Appealing a Surcharge

 

Before you start the process of appealing a surcharge, it is important to first understand how the Merit Rating Board and Safe Driver Insurance Plan (SDIP) work.

 The Merit Rating Board:

All Massachusetts auto insurance companies are required to report at-fault accidents and out-of-state driving records to the Merit Rating Board (MRB). The MRB is the state agency that maintains driving records.
The MRB driving record consists of surchargeable incidents. A surchargeable incident is any event in which you are:

  1. Convicted of, or pay a fine for, a motor vehicle violation
  2. Assigned to an alcohol education program or controlled substance treatment or rehabilitation program
  3. Found to be more than 50 percent at fault for an accident, and your insurance company makes a claim payment above a certain threshold

If you decide not to pursue an appeal, the surcharge can increase your premium and SDIP step.
In addition, each surchargeable incident counts toward possible license suspension.

You are considered to be more than 50 percent at fault in an accident if your insurance company:

  1. Finds you at fault according to one of the 19 At-Fault Standards  and
  2. Has paid a claim of more than $500 for Collision, Limited Collision, Damage to Someone Else’s Property, or Bodily Injury to Others.

Safe Driver Insurance Plan (SDIP)
The Safe Driver Insurance Plan (SDIP) is mandated by state law to establish classifications of risks to fairly reflect the driving records of insureds and adjust premiums based in part on at-fault accidents. The Plan encourages safe driving by rewarding drivers who do not cause accidents or incur traffic law violations with a credit to their automobile insurance premiums, and discourages unsafe driving by requiring high-risk drivers to pay a greater share of insurance costs. Massachusetts, unlike many comparable jurisdictions that afford no or limited due process rights, provides the right to a hearing before an impartial hearing officer of the Board.

If you believe that you are not more than 50% at-fault for an accident in which you received a surcharge, you may appeal the motor vehicle accident surcharge to the Division of Insurance Board of Appeal.

Your insurance company will mail you a Notice of Surcharge.

  1. If any of the information listed on the Surcharge Notice is incorrect (name, driver’s license number or date of accident), contact the issuing insurance company to make the corrections before appealing.
  2. If you do not receive a Surcharge Notice or misplace it:
  3. Contact your insurance agent for a copy of the Surcharge Notice     OR
  4. Request a late appeal from the Merit Rating Board.
  5. Complete the Surcharge Appeal Form located on the reverse side of the Notice of Surcharge.
  • The appeal must be filed within 30 days of the surcharge date.
  • If you did not submit your appeal within 30 days because you never received a Surcharge Notice, you must obtain a Late Appeal from the Merit Rating Board. The Board of Appeal must receive the Late Appeal within 30 days of your policy renewal.
  1. Submit a $50.00 check or money order payable to the Commonwealth of Massachusetts/Board of Appeal.
  • The fee is non-refundable.
  1. Mail your appeal to the post office box designated on the application. Late appeals must be sent directly to the Division of Insurance, Board of Appeal.
  2. Upon receipt of your surcharge application, the Board will mail you a postcard to acknowledge your appeal. Your cancelled check will serve as an additional receipt of your filing.
  3. The Board will mail you a Notice of Hearing approximately 3 weeks prior to your hearing date.
  4. Appeal hearings are scheduled in Boston, Brockton, Cambridge, Peabody, Plymouth, Somerville, Springfield, Waltham, or Worcester. Carefully note the location of your hearing listed on the Notice. Directions are included at the bottom of the Hearing Notice.
  5. Upon receipt of the Hearing Notice, you have three options for which to pursue the appeal:
    1. Appear in Person.
      Bring your Hearing Notice to the scheduled location.
      Bring copies of all relevant information, any documents/photographs etc. that you want the Hearing Officer to consider when making the decision.
    2. Submit a Written Statement in lieu of your appearance.
      The Board must receive your written or typed statement via mail or facsimile at least 5 days priorto your hearing. The statement must include:
      • copies of all relevant information, any documents/photographs etc. that you want the Hearing Officer to consider in making the decision
      • your signature on the Hearing Notice that identifies you are waiving a personal appearance in favor of your written statement & affirms that your statement is truthful.
    3. Select a representative to appear on your behalf.
      If you elect to submit a written statement via a representative, instead of appearing in person, it must include:

      • Copies of all relevant information, any documents/photographs etc. that you want the Hearing Officer to consider in making the decision
      • your signature on the Hearing Notice that identifies you are waiving a personal appearance in favor of your written statement & affirms that your written statement is truthful.

