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.

Sincerely,

Andrea Kamens

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

  1. Chris

    My husband hit another car…more like a light “contact” during severe traffic jam, bumper to bumper. His foot slipped. Instead of the paint job for a minor scratch, no dent what-so ever, the other vehicle replaced a bumper and 3 days of rental car. My insurance paid out $1004.88. Thus, bc it was over $1000, we received a Surcharge Notice. What are the chances of appealing this case…

    Reply
    1. Don

      Jonathan’s blog, so his insight is likely more valuable than mine, but….

      1. First I’ll tease you. What are the chances of appealing? Depends on whether you want to or not! (sorry, sometimes I get nit-picky with grammar/English usage…. 🙂 🙂 🙂

      2. What are the chances you’d be successful in having it overturned? I’d say nearly zero. You didn’t present any mitigating circumstances. In any case, my parents always tried to teach me right from wrong, and they did a pretty good job, but it was my high school basketball coach that taught me a lot about taking responsibility for my actions. I got called on a foul and started to deflect the blame to the ref while on the court. He went right out there (at 6′ 6″, that was big to a high school kid!) and grabbed me by the back of my neck and told me — you screw up, you get called on it, you raise your hand and you own it! That’s the way I’ve lived my life since, the way I’ve taught my kids, and what I would recommend to you. His foot slipped? Yeah, that stinks. It was an accident. That’s what insurance is for. Own it. Maybe, just maybe, you could offer to reimburse your insurance company anywhere between the $5 that put you over the line and their payout of $1005 and they might be willing/able to drop the surcharge. Not likely, but you could ask. And you’d have to determine if you thought it worth it in the first place. Good luck.

      Reply
    2. jik Post author

      Regarding why the whole bumper was replaced, unfortunately modern bumpers are damaged extremely easily, and the damage isn’t always visible, and if the bumper suffers any damage then it needs to be replaced for safety reasons. So while it’s certainly possible that the shop that did the repair replaced the bumper unnecessarily, it’s more likely that it was a necessary repair.

      I think it’s unlikely that the insurance company will engage in the shenanigans Don mentioned, i.e., letting you pay down enough of the claim to bring the amount below the $1,000 surcharge threshold. For one thing, it’s kind of illegal. For another, they’ve got no incentive to do that, since they get to charge you higher premiums as a result of the surcharge.

      I agree with Don that if your husband was at fault, he should take his lumps.

      I also agree with Don that a successful appeal seems unlikely. However, I’m frankly not sure how much you should trust me about that, given that I’ve been wrong about other appeals people have asked about here, specifically with regards to rear-end accidents. You can read the other comments here for more details.

      Reply
  2. Anonymous

    Hi, I was in a rear end collision and am at fault by default because I was the car behind. There was no visible damage to either car that I could see, so we didn’t bother with a police report, but after the other driver took his car to be evaluated, they decided the bumper needed to be replaced. I was driving west on Route 9 approaching where people merge on from I-90. The weather was fine and the roads were dry, but there is a hill there that caused me to not see that traffic was backed up until it was too late and I didn’t quite make it to a stop in time. Do you think this is sufficient cause to convince someone that I was less than 50% at fault? I know that I was only driving about 40 (so under the speed limit) and that I had at least 5 or 6 car lengths of open lane ahead of me before the hill, but I don’t exactly have any proof, so I’m worried it may be a helpless cause. Any advice on whether I have a decent chance would be appreciated! I’ve never had to deal with anything like this before and am quite uncertain what counts as a reasonable cause for an unavoidable accident.

    Reply
    1. jik Post author

      It doesn’t seem likely to me, but on the other hand, there have been other rear-end collisions people have posted about here where I thought they wouldn’t win an appeal but then they did, so I’m frankly not sure how accurate my judgment is about this.

      If I were in your shoes and planning on appealing, this is what I would do:

      1) Based on the slope of the hill, where the other car was stopped, and the average height of a car, calculate approximately how far I must have been from the other car when I was first able to see it clearly.

      2) Calculate how long it would take me to stop when driving at whatever the speed limit was on that segment of Route 9 (it changes frequently!).

      3) If the distanced calculated in (2) is close to or greater than the distance calculated in (1), then present that as evidence that I was driving safely and could not have stopped in time.

      4) Otherwise, take my knocks and pay the ticket.

