How to successfully appeal a Massachusetts auto insurance (SDIP) surcharge

By | April 9, 2010

My wife was involved in an auto accident last September which was not her fault — she opened the door of her parked car after confirming that no one was coming, and another driver came whipping around a corner and hit her door.  Her insurance company found her liable for the accident and issued an SDIP surcharge, because the regulations state that the person opening the door is assumed to be at fault whenever an accident like this occurs (just like the person in back is assumed to be at fault whenever one car rear-ends another).

Everyone with whom my wife spoke about the surcharge told her not to bother appealing.  Several people claimed to have waged unsuccessful appeals when they were not at fault.  The prevailing wisdom seemed to be that the system is rigged against drivers.  Nevertheless, I insisted that she appeal and even ghost-wrote her affidavit (we chose to appeal in writing rather than attending the hearing).

Today we received a notice that my wife “did demonstrate a showing necessary to rebut the governing presumption of the applicable standard of fault,” and the surcharge was vacated.  Woohoo!

Here’s the affidavit I wrote for her which was successful at getting the surcharge overturned:

March 19, 2010

Commonwealth of Massachusetts
Division of Insurance / Board of Appeal
1000 Washington Street, 8th Floor
Boston, MA 02118
Attn: Statement Section

To whom it may concern:

Thank you for the opportunity to present my case for your consideration.

The open door of my parked Honda Odyssey minivan was hit by another driver.

I checked that the roadway was clear immediately before opening my door. No cars were in sight.

I then opened my door all the way and placed one foot on the pavement before suddenly realizing that there was another vehicle about to hit my door. I had time to pull my leg all the way back in and partially shut my door before that occurred, such that I was not injured and the only damage to my minivan was slight damage to my door’s trim.

When you consider the time that it took me to open my door all the way at a normal speed (i.e., I didn’t throw it open quickly or anything), put one foot on the pavement, realize that a vehicle had “come out of nowhere” and was about to hit mine, pull my leg fully back into my minivan, and close my door more than halfway, it should be obvious that the other vehicle (a) could not have been close to mine when this sequence of events started and (b) was probably traveling at an excessive speed and possibly not paying attention.

Here is a satellite photo of where the accident occurred:

I have marked where my car was legally and properly parked, only a couple of inches from the curb, with a red rectangle. I would like to call your attention to two features of this scenario:

  1. Note how wide the single traffic lane is on that part of Faneuil Street, which is one-way. In a traffic lane that wide, any car driving close enough to the parking lane to clip a door was being driven negligently.
  2. As I noted above, I did not see the other vehicle when I checked the roadway before opening my door, nor do I have any direct knowledge of where it came from. However, it seems likely to me that the vehicle either turned right from Bigelow Street onto Faneuil Street as shown by the blue arrow in the photo, or left from N435 onto Faneuil Street as shown by the green arrow. In either case, it appears that the other driver made the turn too quickly and/or without paying sufficient attention and did not notice my already open door until it was too late for him to avoid colliding with it.

Given all these details, I think it is clear that I was not responsible for this accident.

Thank you again for taking the time to consider my appeal.


Andrea Kamens

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155 thoughts on “How to successfully appeal a Massachusetts auto insurance (SDIP) surcharge

  1. Ken

    I was in a car accident in January due to a medical condition. My Blood sugar level suddenly dropped and I went unconscious. I went off the road and smashed into a pole…..totaling my car. I am a very safe driver, no tickets, no DUI’s………and this wasn’t a result of me driving recklessly. It was a one time medical issue. I only damaged my own car, there was no other car and no other people or property damaged. I just received my premiums for 2015 and my insurance DOUBLED. It went from $1100.00 per year to $2269.00 This seems excessive to me. I was advised to appeal based on the medical issue. Do you think I have any chance of winning the appeal?

    1. jik Post author

      Do you think I have any chance of winning the appeal?

      Yes, but be prepared to answer when they ask what you’ve done to ensure that the “one time medical issue” you experienced isn’t going to recur.

  2. BRB

    I will be appealing a 4 point surcharge in Ma in a few weeks. I was in an accident in Feb. I had come to a full stop at a stop sign, looked both ways and attempted to enter the intersection when all of a sudden my front drivers side corner was hit by an on coming car. His car somehow caught the bumper of my car and the front bumper was ripped off.
    I was given a citation because it was my car that had the stop sign. I feel that I am less than 50% at fault. How can I appeal this?

    1. jik Post author

      Why do you feel you are less than 50% at fault? Your brief description of the accident doesn’t provide any grounds for an appeal.

      1. BRB

        Because after looking both ways I looked again before preceding into the intersection. The car came out of no where which makes me think they were speeding. (speed limit is 30 mph)
        After hitting my car, their car preceded across to the other side of the intersection and swerved back to the right side of the road before it came to a stop.

        1. jik Post author

          Did police respond to the accident scene? Were you or the other driver cited? Did the police write up a report about the accident, and if so, do you have a copy, and if so, does it say anything that might support your theory that the other car was speeding? Were there witnesses to the accident? Did they give statements to the police, or if not, did police get their contact information such that you could contact them to get a statement now? Was your view at the intersection obstructed in any way (e.g., parked cars prevented you from seeing too far down the road from which the other car came, or that road is curved)?

          If you go into the hearing and say, “I looked both ways carefully before proceeding. The car was not visible when I entered the intersection. It came out of nowhere and hit me. I believe it was speeding,” then it’s possible that will be enough to overturn the surcharge.

          However, if the other driver submitted a statement to his insurance company telling a different story, and there are no police reports or witness statements supporting your version of events, and you can’t show that your view of the road the other car came from was limited, then I’m not sure you will be able to prevail.

          I think if I were in your shoes I’d probably go ahead and appeal, but I wouldn’t be too confident of success.

          1. Anonymous

            fyi…I lost my fight against the surcharge. But at least I gave it a try, I really didn’t expect to win because I believe the State and Insurance Companies are negative against giving someone a break. I was told they “do not” take into account whether this was a “first” accident or not, they don’t take into account the driver’s driving record. Which I think is wrong and unfair.
            But I did change insurance companies and saved $1000 with even more coverage.

  3. Maxwell

    I was involved in an incident in January. I attempted to overtake a slow-moving vehicle but in doing so inadvertently slipped on black ice and lost control of my car. No damage to the other car and I landed in the snowbank. Police investigated and issued me a citation, which I was later found NOT RESPONSIBLE for. I was happy until recently the town it was in is claiming guardrail damage under my policy, which will lead to a surcharge that will essentially double my monthly premium. Upon investigating the scene, I saw that the replaced guardrail is in fact 100+ feet away from the address of the incident stated in the police report. If it is assessed, what do you think my chances of successful appeal is? My main gripe comes from the fact that my insurance company is not taking my documentation and proof seriously and is, for some reason, eager to pay the claim.

    1. jik Post author

      If you don’t think you did the damage the town is claiming you did, then you should appeal. The insurance company has no incentive to dispute the town’s claims… That’s what the appeal process is for.


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