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Massachusetts Insurance Question


Old 12-24-07, 04:23 AM
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Default Massachusetts Insurance Question

A few weeks back I was involved in what I thought to be a minor rear end collision. I turned a corner and started to accelerate, then noticed that there was a Subaru Forrester double parked and went for the breaks but it was icy out and the breaks came too late and I hit him. I don't know how much damage was done to his vehicle, I think just the rear bumper needed replacing, I didn't notice any metal buckling or broken lights and there was about $4800 damage to my RX. The adjuster said that had my headlight not broken it would have been significantly less. I wasn't too concerned, especially since no one was injured in the collision and it is my first accident in 25 years. I filed a claim with my auto insurance company, USAA, and they determined that I was 100% at fault for the collision, which didn't surprise me. I read online that USAA had accident forgiveness for their insured if they hadn't been found at fault in an accident in the past 6 years so I really didn't bother to argue that he was illegally double parked, which the officer who responded to the scene told me would lead to the accident being determined as split liability. No citations were issued at the scene.

I just received a "Notice of Surcharge" in the mail from USAA that basically stated that since I was found to be more than 50% responsible for a collision that I am going to be surcharged as a requirement of the state of MA. I did a little further research and apparently this rear-end collision that I was involved in is considered a "major" collision under MA statues as the total property damage is greater than $2,000. Considering that one of my headlights costs $1,400 without labor I would be curious to see an accident with less than $2,000 in damage. That being said it seems that as a result 4 points will be added to my driving record. From what I can tell these 4 points will stay on my record for 3 years and then each year after that one will fall off, so it will take me 7 years to regain my "safe-driver" status.

I can't help but question this and wonder if there is anything I can do? I find it a little ridiculous that a person convicted of a DUI, in my opinion, a much more serious offense than my rear-end collision, receives almost as many points (5) as I will for a small accident. There is an appeal form that I can fill out but the appeal form says that I can appeal if I feel that I am not more than 50% at fault for the accident. I am not arguing that I hit him, because I did, would it be a waste of time for me to pursue this process? From what I can tell my premiums will increase 15% as a result of this accident, I carry high coverage limits, so it is significant increase. Would an attorney be able to help with this appeal?

The other thing that complicates this for me is that I do not hold a MA drivers license, I am a resident of WA state which is where my license was issued. Since my RX "lives" in Boston it is registered there and has MA insurance, but will these points transfer since I have a WA DL?

I have searched for days about this online but can't really find any good answers, any input would be much appreciated.
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Old 12-24-07, 06:14 AM
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Unless WA shares info with MA I don't see how the points will affect your WA license.
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Old 12-24-07, 08:20 AM
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I'm not familiar with MA state motor vehicle law, but that sounds odd. You said the officer did not issue a citation, so there should not be any points assessed there. Did he fill out an accident report? If so, did HE indicate you were more than 50% at fault?

The way I see it, unless there is an accident report (from the officer, not the insurance carrier) on file showing you were at fault, the State of MA won't even find out about the accident, and therefore, won't assess points to your license. If no accident report was completed, I would ask USAA to provide their source (although they probably won't comply).

Have you checked your MVR to confirm if the points are on your license yet? I would do that first. You can request your local agent to run the report for you (I think the cost is about $3-4). If the points show up on your MVR, I would assume that there is an accident report on file. If the points do not (and will not) show up, you can politely tell USAA to stick it.

What you have to understand is that these big insurance companies often hire young people with little or no insurance training to handle the accounts. It's not uncommon for these rookies to make mistakes. Just because they state their intentions in a nice, professional looking document, doesn't mean they are correct. I've overturned a few claim-denial letters for my clients after discovering that the claims adjuster who was handling the case didn't even know how to read his own contract correctly! It is possible that USAA fired off this letter to you with the ASSUMPTION that an accident report was filed with the state and the points have already been assessed to your license.

As far as you having a WA license goes, I don't know. I imagine it can only help you by making it more difficult for MA to assess points to an out-of-state license.

Here in FL, the DMV does not assess points solely for accidents involving a collision. I think that MA statute is foolish, especially with such a low limit ($2,000).

Anyway, step 1 is to check your MVR. If no points show up, USAA should drop their surcharge. If the points DO show up, I'm sure there is some sort of dispute/appeals process wiht the MA DMV if you feel that strongly enough that you were only 50% at fault. Good luck.

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