      Reply
  3. Nola Ren

    Thanks so much for this website-I learned so much just reading through. Not sure if you are still reading these but if so: I wanted to get your opinion on a surcharge notice I just recieved. I was backing up from my driveway, the two-lane road on either side is completely straight and I could see very clearly 4 blocks down to the end of it that no cars were coming on either side. I pulled out, slowly, going backwards to the left (so I could back up onto the opposite lane and go forward), right before shifting to drive, I checked the back camera to make sure no cars were coming behind me. At that moment I heard a horn and was immediately hit (literally a second or two later). Now, I know that the car that hit me wasn’t there when I began backing up, which means it was either speeding (very fast!) to get to me, or, the driver was turning onto that road from a near by sidestreet, and didn’t check (I took pics of both the cars and the angle of the hit –corner of back passenger side, smashing my stoplight) suggests that the car was trying to slip behind me on the opposite lane–since i was backing at an angle. It was a nice day and my windows were open, I didn’t hear anything, certainly not a car trying to stop until right before the collision. Sadly, I was so shocked and just wanted to make sure the driver was OK (she and her passenger were)–I had never been in an accident before, my worse offense ever was a speeding ticket over a decade ago . I asked her if she didn’t see the stop sign at the corner, but she claimed she didn’t turn onto the street but was just going straight when i pulled out–I was late and discombobulated so didn’t insist on calling the police–I really should have. I told all this to my insurance company and sent them photos and satellite image of the area, marking the two sidestreets but days later I got a letter informing me that I’m “likely” over 50% responsible and will (also “likely”) pay surcharge. No one came to the site or investigated. Unfortunately, I have no proof except my word, that the car wasn’t there (and no witnesses). chances?

    Reply
    1. jik Post author

      I’ve never heard of an insurance company sending one of their policy-holders a letter like this:

      informing me that I’m “likely” over 50% responsible and will (also “likely”) pay surcharge

      I would love to see a copy of that letter to try to get a better idea of what’s going on here. Would you mind scanning it or taking a photo of it and redacting all of the personal information and emailing me the resulting image at [email protected]? If it’s OK with you I will post the image here for others’ information, after ensuring that all the personal information has been redacted from it to protect your privacy; if you’d rather I didn’t post it, I will just look at it myself and summarize my conclusions here.

      Reply
        1. jik Post author

          OK, that’s just a standard surcharge notice. There should be instructions on the back for how to appeal it. Given your description of the accident, I would definitely appeal the surcharge. I think it’s likely that you will win your appeal.

          Reply
  4. Sunny

    I had an accident in February, 2019 and received the surcharge for minor rear end collision. It was really a minor accident and there was no damage to the car and neither any injury. I talked to the other person for 2 weeks and she confirmed there was no injury and very minor scratch which she won’t claim.

    I feel I was not at more than 50% fault. Here are the accident details –
    It was evening time around 8 PM and on a round about I yielded and started going further. The car in front had already started moving and gave left indicator. When I moved a bit, she came back to same lane. I couldn’t see it properly since a light flashed in my eyes and I stuck her car from back. It was really minor since I was driving at may be 10-20 miles/hr.
    My insurance rates have gone up by 70% and with just this minor accident. I have clean record in my country for 11 years and 5 years in US too with no ticket or at fault accident.

    Do you think it can work in my favor? I have appealed it already but there is 7 months waiting.

    Reply
    1. jik Post author

      Rear-end collisions are difficult to appeal, but the circumstances in your case sound sufficiently complicated that you may be successful.

      Don’t worry about the delay. If the surcharge is overturned you’ll get a retroactive refund.

      Reply
  5. Paul connolly

    Hi,
    I let my 23year old daughter use my car. She got in a minor low speed accident , with no visible damage to either vehicle. She bumped the car in front of her at a stoplight. I just received notice that I’m receiving a surcharge. That seems unfair. Is this worth fighting?
    Thanks

    Paul

    Reply
    1. jik Post author

      The surcharge goes with the driver, not the vehicle. Your daughter should be getting the surcharge, not you.

      If what you mean is that your daughter is getting the surcharge but it is going to impact your insurance rate because your daughter is on your insurance, then yeah, that’s normal.

      I’m not sure why you think a surcharge is “unfair” if your daughter rear-ended a stationary vehicle. She’s both legally and objectively at fault in such an accident, unless there were mitigating circumstances, and you mention none.

      Note that sometimes damage is not visible after an accident. It is possible that there was damage to the other vehicle even if your daughter did not see any.

      If there indeed was no damage, then although I’d say that the other driver was a jerk for reporting the accident, the fact that they were a jerk has nothing to do with whether the surcharge was correct.

