Whacked by a Surcharge? Appeal! Appeal! Appeal!

It's a fact of life for an auto insurance agent.  Clients are going to have accidents.  Some of those accidents are going to result in clients receiving surcharges.   Our advice to a client who is hit with a surcharge for an at-fault accident is; "Appeal it!".  It just makes sense from a cost/benefit standpoint. For a one-time fee of $50 you can appeal a surcharge and have a chance to have the surcharge vacated.  Or, you can choose not to appeal; accept the surcharge and pay an additional $300 plus a year for up to five years. 

Some clients say that they already fought with the insurance carrier and they got surcharged anyway.  Why waste money on an appeal?   The answer is that in Massachusetts the insurance company cannot just waive a surcharge.  Its actions are governed by state law.  MA statutes detail what constitutes a surchargeable offense.  For instance, single-vehicle accidents are automatically surchargeable.    The responsibility to uphold or vacate a surcharge lies with the state's Merit Rating Bureau (MRB).

Unlike the insurance company the hearing officer at the MRB has leeway to vacate a surcharge for mitigating circumstances, i.e. snowy conditions, blinded by the sun, etc..   We have found that in many cases our clients have had their surcharges vacated which means that as far as the state is concerned the driver was not at-fault for the accident and the surcharge removed.

We hear a lot of insurance companies offering "Accident Forgiveness" these days. That's great but you should appeal even if your insurance company has “forgiven” your accident. Here’s why. Just because your company is not surcharging you does not mean the MRB considers you not at-fault. The “forgiveness” only lasts while you are insured with that original company.  If you become dissatisfied with your company and try to change carriers the at-fault accident would be seen by the other carriers and reflected in their rates. If you successfully win an appeal there is no surcharge record to follow you around.

Please email me at jolson@columbiainsuranceagency.net if you have any questions related to this topic or any auto insurance related topic.  Also, email me if you would like a quote for your auto insurance.