Q. What is a Merit Rating Plan?
A Merit Rating Plan (MRP) is the document an insurance company uses to establish classifications of risks to reflect the driving records of insureds and to provide for adjusted premiums based in part on at-fault accidents. MRPs encourage safe driving by rewarding safe drivers with lower automobile insurance premiums, and discourage unsafe driving by requiring drivers who cause accidents or violate traffic laws to pay higher premiums. Before Massachusetts moved to a more competitive automobile insurance market there was only one MRP, known as the Safe Driver Insurance Plan (SDIP). Under the SDIP, insurance companies determined if a driver was more than 50% at fault for an accident. The driver’s insurance company then issued a Surcharge Notice to that driver.
In today’s more competitive market, insurance companies have their own MRPs, some of which are similar to the SDIP. A driver who has been involved in an accident may receive a Notice of At-fault Accident Determination (formerly known as a Surcharge Notice) from his/her insurance company if the company believes the driver of the vehicle was more than 50% at fault for an accident. All MRPs provide Massachusetts drivers the right to appeal the insurance company’s determination that they were more than 50% at fault for an accident.
Your premium may be increased under a MRP if you:
- are determined to be more than 50% at fault in a automobile accident
- are convicted of or pay a fine for a traffic law violation
- are assigned to an alcohol education program
Q. Why did I receive a Notice of At-Fault Accident Determination?
You will be issued a Notice of At-Fault Accident Determination if you are involved in an auto accident in which your insurance company:
- determines that you are more than 50% at fault;
- pays out more than $1000.00 on the claim; and
- you fall into one of the Standard of Fault categories set forth in Division of Insurance regulation 211 CMR 74.00.
Q. How will an at-fault accident affect the cost of my automobile insurance policy?
If you decide not to pursue an appeal, or if the at-fault determination is upheld on appeal, being more that 50% at fault for an accident may increase your premium.
Q. Can I appeal a determination made by my insurance company that I was more than 50% at fault for an accident?
Yes, if you believe that you were not more than 50% at fault for an accident for which you received a Notice of At-Fault Accident Determination, you can appeal the at-fault determination to the Board of Appeal.
Q. How do I appeal my insurance company’s determination that I was more than 50% at fault for an accident?
- Your insurance company will mail you a Notice of At-Fault Accident Determination.
- If any of the information listed on the Notice of At-Fault Accident Determination is incorrect (name, driver's license number or date of accident), contact the issuing insurance company to make the corrections before appealing.
- If you do not receive a Notice of At-Fault Accident Determination or misplace it, contact your insurance agent or insurance company for a copy of the Notice of At-Fault Accident Determination OR request a Late Appeal Form from the Merit Rating Board of the Registry of Motor Vehicles.
- Complete the Appeal Form located on the reverse side of the Notice of At-Fault Accident Determination.The appeal must be filed within 30 days of the date of the notice.
- If you did not submit your Appeal Form within 30 days because you did not receive a Notice of At-Fault Accident Determination, you can obtain a Late Appeal Form from the Merit Rating Board. The Board of Appeal will not guarantee acceptance of a Late Appeal Form. Each form is reviewed, and the determination to either accept or reject the form is made individually.
- Enclose with your appeal form a non-refundable $50.00 check or money order payable to the Commonwealth of Massachusetts.
- Mail your appeal to the post office box designated on the Appeal Form. Late Appeal forms must be sent directly to: Division of Insurance, Board of Appeal, Late Appeal Form Section, 1000 Washington Street, Suite 810, Boston, MA 02118.
- Your cashed check will serve as your receipt. Additionally, once your appeal has been properly entered into the Board of Appeal’s system, a postcard acknowledgement will be mailed to you.
Q. Where and when will my hearing be scheduled?
- The Board of Appeal will mail you a Hearing Notice approximately 3 weeks prior to your hearing date. Your appeal will be heard by a Hearing Officer of the Board of Appeal. Appeal hearings are scheduled in Boston, Dedham, Marlboro, Peabody, Plymouth, Somerville,Springfield, Waltham and Worcester. Carefully note the location of your hearing listed on the Hearing Notice. Directions are included at the bottom of the Hearing Notice.
