For Immediate Release - January 08, 2009

Division of Insurance Creates Consumer-Friendly Accident Dispute Process

New system offers greater protections, will save consumers time and money

BOSTON - Thursday, January 8, 2009 - In keeping with the Division of Insurance's commitment to consumer protection, Commissioner Nonnie S. Burnes today established a streamlined, consumer-friendly process for the review of disputed at-fault accident decisions. The new procedures replace the time-consuming and costly Board of Appeals surcharge hearing process with a no-cost 30-day review period enforced by the Division.

"Under the current system, consumers disputing an at-fault accident decision by their insurance company have been forced to pay hefty fees and wait up to two years for a resolution," said Commissioner Burnes. "Now long wait times and costly charges will be a thing of the past and the Division of Insurance will use its significant regulatory authority to ensure consumers benefit from greater protections."

Pursuant to a bulletin issued by the Division today, insurance companies are now obligated to take the following actions when making at-fault accident decisions.

  • Notify consumers when they determine the consumer is responsible for the accident;
  • Send a Consumer Bill of Rights developed by the Division of Insurance with each notice outlining the protections and recourse consumers are entitled to;
  • Review at-fault decisions at the consumer's request;
  • Provide a second review, if requested;
  • Offer a fair and meaningful review for each request;
  • Apply generally accepted standards of fault fairly and consistently; and
  • Complete the review within 30 days of the first contact by the consumer at no charge to the consumer.

Insurers that fail to comply with these requirements will face sanctions ranging in severity from fines to license suspension. Consumers can work directly with the Division if a dispute with an insurer is not resolved to their satisfaction by calling the Division's Consumer Unit at (617) 521-7794 or visiting www.mass.gov/doi.

No other state currently has a review procedure in place similar to the Board of Appeals surcharge hearing process. Prior to April 1, 2008, Massachusetts was the only state with insurance rates set by the Commissioner of Insurance. Since the Patrick-Murray Administration introduced managed competition auto insurance, drivers have benefited from more choices among companies, products and services. Good drivers across the Commonwealth report saving 10% or more on their 2008 auto insurance bills. The Division expects insurers to fully comply with the new review requirements given that for the first time in decades companies are competing for business and consumers are free to take their business elsewhere if they are not satisfied with their carrier's handling of a dispute.