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
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.
During 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.
After the 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.