Massachusetts Consumer Bill of Rights for Automobile Insurance http://www.mass.gov/?pageID=ocaterminal&L=4&L0=Home&L1=Consumer&L2=Insurance&L3=Automobile+Insurance&sid=Eoca&b=terminalconte nt&f=doi_Consumer_css_auto_consumer_billofrights&csid=Eoca This Bill of Rights is a summary of your rights for when you shop, purchase and own automobile insurance in our new competitive marketplace. Massachusetts law requires that every vehicle operating in Massachusetts be insured. The Registry of Motor Vehicles will revoke your vehicle registration if your car is driven without insurance coverage. Furthermore, you could be charged with certain offenses if you are found to be driving a car without insurance. YOUR RIGHTS You have the right to purchase automobile insurance. You are entitled to purchase automobile insurance. You should shop around to find the best products and the best price to fit your needs. You cannot be denied automobile insurance for unfairly discriminatory reasons. Massachusetts prohibits insurance companies from denying you automobile insurance based on your gender, race, creed, national origin, marital status, religion, age, occupation, income, principal place of garaging your car, education and homeownership. You cannot be denied automobile insurance based on your credit history. The Division of Insurance prohibits an insurance company from denying you automobile insurance based on any credit information contained in a consumer report that is obtained from a credit reporting agency. You have the right to know the basis for a company’s denial of your application for insurance. Insurance companies can refuse to offer you coverage based on non-discriminatory grounds, but they must identify the reasons supporting their denial. If you believe an insurer has refused to offer you insurance unlawfully, you have the right to file a written complaint to the Division of Insurance. You have the right to obtain automobile insurance even if an insurer declines to give you a policy. If you cannot find an insurance company willing to issue a policy, you may obtain coverage through the Massachusetts Automobile Insurance Plan (MAIP). An insurance agent can help you apply for coverage through the MAIP. The MAIP will assign you to an insurance company that will provide insurance to you for up to three years. If you would like to learn more about your rights in the MAIP, please view the MAIP Consumer Guide. You have the right to seek the lowest prices available for automobile insurance in our market place. Now that competition has arrived in Massachusetts, you can shop for the best automobile insurance rates that are available in our market. The Division of Insurance encourages you to shop aggressively for the best rates for the products that fit your needs. You can call several agents and ask them to help you find the best rates and products. You also can call insurance companies directly to assist you. Finally, you can look online to see whether an insurance company will give you a premium quote over the internet. An incident-free driving history always will result in a lower premium. Premium calculations vary by company depending on the types of traffic violations, accidents, and other criteria they consider. Even if you have recently been involved in an accident or received a traffic ticket, it still pays to shop because some companies may judge some types of accidents or traffic violations differently. For a current list of all insurance companies offering auto insurance in Massachusetts, please visit the DOI’s website at www.mass.gov/doi. You have access to the DOI’s Sample Premium Website to assist you in your premium comparisons among different automobile insurance companies. If you are unsure about where to start, or if you do not know which companies offer automobile insurance in Massachusetts, you can get information from the Division’s Sample Premium website at www.mass.gov/autorates. The premiums you see on this website are NOT premium quotes. They are sample premiums based on sample driver profiles and intended only to be used as examples. The only place you can get an actual premium quote is from a company or an agent. Your written premium quote could be larger or smaller than the sample premium listed on the website based on your specific driver profile. The website allows you to review the sample premiums charged for each company based on a general customer profile. You also will see a list of discounts offered by each of these companies. The website also offers you the ability to link directly to a company, or search for an agent in your area to obtain an actual quote based on your detailed profile. You have the right to choose the coverage that is right for you. Agents, brokers and companies must inform you in simple language of your coverage options when you apply for an automobile insurance policy, or at any time upon your request if you already have a policy. Different levels of coverage are available and you have the right to know how each option affects your premium and what your coverage would be in the event of an accident. Insurers and agents must offer you the option of purchasing the following amounts of coverage: 1. Personal injury protection benefits up to $8,000 per person/per accident; 2. Property damage liability up to $5,000 per accident; 3. Comprehensive coverage subject to a deductible of $500; and 4. Medical payments insurance of at least $5,000. You should consider carefully your choice to purchase medical payments insurance if you already have health insurance. Your medical payments insurance may not be necessary if you have health insurance. You should discuss this carefully with your insurance agent or insurance company prior to making this decision. You have the right to select certain insurance policy periods. The majority of automobile insurance companies offer policies for one-year periods. Some insurance companies also offer policies for six-month periods or for periods up to two years. You can take advantage of these options if they are offered to you. However, every insurance company that agrees to offer you a policy must provide a policy with a one-year term if you ask for it. When you compare premium quotes from different companies, be sure to compare policy periods that are identical. You have the right to an insurance rate that is not unfairly discriminatory. An insurance company may use many different factors to determine your insurance rate. Massachusetts prohibits insurance companies from using factors such as: sex, marital status, race, creed, national origin, religion, age (except to provide the discount for persons who are 65 years or older), occupation, income, education and home ownership. Companies also may not use credit information contained on your consumer report that is obtained from a consumer reporting agency. You have