Automobile Accidents, At-Fault Surcharge
In Massachusetts, there are real consequences for causing automobile accidents. One of these has to do with insurance.
When their insured was more than 50 percent at fault, state law allows insurance companies to tack a surcharge onto that driver’s insurance rate and put the incident on the driver’s record.
A so-called “at-fault surcharge” will be imposed if all of the following factors apply:
- The driver is more than 50 percent at fault under the Massachusetts Standards of Fault
- The at-fault vehicle is a private passenger car
- The payment on the other party’s claim is more than $500
- The claim payment is for Damage To Someone Else’s Property, Collision, Limited Collision or Bodily Injury To Others (for accidents in 2006 or later)
If the driver’s insurance company finds the driver was more than 50 percent at fault, it will notify the driver and the Merit Rating Board (MRB), which will add the accident to the driver’s record. Based on the insurance company’s merit plan (which adjusts rates based on performance) the accident may also result in increased car insurance premiums.
Within 20 days of the claim payout, the insurance company will notify the driver if he or she will be assessed a surcharge. If the at-fault driver is not the policyholder on the car, both driver and policyholder will receive a notice.
Appealing a Automobile Accident Surcharge Assessment
There is a formal appeal process for at-fault surcharge assessments. Within 30 days of receiving notice of the surcharge, a driver may pay a $50 fee to file an appeal with the Division of Insurance Board of Appeal.
The appeal process is almost like a mini-trial in which evidence is offered and witnesses may be called. The driver may appear in person, may provide a written statement or may elect a representative to appear on their behalf.
After the hearing, the matter is taken under advisement and the decision is mailed out within two to four weeks. A decision to “vacate” the decision means the board found the driver was not over 50 percent at fault. The board will remove driver’s license points and inform the insurance company of the decision.
Conversely, an “upheld” decision means the driver did not overcome the presumption of fault and the board agrees with the insurance company’s findings. An unfavorable board decision may be appealed to a county Superior Court.
Personal Injury Lawsuits
An at-fault finding can have significant financial consequences. It clearly has implications for the outcome of any personal injury lawsuit that may have been filed in connection with the accident. Talk to an experienced car accident attorney to discuss your specific case.