The hearing is informal and public, lasting approximately 20 – 30 minutes. The Hearing Officer will make an audio tape recording of the hearing. You and your insurance company representative will be given an opportunity to present all pertinent information. You may also bring a witness or a witness statement to the hearing. The Hearing Officer may ask you or the representative questions to clarify the information presented or the circumstances of the accident.

At the conclusion of the hearing, the Hearing Officer will take your appeal under advisement. The facts and circumstances presented will be reviewed in accordance with the governing laws and regulations.

The Memorandum of Finding and Order, the Board’s decision, will be mailed to you within 2-4 weeks. The Board will also contact the Commonwealth’s Merit Rating Board and your insurance company so that your driving history record will be properly updated.

  • If the decision is marked VACATE, the Board has found that you were not more than 50% at-fault for the accident. Any points that you received on your driving record as a result of the accident will be removed.
  • If the decision is marked UPHELD, the Board has found that you were more than 50% at-fault for the accident. The surcharge points will remain on your driving record.

If you disagree with the determination of the Board, you may appeal the decision to your county’s Superior Court or in Boston Suffolk County Court. You must file this appeal within 30 days of your receipt of the decision.
A surcharge incurred due to a traffic violation or a non-moving violation are not appealable to the Board…

Bill Cordaro
Commercial Accounts
Andrew G. Gordon, Inc.

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MA Documents: The Notorious Notary

Image courtesy of cartoonstock.com

We all know death and taxes are certain. Have you also noticed there is a growing need to have mainstream documents notarized? As recent as a few years ago, common day documents such as simple permission slips for minors for a field trip to the museum  or rental agreements for college age students were simply signed by the  student, parent or guardian. Not so much any longer as many mundane forms now require the official stamp of notarization from your local friendly notary. Here at Andrew G. Gordon Inc., we are happy to help out any customer with our complimentary notary service. This service is also available to new visitors to our agency.

What is a notary, you ask?  A notary public is an official of integrity appointed by the state to serve the public as an impartial witness in performing a variety of official fraud-deterrent acts related to the signing of important documents. These official acts are called notarizations or notarial acts. Notaries are publicly commissioned as “ministerial” officials, meaning that they are expected to follow written rules without the exercise of significant personal discretion, as would be the case with a “judicial” official.

If you are asked for your driver’s license, please do not be offended. It is the duty of a notary to screen the signers of particularly sensitive instruments — such as property deeds, wills and powers of attorney — for their true identity, willingness to sign without duress or intimidation, and  awareness of the general import of the document. Some notarizations also require the notary to put the signer under an oath declaring under penalty of perjury that the information contained in a document is true and correct. Impartiality is the byword of the notary and the foundation of its public trust. Notaries are duty-bound not to act in situations where they have a personal interest. This means the notary cannot notarize a family member’s document.  The public trusts that the notary’s critical screening tasks have not been corrupted by self-interest. Impartiality dictates that a notary never refuse to serve a person due to race, nationality, religion, politics, sexual orientation or status as a non-customer.

Remember that Andrew G. Gordon, Inc. offers complimentary notary services to our clients or new visitors with appropriate documentation.  Stop by and we will be sure to assist you!

Katherine McCarthy
CPCU, Andrew G. Gordon, Inc.

Andrew G. Gordon Insurance: April 2011

Boston Massachusetts: Copley Square

Image via Wikipedia

April is a month that welcomes spring with its famous “showers that bring May Flowers”.  With weather that changes from day to day, April is a fickle month with temperatures ranging anywhere from 15º to 80º that always includes the possibility of a late-season snow storm.  In spite of it all, the crocuses and daffodils manage to bloom and remind us that the warmer half of the year is ahead.