the right to have coverage under your automobile insurance policy regardless of who is driving your car provided you gave your consent to the driver. In most cases, your policy covers any accident involving your car even when it is driven by someone else with your permission. Your policy will not cover bodily injuries or property damage resulting from an accident when someone drives your car without your consent. If your car is stolen, comprehensive coverage will pay to repair any damage to your car if recovered, or its actual cash value at the time it was stolen. You have the right to travel and have your coverage follow you. Your policy’s bodily injury protection (part 1) only applies to accidents that occur in Massachusetts. In order to have bodily injury coverage outside of Massachusetts, you must purchase the optional part 5. Even if you only want the minimum level of bodily injury protection ($20,000 per person or $40,000 per accident), you must purchase this limit under part 5 in order to be covered outside of the state. If you purchase coverage under part 5, your coverage - including bodily injury coverage – follows you everywhere in the U.S. and Canada. You have the right to an explanation of how your driving history record affects your premium. All companies use driving history when calculating premiums. The Division of Insurance’s regulation does not permit companies to calculate a premium based on an accident or traffic violation that is more than six years old. The weight that companies assign to a particular traffic violation or accident varies based on the age and severity of the incident. Companies develop their premiums using different systems; therefore, it may not be easy to compare different quotes from different companies purely on the basis of driving record. Your agent or insurance company will be able to help you with your questions. You have the right to see your driving history record. You may obtain a copy of the number of at fault accidents and traffic violations attributable to you from the Merit Rating Board (MRB). The MRB is the state agency that maintains these records. You can receive a copy of your record by submitting a completed “Request for Detailed Driving History Record” form to the MRB. There is a $15 fee to process your request. You can download the request form from the MRB’s website at www.mass.gov/mrb or by cal 617-351-4400. You have the right to pay a deposit premium of no more than thirty percent. You have the right to pay a deposit of no more than 30 percent of your policy’s premium when you obtain or renew your policy, so long as you have not failed to pay your premium for automobile insurance previously. You have the right to cancel your policy at any time. You can shop for a cheaper or different automobile insurance policy at any time – not only when your policy is up for renewal. If you find a better price or a company that offers additional coverages that you wish to purchase, you can cancel your old policy and seek a refund of your unused premium. Be aware that if you cancel a policy before it expires, your prior company may charge you a penalty. You should consider this option very carefully to make sure this is the best option for you. You should never cancel your old policy until a new one is in effect. A lapse in coverage could result in higher rates in the future. You have the right to change your coverages and policy limits at any time. You have the right to change your coverages and policy limits at any time, even if your policy is not up for renewal. If you select lower policy limits or cancel non-mandatory coverages, you have a right to a refund of your unused premium. You have the right to the prompt and fair handling of claims. You have the right to ask about any payments made to others by your company and charged to your policy. If you file a claim with your company, it should be handled promptly and fairly. If your claim is denied, the company must provide you with a written explanation for the denial. You have the right to a notice of cancellation. An insurance company may cancel your policy before its expiration date under very limited circumstances, such as when fraud is discovered; when your driver’s license is suspended or revoked; or, when you fail to make premium payments after a certain period of time. The company must give you at least 20 days written notice before cancelling your policy. The notice must specify the reason for the cancellation. If you receive a cancellation notice for non-payment of premium, you have until the date that the cancellation is to take effect in which to pay the premium and avoid cancellation. If you pay your premium after it is due, but before the cancellation date, check with your agent or insurance company for the total amount due to make sure that your payment is complete. If you receive a cancellation notice that you believe is based on inaccurate information or is otherwise unlawful, you have the right to file a written complaint with the Division of Insurance. You have the right to appeal a cancellation of insurance. If an automobile insurance company cancels your insurance, you can file an appeal with the Board of Appeals. There is no guarantee that the Board of Appeals will reinstate your policy, but you are entitled to a full and fair hearing on this cancellation. The Division recommends that you start shopping for insurance coverage from another insurance company immediately even if you have not had your hearing before the Board of Appeals so that you are not left without insurance coverage. You should never drive your car without insurance. You have the right to a notice of non-renewal. An insurance company can decline to renew your coverage for several different reasons. This occurs most often when a driver’s record includes certain “at-fault accidents” or motor vehicle violations. The company must issue a non-renewal notice directly to you or to your agent at least 45 days prior to the expiration of your policy. If you have an agent, your agent must send this notice to you within 15 days of the agent’s receipt, unless you obtain insurance coverage from another insurance company during this time frame. The notice must specify the insurance company’s reason for non-renewing your policy. The Division recommends that you begin to shop for automobile insurance from different insurance companies as soon as you receive a non-renewal notice. If you are in an accident and your insurance company finds that you are “at fault,” you have a right to be notified of this decision. Your insurance company must notify you within a specific period of time that it has made a decision that you were more than 50% “at fault” in an automobile accident. The notice also must contain certain accident, operator and policyholder information. It also must provide the title and telephone number