      Generally speaking I don’t recommend that people appeal surcharges for accidents in which they were legitimately at fault, because I think that doing so is unethical. So my recommendation would be for your daughter to take her lumps. If she is gainfully employed, then you might wish to ask her to cover the increase in your insurance premium resulting from the accident.

      Reply
      1. Sam

        FYI – a surcharge only occurs if there’s more than $1000 in damage paid out by the insurance company. Also, if there’s an extenuating circumstance that caused the driver to rear end another vehicle such as bad weather it’s worth it to appeal.

        Reply
  6. Vinod

    I was at the exit of a street A and looked on both sides on another street B before proceeding. I did see other car that was coming from my left on other street B, but was far enough and it was very safe for me to cross the road. So I decided to enter into the intersection. While crossing the intersection, I had crossed more than half of intersection, other car’s driver hit on front left corner of my car and ran away.

    Can you please advise how would I present it to the appeal board?

    Reply
    1. Vinod

      I forgot to mention that since there was no EXIT on street B in the direction of other car was travelling, he returned back after 15-20 minutes and exchanged our information. My insurance blamed me that it was his right of way.

      Reply
    2. jik Post author

      In your opinion, why were you unable to make it through the intersection before the other car collided with you?

      Reply
      1. Vinod

        I believe he was driving fast and I didn’t realize this when I looked him. Before I could completely cross the intersection, he hit me. All these streets are internal streets. Another thing is that if he saw my car is already on intersection, why didn’t he apply break. Instead of applying break, he sped up and try to cross me in front me.

        Reply
      2. Vinod

        I feel when I was crossing the intersection, the other car’s driver didn’t see me. Other car was LYFT car and he might be busy looking into his LYFT APP for providing his next service. When he realized that I am crossing the intersection, instead of applying breaks he tried to cross me from front of my car and hit my car at the front left corner. This hit was so powerful that it broke my car’s bumper at the left front corner and other car’s doors also got damaged.
        When this crash happened, other car’s driver tried to pass me from left lane (which is the lane for the opposite direction travel). Even after this crash, other car’s driver didn’t stop and ran away. Since he didn’t find any way to get out from this St, he returned back after 15-20 minutes and then stopped.
        From above set of sequences, I see this as clear hit and run case, but due to unavailability of any EXIT he had to come back.
        Also, it clearly indicates that other car’s driver was driving the car at very fast speed (than measured for that street) and he was not focusing on the road and was in hurry.
        This Street is an internal road and driving car fast is not advisable. On this intersection, there is a zebra crossing and other car’s driver didn’t respect this zebra crossing too.

        Do you think my case has any strength?

        Reply
  7. Lisa

    Hi!
    I am just sitting down to write my appeal to an insurance surcharge for an accident. I would be grateful for any advice on how to do this well. Here is what I have written at this point:
    “I (car A) was driving at a fair and reasonable speed (55mph) south on Route 95, heading for the Route 9 east exit.
    I slowed and pulled over to the exit lane, and then, as I crested the hill toward the exit ramp, there was a car (B) in front of me that had stopped because a car (C) was stopped in front of them, blocking the exit lane. There was no breakdown lane there, so cars B&C were both in the exit lane. Car C had on their blinkers, but car B did not. There was traffic now passing on my left, so I could not pull safely back onto Rt. 95 South.
    I immediately braked as hard as I could, and still impacted car B, but did not push her into car C. No air bags deployed. Driver B and I exchanged information quickly and waited for the police, but felt we could not wait safely in that spot, with cars passing at full speed, blocking the exit ramp, and so we left and filed our own reports. I believe I am less than 50% responsible for this accident. There was no where to swerve safely and there was nothing else I could do but brake as hard as I could.”

    Grateful for any feedback on what to send or how this case sounds.
    Thanks,
    Lisa

    Reply
        1. Anonymous

          Any update on whether the appeal was successful? I had a very similar incident, so I was curious.

          Reply
  8. Renee

    I’m happy to see this still up and active and basically turned into a forum. The night before my appeal I happened on this page and I found it oddly comforting to read through so I figured I’d add my story.

    I was traveling on the MassPike in stop and go traffic. Traffic stopped and I slid into an accident (ie. the accident happened then I got added in). I was at the far back so I was considered at fault for more than 50% of one of the vehicles and the guy in front of me was at fault for everything else. After reading the bit on this page about how legally it’s required to prevent discrimination etc. and I felt a little less terrible.

