the wrong direction
- Failure to follow proper traffic laws at an uncontrolled intersection
- Collision while backing up
- Collision when leaving a parked position
- Opened vehicle doors
- Single vehicle collision
- Collision while making a left turn or U-turn
- Failure to obey traffic laws
- Unattended vehicle collision (your car rolls without a driver and collides with another vehicle)
- Your actions cause the collision of one or more vehicles
- Failure to yield the right-of-way to emergency vehicles
- Collision at a T intersection when you’re entering the roadway
Your Step-by-Step Guide to Appealing an Insurance Surcharge in Massachusetts
When you receive an insurance surcharge, it’s common to feel confused and fearful about what will happen if you don’t simply comply with the decision. However, there are many reasons why you might not truly be at fault for your accident. While your insurance agent doesn’t have the authority to make that decision, the hearing officer will have the opportunity to review all the facts about your accident and make a final decision based on the circumstances surrounding what happened.
Take these steps to appeal your insurance surcharge notice of at-fault accident determination.
- Complete the Appeal Form located on the reverse side of your Notice of At-Fault Accident Determination.
- Enclose a $50 check or money order made payable to the Commonwealth of Massachusetts with your appeal.
- Mail your appeal to the post office box designated on the Appeal Form.
- Your cashed check will serve as your receipt, and a postcard will be mailed to you to acknowledge your appeal.
- You will receive a hearing notice about 3 weeks before your hearing date.
- You may choose to attend the hearing in person, submit a written statement at least 5 days before the hearing, or select a representative to appear on your behalf.
- A 15-20 minute informal hearing will be held to determine the appeal decision.
- You will receive a decision from the Board of Appeals within 2-4 weeks of your hearing.
Frequently Asked Questions About Appealing an Insurance Surcharge in Massachusetts
Do I Need to Appeal if My Insurance Company Offers Accident Forgiveness?
If you’re not at fault for the accident, it’s always a good idea to appeal. An at-fault accident in Massachusetts will appear on your driving record and can add points to your license. Accident forgiveness your insurance provider offers is only valid for as long as you continue to work with the company. If, for any reason, you terminate the relationship, your previous accident could lead to higher premiums from a different company.
What if My Insurance Went Up, But I Never Received a Notice?
If you never received a Notice of At-Fault Accident Determination, you can get a late appeal form from the Merit Rating Board. While a late acceptance form is not guaranteed to be approved, you may have an opportunity to present your case. You will need to include the $50 fee with your late appeal form, and if the form is approved, you’ll have the opportunity to attend a hearing.
How Much Will My Premiums Increase if I Don’t Appeal the Surcharge?
The amount your insurance premiums increase after an at-fault accident will depend on your driving record and your insurance company. Even companies that offer accident forgiveness may require you to have a certain number of accident-free years before voiding the premium increase.
What Information Do I Need to Bring to the Appeal Hearing?
Any time you’re involved in an accident, it’s important to collect as much evidence at the scene as possible. Bring all documents, photos, or other relevant information that will help you prove your case. You can also bring a witness or a witness statement if someone else was present at the accident. You may choose to hire an attorney to represent you at the hearing as well.
Can I Appeal the Board of Appeals Decision?
If you disagree with the determination of the Board of Appeal, you can file an appeal to your county’s Superior Court. You must file the appeal within 30 days of receiving the decision. A $20 fee will apply.
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Appeal an Insurance Surcharge in Massachusetts
Massachusetts at-fault laws are designed to help innocent bystanders avoid the consequences of driver negligence. However, it’s impossible for these laws to take every variable of an accident (like Massachusetts winter weather) into consideration. That’s why a simple appeals process is available to assist drivers in overturning a decision when they’re not truly at fault. At LoPriore Insurance, we consistently strive to ensure your insurance coverage works for you and not against you. If you have questions about an insurance surcharge notice, don’t hesitate to reach out to an independent agent for advice and answers to your questions.