of the company representative you can contact to discuss this decision. This notice also is provided to the Merit Rating Board so that your driving history record reflects this finding. You can always call the Division of Insurance at 617-521-7794 to report the company’s decision if you believe that you were treated unfairly. You have the right to keep private the personal information you give to your agent and insurance company. Insurance companies and agents are required by law to have procedures in place that protect the privacy of your information. Your insurance company must provide you with a notice of these procedures. Also, insurance companies and agents are required by law to protect your personal information from identity theft, and provide you with specific instructions should a security breach occur. “Personal information” does not include information that is lawfully obtained from publicly available information or from government records lawfully made available to the general public. You always have the right to file a complaint with the Division of Insurance. We are here for you. The Division of Insurance is always available to help you with questions or complaints about all types of insurance policies, insurance companies and agents. You can talk to a consumer service representative by calling the Division’s consumer hotline at: 617-521-7794. You also can go to the Division’s website – www.mass.gov/doi - to learn more about your Consumer Rights. This Bill of Rights does not address your responsibilities. Your responsibilities regarding your insurance coverage can be found in your insurance policy. Failure to meet your responsibilities may affect your rights. Frequently Asked Questions on Auto Insurance 1) ARE THERE ANY SPECIFIC TIME LIMITS FOR AN INSURANCE COMPANY TO PAY FOR COLLISION OR COMPREHENSIVE CLAIMS? There are no specific time limits for the settlement of claims. Insurance companies are required by law to pay all claims in a prompt and reasonable amount of time. However, what constitutes "prompt and reasonable" may vary from claim to claim. Claims that require special or extended investigation may take longer to resolve. Inclement weather conditions often cause an increase in the number of claims filed and that can delay the process as well. If, however, the insurance company fails to pay a comprehensive or collision claim within seven days after it receives an official claim form stating that the vehicle has been repaired, the insured may sue for the payments claimed to be due. 2) MY AUTO WAS DECLARED A TOTAL LOSS FOLLOWING AN ACCIDENT. IS MY COMPANY REQUIRED TO GIVE ME THE REPLACEMENT COST? When your auto is declared a total loss, your insurance company will pay you only the actual cash value of the auto as of the date of the loss, not the cost to replace it. Your auto's value is determined by the following factors: the retail value for an auto of like kind and quality prior to the accident; the price paid for the auto plus the value of prior improvements to the auto at the time of the accident; the decrease in value of the auto resulting from prior unrelated damage which is detected by the appraiser or for which a claim has been paid; and the actual purchase cost of an available auto of like kind and quality. If your auto has substantial value because of its exceptional condition such as an antique, classic, or restored auto, you should have it appraised and then insure it for the appraised value. 3) DO I HAVE TO PAY AN INSURANCE PREMIUM AFTER MY AUTO IS DECLARED A TOTAL LOSS? Yes, you must pay an insurance premium even if your auto is declared a total loss until such time that you return your license plates to the Registry of Motor Vehicles. Your auto policy terminates when you return the license plates to the Registry of Motor Vehicles. If you don't have your license plates because your auto was stolen or because your auto and plates were destroyed in a fire, you must go to the nearest Registry of Motor Vehicles office and obtain a lost or stolen plates receipt. This receipt must be presented to your insurance company in order to cancel your policy and avoid paying any additional premium. 4) MAY I KEEP MY AUTO IF I HAVE A COLLISION, LIMITED COLLISION OR COMPREHENSIVE CLAIM AND MY INSURANCE COMPANY DECLARES IT A TOTAL LOSS? 4) MAY I KEEP MY AUTO IF I HAVE A COLLISION, LIMITED COLLISION OR COMPREHENSIVE CLAIM AND MY INSURANCE COMPANY DECLARES IT A TOTAL LOSS?Your insurance company has the option to take title to your auto when it issues payment on your claim. The insurer is entitled to any salvage value your auto may have. You can, of course, negotiate with your company to purchase your auto for the agreed salvaged value. 5) THE BODY SHOP IS REPAIRING MY AUTO AFTER AN INSURED LOSS. WILL MY INSURANCE COMPANY PAY FOR ORIGINAL EQUIPMENT MANUFACTURER (OEM) PARTS? If the repair of the damaged part impairs the operational safety of the auto, the insurance company will pay to replace it with an OEM part. For non-safety parts, unless your claim occurs during the first 20,000 miles on the auto's odometer, you are not entitled to OEM parts. For autos with more than 20,000 miles, state regulation allows for the replacement of damaged parts with used, reconditioned or after market parts. You can insist on OEM parts, but you will have to pay the difference in cost. 6) AN OBJECT DAMAGED MY WINDSHIELD AND I AM UNABLE TO DETERMINE WHERE IT CAME FROM. AM I COVERED FOR THIS LOSS? Yes, if you have comprehensive insurance you are covered for the full amount of the loss, unless you opted for a $100 deductible for glass breakage. The $300, $500, or $1000 deductible, or whatever you may have selected for comprehensive coverage, does not apply to a glass loss. 7) CAN MY INSURANCE COMPANY DENY A CLAIM FOR DAMAGES TO MY AUTO IF THE PRINCIPAL PLACE OF GARAGING LISTED ON MY APPLICATION IS FALSE? Yes. If you or someone on your behalf gives false, deceptive, misleading or incomplete information on any application and if such information increases the insurance company's risk of loss, your company may then refuse to pay claims under any or all of the Optional Insurance coverages of the policy. Such information includes the description and place of garaging of the vehicles to be insured, the names of the operators required to be listed and the answers given for all listed operators. In the event that you have moved since you filled out your initial application, promptly notify your insurance company and the Registry of Motor Vehicles of your new address. 8) IS MY INSURANCE COMPANY REQUIRED TO NOTIFY ME OF ITS DECISION TO CANCEL MY POLICY? Yes. Your company must send you a notice at least 20 days prior to the effective date of the cancellation. A notice sent by regular mail with a certificate of mailing receipt obtained from the Post Office is considered sufficient. Certified or registered mail with a return receipt is no longer required. 