What can you do when your motor vehicle insurance company surcharges you following an accident? There are a number of steps that you may undertake. They do not require an experienced personal injury attorney; however, the assistance of an attorney may be helpful.
In a case that came before a Superior Court judge, the following was determined: the plaintiff was involved in a collision in Brookline on January 23, 2012. The plaintiff was cited by the Brookline police for failure to yield at an intersection. The plaintiff appealed the citation to the Clerk Magistrate hearing in the Brookline District Court. At the court proceeding, after hearing the facts, the Clerk Magistrate found the plaintiff not responsible.
End of story? No. The insurance company surcharged the plaintiff notwithstanding the result of the Clerk Magistrate hearing result.
Insurance Surcharge Hearing Before the Board of Appeals
In this case, Premier Insurance Company issued a surcharge to the plaintiff. The appeal of the surcharge was to the Board of Appeal on Motor Vehicle Liability Policies and Bonds. A hearing was held by the Board. At that hearing the Board found that the plaintiff was more than 50% responsible.
Because the implementation of the surcharge would results in annual additional fees, the plaintiff in this case appealed to the Superior Court.
Superior Court Hearing of Insurance Board Case
Fortunately for the plaintiff, the Superior Court held that the Board’s findings were not based on sufficient evidence. In fact, the Superior Court judge found that the only evidence before the Board was the testimony of the plaintiff – that he stopped, proceeded with caution, and that the other driver was driving at an unsafe speed in dangerous conditions.
Premier’s evidence was hearsay – that is, someone not at the Board hearing had said that the plaintiff did not stop. The Court held that that evidence was not admissible as it was an out of court statement which could not be cross examined: Premier Insurance did not even have the statement in affidavit form – it was contained in notes taken by a Premier Insurance “investigator.”
Why Appeal the Board’s Decision?
There are multiple reasons why someone would appeal. First, a finding of fault by your insurance company results in a surcharge. Not a one-time surcharge, but one for multiple years. This can be very expensive. Second, if you are injured, a finding that you are not at fault will result in the insurance companies reviewing the facts to consider paying you damages for your injuries.
Retain Experienced Counsel if You Want to Appeal A Surcharge
In the instant case, you can appreciate the many steps the plaintiff underwent before securing a victory. First, he was the victim of a motor vehicle accident in which he was careful and was hit by a speeding driver. Second, he received a ticket from the local police. Third, he had to attend a hearing at the District Court. Fourth, he had to defend himself at a second hearing before the Board. Fifth, he had to appeal that finding to the Superior Court and present his evidence there.
Thus, while the result was ultimately favorable, he was presumed responsible by his own insurance company all along and forced to litigate at multiple levels.