Boston- State Senator Benjamin B. Downing (D-Pittsfield) announced that the Massachusetts Senate approved legislation to ensure drivers maintain the right to appeal determinations of surchargeable incidents due to an at-fault accident.
“This is about common sense,” said Downing. “Drivers have a right to a reasonable appeals process for automobile surcharges. It’s critical to ensuring consumer protections in our auto insurance industry.”
Prior to managed competition in Massachusetts, as part of the fixed-and-established private passenger motor vehicle insurance rates, the Commissioner of Insurance was charged with establishing the “Safe Driver Insurance Plan” (SDIP), a merit rating plan which provided for the adjustment of insurance rates and premiums on the basis of motor vehicle accident claims and traffic law violations. Under SDIP, certain at-fault accidents, traffic law violations and comprehensive insurance coverage claims constitute “surchargeable incidents.” Any operator who was aggrieved by his or her insurer’s determination that the operator is more than fifty-percent at-fault in an accident was entitled to appeal the insurer’s decision to the Board of Appeals.
Currently, insurers’ private passenger motor vehicle insurance rates are not subject to the provisions of the Commissioner’s SDIP. Individual insurer merit rating plans are filed with and reviewed by the Division of Insurance as part of an insurer’s rate filing and there are no provisions under current statute that establishes a board of appeals process for merit rating plans under managed competition.
This proposal includes statutory language similar to the former Board of Appeals under the fixed-and-established rating system and maintains the court appeals process in place for instances where drivers were not satisfied with the Board’s decision. The bill also includes a retroactive clause to allow an appeal for a driver who was aggrieved by his or her insurer’s determination that the operator was more than fifty-percent at-fault in an accident as of April 1, 2009. Consumers will have 30 days to appeal an at-fault accident decision that would result in a policy surcharge to the board. The board will then have a hearing and make a decision. This decision may then be appealed to the Superior Court.
The bill was engrossed by the Senate today and is now before the House of Representatives for further consideration and final enactment.