9) WHAT CAN I DO IF I ACTUALLY RECEIVE A CANCELLATION NOTICE? If your policy is being cancelled because you have failed to pay your premium, you must pay your exact outstanding premium immediately to prevent cancellation. If you feel that the cancellation is unjust for any reason, you may submit a written appeal to the Board of Appeals at One South Station, Boston, MA 02110-2208. This must be done prior to the effective date of cancellation. 10) WHO IS LIABLE FOR THE STORAGE CHARGES ON MY DAMAGED AUTO WHEN THERE IS A DISPUTE AS TO THE AMOUNT OF THE CLAIM PAYMENT? The insurance company is responsible for paying storage charges until it makes a reasonable offer to settle the claim. However, if the consumer disputes the amount offered and the company revises its offer, this does not necessarily mean that the original offer was unreasonable. Disputes over what is reasonable can be resolved with your company through the process described in your insurance policy. You can also submit a written complaint to the Division of Insurance if you are unable to settle the dispute. 11) MAY AN INSURANCE COMPANY REQUEST A DOWN PAYMENT IN ADVANCE WHEN I PURCHASE OR RENEW AN AUTO INSURANCE POLICY? AND IS IT POSSIBLE TO PAY MY PREMIUM MONTHLY? Your insurance company may request up to a 30 percent down payment of the annual premium prior to the renewal or issuance of your policy. Many companies offer an installment payment plan for the balance of the premium. You should check with your agent or company to see what options are available to you. 12) IF I OWN AN AUTO WITH COLLISION AND COMPREHENSIVE COVERAGE, WILL MY INSURANCE APPLY TO A RENTAL OR BORROWED PRIVATE PASSENGER AUTO? Yes. Your collision and comprehensive insurance coverages are transferable to a substitute rented or borrowed private passenger auto that is damaged while it is being operated by you or members of your household with the consent of the owner. There is no coverage under your policy for family friends or significant others. You should be aware that your coverage is available only if you rent or borrow a private passenger auto in the United States or Canada. You should also be aware that your policy does not provide coverage for a borrowed or rented truck. If you are renting a truck, you should check with the rental company regarding the purchase of collision and comprehensive insurance. If you are borrowing a truck, make sure you determine whether or not the owner has purchased collision or comprehensive coverage. If the owner does not have insurance, you may be personally liable for any damage to that truck which is the result of your negligent operation. If the use is for business rather than pleasure, call your agent first. Business use is usually not covered under your personal auto insurance policy. 13) HOW DO I GO ABOUT SWITCHING INSURANCE COMPANIES PRIOR TO THE END OF MY POLICY WITHOUT PAYING A PENALTY? Once you receive an invoice reflecting new (not estimated) rates and any applicable new deviations or discounts, you have 30 days to change insurance companies without paying a "short rate" penalty. If you make a change within this 30 day period, you will pay your former insurance company on a pro-rata basis at its newly established rates until the date the coverage with your new insurance company begins. If you choose to switch insurance companies after the 30 day period, you may be subject to a short rate penalty which decreases as your policy year progresses depending on the insurance company to which you transferred your coverage. You should ask your new insurance company whether it will reimburse you for these penalties. This information was compiled to help consumers answer some of the most frequently asked questions about personal automobile insurance. Additional questions or comments should be made to the Division of Insurance. Massachusetts Auto Insurance Plan (MAIP) Consumer Guide The Massachusetts Automobile Insurance Plan (MAIP) is an insurance plan for drivers who cannot obtain insurance in the voluntary market. If you cannot find an insurance company willing to write you a policy, you will be assigned to an insurer through the MAIP. Is The MAIP An Insurance Company? No, the MAIP is the way you are assigned to one of the existing automobile insurers if you have been unable to find coverage on your own. Every company licensed to sell private passenger automobile insurance in Massachusetts must also participate in the MAIP by acting as an Assigned Risk Company (ARC). Consumers who cannot obtain insurance in the voluntary market are assigned to an ARC by the MAIP. For the most part, these ARCs are the same companies that you will see selling insurance in the voluntary market. The only difference is each company has some drivers they insure voluntarily and other drivers that are assigned to them through the MAIP. The MAIP is administered by Commonwealth Automobile Reinsurers (CAR) according to rules that are approved by the Division of Insurance. The coverage and service provided to you by the ARC will be comparable to coverage provided to drivers in the voluntary market. The ARC must charge the consumer the lower of the MAIP premium rate or the ARC’s voluntary premium rate. How Do I Get Assigned To An Insurer Through The MAIP? You will try to find coverage on your own in the voluntary market – either through an agent or directly from a company. If no company is willing to write coverage for you, any insurance agent can submit an application for insurance to the MAIP. The MAIP will then assign the application to one of the Assigned Risk Companies and insurance will be provided to you by that company. If an agent submits a MAIP application for you, that agent will continue to service your policy regardless of which Assigned Risk Company receives your policy. How Will I Know If I Have Been Assigned To An Insurer Through The MAIP? Your agent will tell you when you have been assigned to a company through the MAIP. In some cases, your agent may fill out a MAIP application before you receive official notification that you have been denied coverage in the voluntary market. You will always receive written notice any time you are denied coverage. Will I Know Why I Have Been Assigned To An Insurer Through The MAIP? Any time a company denies your application for automobile insurance in the voluntary market, it must inform you in writing. This letter must include the reasons for their denial. Different companies might deny your application for different reasons, so these letters might list different reasons from company to company. Are There Drivers Who Cannot Be Assigned Through The MAIP During The Transition Period Prior To Full Operation Of The MAIP? The period between April 1, 2008 and March 31, 2009 is a “transition period,” during which the full operation of the