- Upon receipt of the Hearing Notice, you have three options for which to pursue the appeal:
Appear in Person:
- Bring your Hearing Notice to the scheduled location. You must bring copies of all relevant information, any documents, photographs etc. that you want the Hearing Officer to consider when making the appeal decision. All evidence material you submit must be kept by the Hearing Officer for the record.
Submit a Written Statement in lieu of your personal appearance:
- The Board of Appeal must receive your written or typed statement via mail or facsimile at least 5 days prior to your hearing. The statement must include your signature on the Hearing Notice, which identifies that you are waiving a personal appearance in favor of your written statement and affirms that your statement is truthful. You must also include copies of all relevant information, including documents, photographs, etc. that you want the Hearing Officer to consider in making the appeal decision.
Select a representative to appear on your behalf.
- If you elect to submit a written statement via a representative instead of appearing in person, it MUST include your signature on the Hearing Notice, which identifies that you are waiving a personal appearance in favor of your written statement AND
- A letter stating that you have appointed a representative to appear on your behalf, and which affirms that your written statement is truthful AND
- Copies of all relevant information including documents, photographs etc. that you want the Hearing Officer to consider in making the decision.
NOTE: ALL MATERIAL SUBMITTED TOWARD YOUR APPEAL WILL BECOME PART OF THE BOARD'S OFFICIAL RECORD, AND CANNOT BE RETURNED. IT IS RECOMMENDED THAT YOU MAKE ADDITIONAL COPIES OF DOCUMENTATION TO RETAIN FOR YOUR RECORDS.
Q. What happens at the hearing?
The hearing is informal and open to the public, and will last approximately 15-20 minutes depending on the complexity of the issues at hand. The Hearing Officer will make an audio tape recording of the hearing. Your insurance company will send a representative to the hearing to provide information as to why it determined you were more than 50% at fault for the accident. You will then be given an opportunity to provide evidence and testimony to the Hearing Officer as to why you believe that you were not more than 50% at fault for the accident. You can also bring a witness or a witness statement to the hearing. The Hearing Officer may ask you or the representative questions to clarify the information presented or the circumstances of the accident. To be successful in your appeal, your testimony and the evidence you present must overcome the presumption of fault established in 211 CMR 74.03. In order to overcome the presumption that you are at fault for the accident, you must present evidence that the Hearing Officer finds persuasive.
Q. When will I learn the outcome of my hearing?
At the end of the hearing, the Hearing Officer will take your appeal under advisement. The facts and circumstances presented will be reviewed in accordance with the governing laws and regulations.A Memorandum of Finding and Order, the Board of Appeals’ decision, will be mailed to you within 2-4 weeks. The Board of Appeal will also contact the Merit Rating Board and your insurance company so that your driving history record will be properly updated.
- If the decision is marked VACATE, the Board of Appeal has found that you were not more than 50% at fault for the accident. Any points that you received on your driving record as a result of the accident will be removed.
- If the decision is marked UPHELD, the Board of Appeal has found that you were more than 50% at fault for the accident. Any points will remain on your driving record.
Q. Can I appeal the Board of Appeals' decision if it is unfavorable?
If you disagree with the determination of the Board of Appeal, you can appeal the decision to your county's Superior Court or in (Boston) Suffolk County Superior Court. In accordance with M.G.L. c. 30A, § 14 and Superior Court Standing Order 1-96, you must file this appeal within 30 days of your receipt of the decision. Enclose to Superior Court:a certified copy of the Memorandum of Finding and Order, which can be obtained from the Board of Appeal for a fee of $20.00 and your complaint against the Board of Appeal.
Q. Can I appeal any type of premium increase to the Board of Appeal?
No, only an At-Fault Accident Determination can be appealed to the Board of Appeal. A premium increase from a traffic violation or a non-moving violation may not be appealed to the Board of Appeal. Any questions regarding this type of incident should be directed to the Registry of Motor Vehicles.