Nonnie Burnes


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.

New Insurance Carriers = High Risk Exemption

This past Tuesday the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court upheld the Massachusetts Division of Insurance’s decision to temporarily excluded new auto insurance companies from covering high risk drivers. The Abrella Mutual Insurance company filed a lawsuit claiming Nonnie Burnes had exceeded her authority as the insurance commissioner while favoring national companies new to the Bay State. Burnes had adjusted the insurance regulations to exempt the new insurers from covering high risk drivers for two years.

Abrealla with the Massachusetts Association of Insurance Agents brought the law suit in 2008 arguing the exemption place Massachusetts insurers at a disadvantage. This legislation would require the Massachusetts insurers to share the cost of high-risk losses based on their state market share allowing the new insurers to escape this burden.

The Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court upheld Burnes decision deciding although the new companies would not share the cost of high risk drivers they do help fund the administrative costs of the Massachusetts Automobile Insurance Plan that in turn provides the high risk insurance. Burnes had worked during her career as the insurance commissioner towards deregulation in an effort to bring new insurance agencies to Massachusetts giving drivers better competitive prices and more options.

Frank Mancini, president of the Massachusetts Association of Insurance Agents, stated his association was disappointed in the outcome however will not be giving up. The group has already brought two additional bills attempting to keep the ownership of expiring policies with agents.

Before deregulation state regulators set auto insurance rates charging drivers by their location and driving record. The new system allows carriers to grant discounts for everything from being a student with good grades to holding a AAA membership. It has also brought more competition the the state as carriers set their own rates as opposed to following state regulated rates as before. Deregulation has brought eleven new insurance carriers and looks to be a good step forward for the State.

Ready for a Quote?
Get A Quote