MAIP gradually will be phased-in. Even though the MAIP will not become fully operational until April 1, 2009, if you cannot obtain insurance on a voluntary basis, you always will be able to obtain insurance from some insurance company unless: Any person who usually drives your motor vehicle does not hold or is not eligible to obtain an operator’s license or fails to obtain such license as required by law; Any person who usually drives your motor vehicle has failed to pay an insurance company any motor vehicle insurance premiums due or contracted during the preceding twelve (12) months; or With respect to physical damage insurance, you have failed to make your vehicle(s) available for inspection as required by Massachusetts insurance regulations. The placement of drivers through the MAIP began April 1, 2008, and is limited to the following types of drivers who are declined insurance on a voluntary basis: A newly licensed driver applying for his or her own policy; A driver who has not been insured in Massachusetts in the twelve (12) months preceding the application for insurance coverage; or A driver who has ten (10) or more merit rating points, as determined by the MAIP rate manual rules. Starting on April 1, 2009, any driver can be referred for assignment through the MAIP. Is There A Special Rule About Policy Renewal For “Clean-in-Three” Drivers? Prior to April 1, 2011, if you are a driver who is “Clean-in-Three,” you cannot be denied policy renewal by your current insurance company unless one of these circumstances applies to you: You choose not to renew your policy with your current insurer; Your insurance agent transfers his/her book of business to another insurance company; Your insurance company terminates its relationship with your insurance agent and your insurance agent transfers his/her book of business to another insurance company; Any person who usually drives your motor vehicle does not hold or is not eligible to obtain an operator’s license or fails to obtain such license as required by law; Any person who usually drives your motor vehicle has failed to pay an insurance company any motor vehicle insurance premiums due or contracted during the preceding twelve (12) months; or With respect to physical damage insurance, you have failed to make your vehicle(s) available for inspection as required by Massachusetts insurance regulations. You are a “Clean-in-Three” driver if you meet all of the following criteria: You have been licensed to operate an automobile in Massachusetts for at least thirty-six (36) months prior to the effective date of your policy; You have been continuously insured with no more than one less-than-sixty-day period of lapsed coverage for the past thirty- six (36) months; You have not been found to be at fault for an accident that generated an insurance claim, including a Personal Injury Protection (PIP) claim, for thirty-six (36) months prior to the effective date of your policy; ; You have not been found to be at fault for a traffic violation for thirty-six (36) months prior to the effective date of your policy; You have not had a DUI conviction for sixty (60) months prior to the effective date of your policy. and You have not had a conviction for a vehicular felony for sixty (60) months prior to the effective date of your policy. What Are The Reasons An Assigned Risk Company Can Refuse To Issue A Policy Which Has Been Assigned Through The MAIP? An Assigned Risk Company can refuse to offer insurance to any applicant, or to renew an existing policy, if you do not have a valid driver’s license or if your license is suspended or revoked. In that event, you should work with the Registry of Motor Vehicles to obtain your license or have your license reinstated. If you have failed to pay your automobile insurance premium at any time in the last 12 months, your ARC may require you to pay your premium in full before issuing a policy. What If I Am Assigned Through The MAIP Because Of Inaccurate Information? Whenever you apply for automobile insurance, you should make sure that all of the information on your application is true, accurate and complete. In the event that a company denies your application because of an inaccuracy, you are always free to re-apply with the corrected information. You should be aware that correcting inaccurate information will not guarantee that a company will agree to insure you voluntarily. Can I Choose My Insurer If I Am In The MAIP? Assignments are made on the basis of each company’s market share. You will not be able to choose your company. Certain circumstances, however, will result in an assignment being directed to a particular Assigned Risk Company. Examples of directed assignment include a household member with her own policy, or outstanding premium owed to a company. Can I Dispute My Assignment To A Particular Company Through The MAIP? You may only dispute an assignment to a particular company through the MAIP in one of the following circumstances: If you are currently or have previously been involved in a lawsuit with the company to which you are assigned If you have filed a Consumer Complaint with the Division of Insurance or the Attorney General’s office against the company to which you are assigned before your MAIP assignment If you have invoked your rights under a consumer protection statute against the company to which you are assigned before your MAIP assignment. For example, you previously issued a Chapter 93A Demand Letter to the company How Do I Dispute My Assignment To A Particular Company Through The MAIP? If you have been assigned to a company that falls into one or more of the categories described above, you may request reassignment to a different company by completing a Request for Reassignment Form. You must complete and submit this form within 30 days of either (1) your initial assignment to the MAIP, or (2) your annual policy renewal date. You will be able to obtain copies of this form from your agent or online. You will be required to provide supporting documentation that you are entitled to be reassigned to a different company when you submit your request. Do I Need To Change Agents If I Am Assigned Through The MAIP? Do I Need To Change My Other Insurance Policies If I Am Assigned Through The MAIP? No. Every agent licensed to sell automobile insurance in Massachusetts must also be an Assigned Risk Producer. This means that any agent can help you complete an application to the MAIP. If you like your current agent, no one will force you to switch. You are also free to keep your other insurance policies – such as a homeowner’s insurance policy – with your present insurer. Will My Quality Of Service Change If I Am Assigned Through The MAIP? You should not see any change in the quality of service. The service provided to you by the Assigned Risk Company must be the same as those provided to drivers in the