What you should know about appealing an auto surcharge in Massachusetts
Fewer Bay State drivers are appealing auto insurance surcharges for accidents or traffic violations than they have in the past, even though the odds of winning an appeal are favorable, according to a study by the New England Center for Investigative Reporting.
Data provided by the state Insurance Board of Appeals, which rules on traffic accident cases alone, shows that the number of drivers appealing those accidents – and the insurance surcharges that come with them – has declined by 36 percent since 2006, even though just over half of those drivers were winning their appeals. Only about 30% of motorists who appealed their cases were found to be more than 50 percent at fault and subject to a surcharge.
“We are not in a position to speculate as to the reason for the decline in citation appeals,” said Sara Lavoie, with the registry.
The state Insurance Division won’t speculate either, saying only that the division doesn’t track the reasons motorists appeal — or don’t appeal surchargeable accidents.
Some insurance critics, however, suspect the trend may be due to both the costly appeal fees imposed on motorists who want to fight vehicular citations and a lingering recession that has left many drivers with little spare cash to file those appeals.
Those fees, which start at $25 to fight a moving violation before a clerk magistrate and $50 to challenge an insurance surcharge before the Insurance Board of Appeals, can add up quickly. Appealing either decision through the court system can add hundreds more to the tab.
What many people don’t know is that no one gets surcharged for a split 50/50 decision. If both drivers are found to be 50% at fault, neither one will receive a surcharge. If you can at least prove that you were equally responsible for the accident as the other driver, it’s worth it to file an appeal.
There are some things you can do to properly prepare for an appeal hearing:
- If you want to appeal an accident, be on the lookout for the Surcharge Notice in the mail. The appeal form is located on the back of this notice, and you only have 30 days to file. If appealing a citation, simply check off “I request a court hearing” on the back of the citation, and mail it in with your fee. You will get a court date in the mail.
- Have copies of your accident report, police report (if you have one), and photos of the scene/damage to your vehicle.
- If the accident was due to inclement weather, bring documentation proving the weather conditions the day of the incident (i.e. newspaper clipping, or online weather report).
- Write down everything you want to say, and keep it in your file of documentation. You want to make sure you are adequately prepared to tell your side of the story.
Your insurance broker can be your best friend throughout this process. We try to do everything we can to make the process easier for you, and hopefully get you a favorable outcome.
About the Author
Catie Smith is a Senior Client Service Manager at William Gallagher Associates in the Private Client Group. She is responsible for managing high net worth accounts and helps design risk management programs for specialty clients. For more information on WGA’s Private Client Group, click here.