It is common parlance in the law of personal injury and insurance that the driver deemed to be at fault will experience an increase in his or her insurance premiums going forward. However, sometimes all it takes for your insurance premiums to increase is simply to be a part of an accident, even if you are the one not found at fault
For this reason, a number of insurance companies provide policy contracts for what are termed “Safe Driver Insurance Plans,” or SDIPs (for more information and the purpose behind SDIPs, visit http://www.massrmv.com/MeritRatingBoard/SDIPandYourAutoInsurancePolicy.aspx). Most SDIP policies contain provisions providing for faultless “surcharges” being assessed to your record each time an accident occurs, thereby making it irrelevant who the insurance companies deem at fault. The very fact and occurrence of the accident itself is enough for a “surcharge” to be placed on your driving record. If you are involved in several accidents, yet are not deemed at fault for any of them, you may still experience an increase in your insurance premiums by racking up sufficient surcharges. Worse yet, you may experience cancellation of your policy. It’s as if the insurance company is telling you that while you might be a good driver, collisions “seem to follow you” wherever you go, thereby making you and your vehicle a risk in one way or another.
Viewed in the objective, this seems unfair as a practice within the insurance industry, yet it is allowable because state law has approved such SDIP plans through the Division of Insurance. It is simply one more way to account for a risk, namely, that “you” are the risk, not because you’re a bad driver, but because of the accident magnetism you command.
Policyholders are not without recourse in this matter, however. Under Chapter 175E, Section 7A of the Massachusetts General Laws (https://malegislature.gov/Laws/GeneralLaws/PartI/TitleXXII/Chapter175E/Section7A), entitled “Appeal of application of provision of safe drive insurance plan or merit rating plan,” a policyholder who experiences an adverse “determination” (i.e., rate increase) by their insurance carrier may file a written complaint with the Insurance Division’s board challenging the determination. The insured and the insurer each receive a 10 days’ notice from the board for a hearing. If the board sides with the party not at fault, and finds the insurer to have violated their own policy, it will order the insurer to make the appropriate premium adjustment. The insurer must then notify the merit rating board and any other data collection agency that the insurer reported the surcharge to, to expunge the corresponding surcharge points. If the board sides with the insurer, the aggrieved may still yet appeal to the superior court department of the trial court, pursuant to section 14 of chapter 30A. That court’s decision is deemed to be final and binding on both parties.
If you have been aggrieved in a matter like this, and would like to challenge your insurance company’s determination to assess a surcharge to your record when you were not at fault, please call us today at (617) 752-2371.