voluntary market. Will I Still Receive My Group And Other Discounts? Yes, you can qualify for group and other discounts offered by the Assigned Risk Company; however, you may have to fill out an additional application in order to determine your eligibility for those discounts. If I Am Assigned To A Company Through The MAIP That Has Additional Coverages, Can I Purchase Them? Companies are allowed to sell you any coverage that they offer to customers through the voluntary market, but are not required to do so. These additional coverages are subject to the company’s existing underwriting rules. How Do I Get Out Of My MAIP Assignment? Maintaining a clean driving record is the best way to convince companies to offer you coverage. Since drivers are allowed to change insurers at any time, you are free to shop around for coverage in the voluntary market throughout the year. Whenever you find a company willing to write you voluntarily, you are free to switch. You should remember that changing insurers in the middle of a policy period will probably result in a penalty called a “short rate value.” The purpose of this penalty is to allow the company to recoup the costs of writing, administering and canceling your policy. The amount of the short rate value decreases as your policy renewal date gets closer. You should contact your agent or company to find out how much of a penalty you would have to pay before you cancel your existing policy. Who Can I Call To Complain About The MAIP Or The Process Of Being Assigned Through The MAIP? You should always contact your agent or company with questions about your insurance coverage or placement. You can also contact the Division of Insurance’s Consumer Section by calling 1-617-521-7794. Consumer Alert: Automobile Insurance Advertising; (Nov-2009) Now that managed competition has come to Massachusetts, drivers are seeing advertisements on TV, radio and print that may promise you that you can save money by changing insurance companies. The Division of Insurance always recommends that you shop around for the automobile insurance that best suits your needs, but you should examine these ads closely to determine what they are really claiming before making any decisions. Be Cautious About Advertisements that Promise Savings Massachusetts law includes strict requirements that insurance advertisements may not include untrue, false or deceptive claims. Since premium calculation is so complex and varies from company to company, no insurer can legitimately claim that every driver will save money by switching to them. Calculating Premium is a Complex Process Many factors go into the calculation of an automobile insurance premium. The type of car, amount of coverage, place of principal garaging, selection of deductibles, application of discounts and your driving history and experience are combined with many other factors to produce a premium. Each company also calculates rates in a different way. While one person might save money switching to Company X, you might have completely different results. Understand How “Average Savings” are Calculated Most of these advertisements talk about “average savings” drivers may experience if they switch companies. Any claim that a driver can save money based on a comparison of the premiums of other companies must support that claim with specific data. The method the company uses to calculate this savings must be described in the same advertisement. In most cases, this description is contained in the fine print at the bottom of the screen or at the end of a radio or print advertisement. In order to know whether you might actually save money by switching companies, you need to understand how the company calculated the savings comparison. Average Customer v. Average Savings Many advertisements say that “customers who switch save an average of…” You should keep in mind that this is not the same as saying that the average customer saves a certain amount by switching to that company. Many companies will ask drivers applying for a premium quote the amount of premium they pay their current insurer. In calculating the savings in the advertisement, the company is only looking at those drivers who actually purchased a new policy – not ones who obtained a quote but declined to purchase insurance. The calculation also does not take into account drivers who do not actively seek a price quote. The group of drivers in this sample cannot be considered an average driver and they may or may not resemble your driving profile. Shop and Save No matter how the savings comparison is made, results will vary. The only way for you to find out how much money you can save on automobile insurance is to actually shop premium quotes for the coverage you need. Be sure that each quote you obtain is for the same exact coverage, so that your comparison is “apples to apples.” People who actually shop around have the best chance of saving money. Companies Compete on More than Just Price The price you pay for automobile insurance might be the most important factor in helping you choose a company; however, it should not be the only factor. Insurance companies sometimes offer unique features in their policies – some at no charge – to distinguish themselves from their competitors. While it is good to make companies compete on price, your first step should be to make sure you have the coverage levels and policy features you need. Remember that one of the most important reasons to purchase automobile insurance is so that it will cover expenses in the event you have an accident or loss. Adequate coverage, good claims service and customer handling are all important. Asking your friends and family about their experiences dealing with particular insurance companies can be a useful source of information on how well companies treat their customers. Contact the Division of Insurance If you have any questions regarding travel insurance, contact the Division of Insurance by calling (617) 521-7794 or visiting www.mass.gov/doi for more information on this or any other insurance topic. It Pays To Shop Around (Consumer FAQ) Why Does Competition Matter? Competition matters because you may be able to get different insurance products or packages for different prices if you shop around. Rates and policies will no longer be the same for all companies. In recent years, all rates for automobile insurance have been set by the Commissioner of Insurance under what was known as the "fix- and-establish" system. Under this system, if you requested a premium quote for the same coverage from different companies, each of those companies would give you the same price for that coverage - unless you were eligible for a group discount. Beginning April 1, 2008, automobile insurance companies will begin using their own rates. Although these rates may vary, they must still be approved by the Commissioner of