Massachusetts Commissioner of Insurance


Recourse for Toyota Drivers & At Fault Accidents

Toyota drivers involved in recent recalls have worried about how this will affect their auto insurance coverage and premiums. Although a standard auto insurance policy does not exclude vehicles damaged while under recall, drivers may face additional surcharges and/ or costs if they were involved in an at fault accident. Thankfully Massachusetts residents have the option to appeal a court decision over an at fault accident, a privilege that was almost taken away by the former Massachusetts Commissioner of Insurance Nonnie Burnes.

Burnes felt, according to an article by William Lapointe, that with the newly deregulated market drivers would be able to shop around and find lower rates thus making no need for an appeals board as the driver may simply switch carriers. Massachusetts residents were weary of this measure to eliminate the Board of Appeals, however the final push to keep the Board came when the spot light focused on the fact that if a driver was assessed fault of an accident, although they have the ability to chose a different carrier their SDIP, or license point assessment, would remain the same. Pressure from the public, legislators and lobbyists was enough to force the government to maintain the Board of Appeals.

The Massachusetts Board of Appeals hears approximately 50,000 cases in a year from drivers who believe they were wrongly assessed the blame for an at fault accident. On average about half of the appeals are overturned and the at-fault-accident is removed from the driver’s record as well as surcharges by a driver’s insurance company.

The Massachusetts Division of Insurance issued a Consumer Alert announcing hearings for drivers who appealed a decision prior to the recall would be reopened. The Massachusetts Board of Appeals was not previously aware of the manufacturer’s defect and is looking to overturn any court decisions a Toyota driver may feel was wrongly determined with the new knowledge of the nation wide recall. After an at fault accident a driver should automatically receive a notice for their right to appeal the decision.

Appeal hearings are open to the public and for the most part informal. A written appeal is read by the hearing officer and after this is read the driver will proceed to make his or her case for the appeal. It is also good to be aware that a representative for the insurance carrier will also be present. A person’s driving record is one of the most important determinants of auto insurance premiums. Do not take it lightly if you have been wrongly assessed fault of an accident.

Managed Competition = Driver's Savings

Before 2008 Massachusetts auto insurance rates were set by the Massachusetts Commissioner of Insurance by the fix-and-establish system. The previous system relied on zip code and driving record to determine rates, in the new deregulated system carriers use their own methods of calculating rates and has in result increased competition saving driver’s money on auto insurance.

With managed competition new advantages have surfaced in the Massachusetts auto insurance market including: additional insurance companies, independent agencies have gained additional carriers to represent and the state has experienced a decrease in number of uninsured motorists. From the early 1990s through up to 2008 the number of insurance companies offering private passenger auto insurance had fallen from 35 to 19, however in the first year of managed competition nine companies entered Massachusetts’ auto insurance market. According to the Department of Insurance average premiums per vehicle on the road have decreased 8.2 % in the first year alone!

Under managed competition insurance providers can give additional discounts previously unavailable. For example an insurance carrier can give a driver discounts for holding a AAA membership or owning a home. It is important to also realize that providers may chose to or not to impose surcharges for traffic violations but cannot use at-fault accidents that took place more than six years prior to your policy effective date.

Although it is important to note auto insurance is under managed competition. This means although auto insurance companies may chose to set their own rates, the state of Massachusetts must approve them. Insurance carriers may also offer differing discounts, almost necessitating a driver shop differing carriers. Start shopping today by calling MassDrive where a representative will compare insurance quotes from multiple carriers for you!

Massachusetts Division of Insurance Issues Warning

The Massachusetts Division of Insurance has issued an official warning to all auto dealers in the state. Salespersons are told to watch what they say and do regarding auto insurance while selling a vehicle. Joseph Murphy, the Massachusetts Commissioner of Insurance, published a letter addressed to all auto dealers and salespersons on the Consumer Affairs and Business Regulation website.

Murphy states numerous reports have been filed with the Division of Insurance that certain motor vehicle salespersons are giving recommendations about particular insurance companies and assisting customers in purchasing their auto insurance.  He warns that only licensed insurance producers are given the authority to sell or attempt to sell, negotiate or solicit insurance, including motor vehicle insurance. The letter stated:

This Bulletin reminds insurance companies and those individuals involved in the sale, finance, registration or insurance of motor vehicles of the Massachusetts rules about placing insurance on motor vehicles.  These rules reflect the longstanding principle that only those who have demonstrated knowledge and competence about motor vehicle insurance by obtaining an insurance license from the Division are permitted to advise consumers about the purchase of such coverage.

The posted bulletin gives these five specific examples of what an auto salesperson may not do while selling a motor vehicle:

Example 1:  A motor vehicle salesperson advises a customer that he could save money by buying his motor vehicle insurance from The XYZ Insurance Company. The salesperson is improperly “soliciting” motor vehicle insurance because she is recommending or urging a person to apply for a motor vehicle insurance policy from a particular company.

Example 2:  A motor vehicle salesperson assists the customer to obtain insurance online by using his office computer to search for motor vehicle insurance for the customer while the customer watches. The salesperson is violating Massachusetts insurance law because he is “negotiating” motor vehicle insurance for the customer by assisting the customer to “obtain” it.

Example 3:  A motor vehicle salesperson offers her customer the use of a computer at the motor vehicle dealership so that the customer can search for motor vehicle insurance, but the computer is preset to the website of a particular insurance company. The salesperson is improperly “soliciting” motor vehicle insurance because she is asking or urging a person to apply for insurance from a particular company.

Example 4.  A motor vehicle salesperson who is arranging financing for the purchase of a motor vehicle tells his customer that she must purchase insurance from a particular insurance company. The salesperson is violating Massachusetts law because he is making financing contingent on purchasing insurance from a particular insurance company.  G.L. c. 175, § 193E.

Example 5:  The motor vehicle dealership maintains a computer terminal linked to the internet for the use of its customers. A customer may use the terminal to search for insurance as long as the salesperson does not operate the computer, the computer is not preset to any particular insurance company’s website, and the salesperson does not recommend that the customer apply for motor vehicle insurance from a particular company.  The salesperson may suggest that the customer start her search for motor vehicle insurance by visiting a site that provides general advice on the purchase of such insurance.  A salesperson may always refer her customer to The Division’s website, www.mass.gov/doi for such information.

This is a firm reminder not only to auto salespersons, but consumers as well. Only a licensed agent holds the knowledge necessary for insuring you with appropriate limits. The deregulation of the auto insurance market has given consumers the option to compare quotes and find the best price, not to be bullied into signing with one insurance carrier or another. For a free quote call MassDrive where a friendly representative will compare quotes from different carriers for you!

To read Joseph Murphy’s letter regarding the involvement of motor vehicle salespeople in the solicitation, negotiation or sale of motor vehicle insurance please access the Consumer Affairs and Business Regulation website here.

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