Appeal! Appeal! Appeal!
A few years ago my mother called me to let me know she was just involved in a car accident and to ask what she should do. Whereas, I had just spent thirty minutes driving three miles to the office in a blizzard I was a little incredulous that my mother had decided to head out into those conditions. She had made it about 100 yards from her house when she slid on the snow into a parked car. She was unhurt and managed to turn the car around and get home safely.
I explained the claims settlement process and told her that she would be surcharged for the accident. Needless to say she was not very happy. She did not think she should be punished for an accident caused by the driving conditions. I explained to her that the state of Massachusetts does not agree with her. Drivers are expected to always have control of their vehicles and state law requires insurance carriers to report and surcharge all such accidents. I then explained to her that she would file an appeal to the Merit Rating Board (MRB). The MRB hears the appeals on all surcharges and historically is very lenient on weather related accidents. My mother did and six months later called me up to let me know she had won her appeal.
You may ask why the state requires the companies to apply a surcharge on these type of accidents if they then waive the surcharge in most cases. I believe the answer is simply not everyone appeals. Those who don’t will bear the penalty for up to six years. Those penalties are used to offset others’ good driving discounts.
My advice is to always appeal even for non-weather related accidents. The economics demand it. An appeal costs $50 win or lose. A surcharge can cost $300-$400 a year for up to five years and a lesser amount in the sixth. $2,000 in surcharges compared to $50 in appeal costs: how can you not appeal!