    I felt like I had a decent chance to appeal partially because even my insurance company brought the case to arbitration – they didn’t think I should have to pay the full amount for the vehicle in front of me due to the fact that the police report mentioned multiple impacts so I wasn’t the first to hit.

    I got to the appeal hearing and the guy running the appeal looked rather grumpy which I didn’t think was a good sign. He took me in early just to keep cases rolling. He hit record (wasn’t expecting that part, audio only recording) introduced everything and then let the insurance company representative say his bit. The representative started reading off the police report by saying “here’s the summary, bear with me” which got a bit of an eye roll from the guy running the appeal. He also rolled his eyes and made a snarky comment when the representative said that all drivers were marked as “1” (no one was driving in an unsafe manner) and asked “what is he [police officer] trying to get at there”. He needed to be reminded multiple times which car I was because the police report was a total nightmare.

    I had prepared some photos of the area (incline so I couldn’t see around the other guy/he had an SUV etc.) as well as about page write up of what I had been told by the insurance company, summary of what I considered the important parts of the police report, and my personal view of the accident. I made another diagram of the accident because the one on the police report was inaccurate and hard to understand based on what happened.

    By the time the insurance agent was just about to be finished reading the summary the guy running the hearing stood up and said “I’m striking this from the record. If I can get to Boston tomorrow you’ll have the letter by this weekend.” …And that was it

    I was shocked that I had to say absolutely nothing, and I wouldn’t go into the hearing expecting that if I were you. I think I was lucky to have a rather incompetent police officer at the scene (he was either really lazy or really dumb. He didn’t do his job and made a bunch of mistakes on the report.) I think I also had a slightly better chance than most rear-end situations because it was multi-car and I had several things to point to that showed the main cause (more than 50% remember) of the accident wasn’t me.

    As a side note, the cost. My insurance (Amica) is set to renew and my bill came in the day before the insurance company received the letter vacating my surcharge. My annual premium last year was about $980 and the new premium would be about $1550 with a major accident ($6,000 paid out for damage). It worked out to be just about 66% more.

    Reply
  9. joseph souza

    Last year I hit my basketball hoop. It did 1500 in damage to my car. I have not had a claim in a least 15 years. I paid 500 deductible. INS paid 1000. I went from a step 9 to a step 3 and merit charge of 422.00 for I guess 6 years.. I don’t understand how I can go down 6 points. For hitting my own hoop. I just wish I new what to do . if there is anything I can do..

    Reply
    1. jik Post author

      As noted below, the likelihood of successfully appealing a surcharge for hitting a stationary object is extremely low.

      Your insurance company can explain why the accident affected your rating the way it did.

      Reply
  10. Robert Sidorsky

    My wife hit a parked car and damage the mirror and a some paint on the door. The damage estimate was $1000.87. Can I make an appeal for the $0.87? If so, how would I present it to the appeal board? Thank you

    Reply
    1. jik Post author

      You’re extremely unlikely to win an appeal for surcharge related to hitting a non-moving object, unless there were significant extenuating circumstances, such as swerving to miss a toddler who suddenly walked in front of your car.

      Reply
  11. Ken Fulton

    Ok – Here is my story. Went to the grocery store yesterday and parked my truck in the parking lot facing North. As I exited my vehicle a strong gust of wind grabbed my door and crashed into the car next to mine. This substantialy scratched/gouged the rear quater panel of the car next to me and dented my door. The door on my truck will need to be repalced according to adjuster, and the other car has an estimated damage of $1300. I am curious if this “act of god” high wind day will result in my not being at fault.

    Reply
    1. jik Post author

      Honestly, I have no idea what to say about this one. Your guess is as good as mine.

      If you find out, post a followup comment and let us all know!

      Reply
    2. miker

      My advice is to appeal the surcharge and bring the weather conditions for that day so you can prove your claim that the wind caused your door to hit the other vehicle. It wasn’t truly negligence on your part if the wind factored in to your losing control of the car door. Also, you are more likely to have a positive impact on your hearing if you appear in person.

      Reply
    3. miker

      Yes, if you explain what happened you should have a good outcome at your hearing. Bring a weather report for that day that proves there were high winds in the area. Also, it is better to appear for your hearing in person. Good luck.

      Reply
    4. Sunny

      Yes, appeal it and a bring weather report from that day to prove the weather conditions.