One of the infamously less appreciated events in April is the dreaded holiday known to most Americans as “income tax day”.  This year, however, due to the Patriot’s Day holiday, the filing deadline is extended to April 19th.

A short side note: Patriots Day is a celebration of the beginning of the American Revolutionary War between the British and the Colonial Americans which began on April 19, 1775.  Both Massachusetts and Maine celebrate the holiday on the third Monday in April (nearest to the 19th).  As such, a reenactment of the battle is annually held on Lexington Green, with a mid-morning parade in Concord featuring fife and drum bands.  But, if you plan to attend, it’s best to get there early to get a good vantage spot.  And don’t forget to take advantage of the several pancake breakfasts hosted by area churches.

April also offers the Boston Marathon, the oldest marathon in the world – founded in 1897.  It too, is held on the 3rd Monday in April during the Patriots Day holiday. The race begins in Hopkinton and ends at Copley Square in Boston, a total of 26.22 miles.  About 20,000 runners from around the world take part.  The first starters are the wheelchair runners.  Next are the Elite Women, then the Elite Men and then wave after wave of other runners.  The race lasts most of the day, with some runners straggling in after dark.

And, of course, for you fishermen out there, April is the opening of the Cod fishing season in Massachusetts!

Have a great April!

Sandi C.
Andrew G. Gordon, Inc.
Insurance & Risk Management

Car Crashes: a word to the wise from the not-so-wise

Honda CR-V photographed in Rockville, Maryland...

Image via Wikipedia

Let it be stated for the record that I, Corbin Foucart, am henceforth a TERRIBLE driver. This shall be reflected in both my crushed ego and in my insurance premium. However, until 6:57 A.M. Eastern Standard Time, April 1st 2011, I considered myself a good driver. Why the transformation? Because that morning I took my cherished 1994 Honda CR-V and slammed it into a tree.

Now some explanation. I don’t have the right to make excuses; I was ENTIRELY at fault, BUT…

  1. The roads were slippery. It was snowing on April 1st!!
  2. The roads on which I drove were untouched by plows.
  3. Another student totaled her car on the same road that morning. Misery loves company.
  4. I was going around a curve
  5. I was going very slowly (Less than 20 mph). The airbags didn’t go off, and there was barely an impact.

…but I know that I should have been traveling even slower.

As I rounded the curve, the Honda began to slip off the road. Threshold braking did not help at all. Under different circumstances, I would have described the “crunch” sound as very satisfying. At the moment, it sounded like the lid of my own coffin closing. I tried shifting into reverse and backing out, but the Honda had grown attached to the tree and was holding it in a twisted metal embrace. So I called home. Uh oh.

My mom actually thought it was an April fool’s joke. I had to repeat myself several times before she understood that I wasn’t pulling her leg.

 I totaled the car; even though it wasn’t that bad of a crash, the undercarriage was bent.

What I find weird is that it wasn’t a stereotypical ‘bad morning’. I’d been accepted by Stanford, my dream school, the day before and that morning I was still running on a feeling of elation.  I was in no rush, and was looking forward to the day. Needless to say, the collision brought me crashing –no pun intended- back down to Earth. In the grand scheme of things, a totaled car is a small price to pay for my sister’s life and my own, but still frustrating nevertheless. The very sobering reality is that now I have no personal freedom to travel where I please. Doing things I took for granted with a car now has to be coordinated in advance.  

An interesting article by Insurance journal (which is worth having your teen read, by the way) states the a new study showed that the vast majority of teen crashes are caused by failing to scan for possible hazards, speeding, or becoming distracted. While I would argue that my personal case falls under the category of “poor weather or road conditions”, which they cite as rare, I know from the vast majority of accidents and fender-benders my peers are involved in that these three causes are legitimate. Another student I know totalled his car earlier in the year going to fast and driving into a rock wall. Another student did the exact same thing last month. Another student I know hit a tree while texting in the car. I’m sure as a reader you can think of countless similar anecdotal evidence to support the article’s conclusions.

The moral of the story to me is that accidents can happen WHENEVER you let your guard down.  Be safe, be vigilant, and as I’ve learned, BE SLOW!

The tree could not be reached for comment.