Insurance. Under the new system, if you request premium quotes for the same coverage from several different companies, you will probably receive different quotes from each of them based on their rating systems. When selecting your coverage, you should consider the different rates, benefits, and services offered by the companies as they compete for your business under the new system of managed competition. Will My Auto Insurance Coverages Change? The minimum coverages for a basic policy are still mandated by Massachusetts law. The types of coverage you are required to purchase by law are called compulsory insurance, and will not change. The types of additional coverage you may purchase voluntarily, known as optional insurance, may vary from company to company. More Options Although the minimum limits and basic coverages will not change, insurers will now be permitted to offer additional coverages, higher limits, and lower or waived deductibles. Therefore, you may have more choices available to you, and may want to shop around if there are additional coverages you wish to purchase. Will Surcharges Change? Under the prior "fix-and-establish" system, Massachusetts law requires that companies apply specific surcharges for certain accidents and traffic violations. This system of surcharges is called the Safe Driver Insurance Plan (SDIP). Under the new system, insurance companies will be permitted to develop their own rules - known as merit rating plans - to determine if and how they will impose surcharges on your premium for at-fault accidents and traffic violations. These new merit rating plans will be subject to approval by the Commissioner of Insurance. Companies may also choose to use the existing SDIP for a merit rating plan. Merit Rating Board In the competitive rating system, insurers will still be required to report all at-fault accidents to the Merit Rating Board (MRB). The MRB is the state agency that maintains operator driving history records. The MRB will continue to provide this driving history information to automobile insurers. Why Is Auto Insurance So Expensive In Massachusetts? Massachusetts has some of the highest auto insurance costs in the country. Many factors contribute to these high costs. The state is densely-populated with the majority of its drivers living in urban areas where accidents are more likely to happen. In addition, Massachusetts' higher cost of living means higher costs for medical care, auto repairs and litigation costs. The bottom line is that Massachusetts has more property damage and bodily injury claims per vehicle than nearly every other state. As the number of claims increases, so does the cost of insurance. When claims decrease, insurance rates decrease as well. Will Competition Lower My Premium? Competition is designed to encourage insurance companies to offer their lowest possible premium to each driver. Although the majority of Massachusetts policyholders will probably benefit from reduced rates under the new system, the amount that you pay will depend on your individual risk factors. Examples of individual risk factors include your driving record, the territory in which you live, and other rating factors approved by the Commissioner. While every policy is different, maintaining a clean driving record should lower your premium. What Types and How Much Coverage Should I Buy? Mandatory Coverage There are several types of compulsory insurance that you are required to purchase under Massachusetts law. These coverages are: " Bodily Injury to Others, with a mandatory limit of $20,000 per person and $40,000 per accident " Personal Injury Protection (PIP), with a mandatory limit of $8,000 " Bodily Injury Caused by an Uninsured Auto, with a mandatory limit of $20,000 per person and $40,000 per accident " Property Damage, with a mandatory limit of $5,000 Optional Coverage Depending on your individual circumstances, you may also wish to purchase additional types of coverage, or increased limits on the types of compulsory insurance listed above. You should consult with an agent or other insurance professional for help in determining what types and levels of coverage you need. All companies will offer the following coverages that you may wish to buy: " Increased limits for bodily injury to others " Increased limits for bodily injury caused by an uninsured or underinsured auto. " Coverage for medical payments beyond the mandatory PIP coverage " Collision coverage that pays for damage to your car no matter who causes the accident. Most companies will allow you to choose from a range of deductibles. " Comprehensive coverage that pays for damage to you car caused by events such as fire, theft or vandalism. Like collision, companies will allow you to choose from a range of deductibles. " Coverage for substitute transportation while your car is being repaired from a collision or comprehensive claim. " Coverage for towing and labor when your car breaks down. Each of these coverages is subject to important limitations and exclusions. In addition to the standard options, automobile insurers are allowed to offer additional optional coverages that you may want. Some of the options expand existing coverages or offer benefits that were never available in Massachusetts. You will want to learn more about all of the options available to you from each company in which you are interested. For a more detailed description of auto insurance and available coverages, please visit the DOI website, or review the Division's Ways To Save On Your 2008 Automobile Insurance consumer guide. How Should I Shop For Auto Insurance? First, you should determine what types of coverage you need, and how much of each coverage type you need. Once you have decided what you need, you should then get premium quotes for that coverage from several companies. Some companies market insurance through agents, while others sell directly through employee salespersons. Therefore, you will be able to obtain multiple quotes by working with one or more agents, or by contacting each direct writer separately, either by telephone or online. To make sure you get the best possible premium for the coverage you need, you should make sure that each of the premium quotes you receive are for the identical coverage you wish to purchase. For a current list of all insurance companies offering auto insurance in Massachusetts, please visit the DOI's website at www.mass.gov. Where Can I Get Premium Quotes? There are several ways in which you can obtain premium quotes, including working with agents or contacting insurance companies directly. Agents Agents may represent one or more insurance companies, and will be able to provide you with premium quotes for the companies they represent. Exclusive agents represent only one company or group of affiliated companies, and will only be able to give you a quote for that company