Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court


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.

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