or its affiliates. Independent agents often represent several companies, and will be able to provide you with premium quotes from the companies they represent. If you get quotes through agents, be sure to find out which companies they represent and which ones have given you insurance quotes. Direct Writers You may obtain a quote directly from an insurance company by contacting the company online or over the telephone. How Should I Decide Where To Purchase My Policy? Once you have determined the appropriate types and levels of coverage to fit your needs, you can obtain quotes from different insurance companies directly or through agents in order to find the best price. Make sure that all of the premium quotes you receive from each company are for the same coverage. Once you have determined which companies are offering the best price for the coverage you need, you may wish to speak with family members, friends and neighbors to learn about their claim experiences. Remember that while price is certainly an important factor in deciding which insurance company to choose, it is not the only factor. Price, discounts, claims handling, the location of an agent or direct writer, or the financial health of the company are all legitimate factors you might consider in buying insurance. Ultimately, you must decide which features are most important to you. What Are The Different Ways Companies Sell Auto Insurance? Insurance companies generally sell insurance either through agents or direct marketing. Agents can be either independent or exclusive. Buying insurance through agents or direct marketing companies each has advantages and disadvantages. Policies are marketed, sold and serviced differently depending on which method you choose. Agents Most insurance companies in Massachusetts currently sell insurance through agents. Agents represent one or more insurance companies. When you receive a quote from an agent, make sure you find out exactly which companies each agent has obtained quotes from so you can be certain you have obtained quotes from a variety of companies. Independent agents generally represent several insurance companies. While independent agents may represent several companies, these agents generally do not represent all the insurance companies offering auto insurance in Massachusetts. Exclusive agents represent only one insurance company. Whether you are dealing with independent or exclusive agents, it is a good idea to make sure that you have obtained quotes from a variety of companies. Direct Marketing Some insurance companies sell insurance through direct marketing - meaning that they sell insurance directly to consumers without the involvement of agents. Direct marketing companies typically sell and service insurance policies over the internet, through the mail, or through 1-800 telephone numbers. How Do Companies Determine My Premium? Insurance companies group you with other individuals who share your general risk characteristics - such as the number of years driving experience. To calculate your individual premium, the company uses a base rate for your group, then adjusts it to reflect your individual risk factors and appropriate discounts for which you are eligible. In determining your actual premium, insurance companies may consider factors such as your years of driving experience, the number and type of your at-fault accidents, the number and type of your traffic violations, the vehicle you drive, and the place where you garage that vehicle. Insurance companies may also consider other risk factors if those factors are relevant to risk and approved by the Commissioner. Prohibited Underwriting and Rating Factors. Even though the system is changing, under the rates companies are offering as of April 1, 2008, insurance companies are prohibited from using certain factors for either underwriting or rating in Massachusetts. Underwriting is the company's process for deciding whether or not to voluntarily accept you as a risk. Rating is the company's process for determining the amount of your actual premium. For underwriting, companies are prohibited from using sex, marital status, race, creed, national origin, religion, age, occupation, income, principal place of garaging, education, and home ownership. For rating, companies are prohibited from using sex, marital status, race, creed, national origin, religion, age (except for drivers who are 65 years or older), occupation, income, education, and home ownership. Insurance companies are also prohibited from using credit information from consumer reporting agencies for either underwriting or rating. If an insurance company uses any of these prohibited factors in connection with either the underwriting or rating of a policy offered as of April 1, 2008, you should file a consumer complaint with the Division of Insurance. What Should I Do If My Rate Goes Up? First: Make sure that your rate has really increased. Compare the types of coverages and coverage limits on your policy last year to the coverages and coverage limits you've received quotes for, and make sure they are the same. Also remember that any change to your policy will affect your premium. Changing your vehicle, adding or changing drivers, or changing your cars garaging location may all increase your premium. Second: Consider whether you are classified as a high-risk driver, such as one with multiple at-fault accidents and/or traffic violations, or one with less than six years experience. If you are, the increase in your premium may be the result of these factors. Third: Contact your agent or your insurance company for an explanation of why your rates have increased. Fourth: Once you have learned the reason for your rate increase, you may want to obtain premium quotes from other insurance companies until you are certain you have found the lowest premium for the coverage you want. Remember that if you have had a change in driving history, such as an at-fault accident or traffic violation, your premium is likely to go up in a competitive rating market the same as it would have increased under the "fix-and-establish" system. What Types of Discounts Are Available? There are a variety of discounts insurance companies may offer. Some discounts are required by law, such as for passive restraint systems or other safety features, anti-theft devices, and drivers who are 65 years or older. Other discounts are optional, and may include ones offered to members of a group program, persons qualifying for advanced driver-training, or multi-car discounts. Whether insurance companies are required to offer a particular discount by law or simply choose to offer it, the amount of those discounts may vary somewhat from company to company. When shopping for your new policy, be sure to find out what types of discounts each company offers, and how much each of those discounts reduce your premium.