      Reply
  12. Ann

    I got into an accident recently, when driving uphill and suddenly the sun was in my eyes. I couldn’t see anything and hit the car driving from the opposite direction. I usually pass that road an hour earlier so I didn’t expect sun glare to be so bad at that time. The police came and took a report. He commented how strong the sun glare was. Would I have a chance to get my surcharge vacated if I appeal to the board?

    Reply
    1. Don

      Jonathan generally replies — his blog after all — but I’ll offer my two cents worth as well if you and he don’t mind. My wife had a similar thing happen about 15 years ago. She appealed and made the point that because of the extreme glare, she asked that the hearing officer consider that she may be less than 50% at fault (I suggested she word it that way, not “not at fault”). She was successful. Did the police officer mention the glare in writing in the police report?
      If so, you’ll want to point that out and offer a copy as evidence. (If you’re not sure, ask your insurance company if they obtained a copy of the police report and would share it with you to save you the cost of obtaining it yourself.) If there were any other environmental issues that could have made the glare extraordinary (e.g. wet road, snow, etc.), make sure you highlight that as well. I recommend appealing and wish you luck!

      Reply
  13. Peter Solomon

    December 20th 2018 my car was hit on the passengers side front bumper by a woman who came speeding by in an intersection and hit me. The accident happened at the intersection of Hyde Park Ave and Oak St. The other driver was in the left most lane of Hyde Park Ave to turn left on River Street when she hit me. I had stopped at the stop sign on Oak St. Hyde Park Ave had a red light and there was a line of cars in the right lane of Hyde Park Ave. The driver in the front of the line waved me on to make the left turn. I took my foot off the break and let my car inch forward to see past the traffic. The left lane of Hyde Park Ave was clear so I looked back up towards River Street to make sure no cars were turning onto Hyde Park ave and before I could even move I felt her car hit mines. Ripped off my Bumper from the license plate to the passengers side. She must have sped off of Dana Ave or Pine which both have stop signs. Also I could tell she was speeding because it is not only a school zone but there is an MBTA bus stop right at the corner where Oak and Hyde Park Ave intersect. They have me at fault as failure to proceed with Due caution. I know the area very well because I am a mail carrier and that street is actually a park point for the van on my route. Her airbags deployed but mines did not. I assume because of how she hit my vehicle. The damage was mostly cosmetic but they still have my vehicle as a total loss. I drive a 2011 Jeep Grand Cherokee. Her vehicle was a 2007 Honda CRV. I was not given a citation by the police officer when I called 911. She called someone to come get her car and hopped in the abulance I called. Then claimed her hip hurt after she walked to my car to check and see how bad she hit me. She ran back to her car when the police, fire Dept and Abulance arrived. Does it seem worth it to appeal or should I just try and go to court?

    Reply
    1. jik Post author

      I’m not sure what you mean about “just try and go to court.” Are you planning on suing her? Do you expect her to sue you?

      In any case, yes, I think you should appeal.

      Get a copy of the police report. If the police report doesn’t have a good, understandable diagram in it showing what happened in the accident, make your own (e.g., print out a Google Maps map of the area and draw what happened onto it.

      I’m not sure what you mean when you say “They have me at fault…” You said the police officer didn’t give you a citation, and it usually takes way more than three weeks for the insurance company to issue an SDIP notice, so in what way exactly have you been notified that you were found at fault? Did they really get the SDIP notice out that quickly?

      Reply
  14. John M

    I was in an accident (total loss) this summer and determined to be more than 50% at fault; reason given was Standards of Fault #8, “Failure to proceed with due caution from a traffic control signal or sign.”

    I stopped at the stop sign at a two-way stop intersection (in Stoughton, Lincoln and Pleasant/Rt 139). Very busy traffic… I let the car across the intersection go, then a car on the main road (Pleasant St, to my right) takes a left turn in front of me. A second car is behind him, waiting to take the same left, waves me on. I feel I’ve checked all three directions (left, right, oncoming) but there is a parking lot to my left with parked cars obstructing my view so I can’t actually see everything in that direction.

    As I enter the intersection a car is coming too fast on my left, nails my car nearly in the center but actually rotates my vehicle about 90 degrees counterclockwise (probably veered off as she hit). Small children in the other car, and I speculate that she was also distracted. The split second timing of two moving cars means that if she had been going the speed limit (30 mph) instead of 40 or 50 mph, she would have entered the intersection a half-second later and we would not have hit each other.

    Adjusters have me at-fault for this accident. On its face it’s simple; I had the stop sign and I had to yield to the main road. Do you think an appeal would be successful, taking into account my obstructed left view and the illegal speed of the other driver? I cannot factually prove the other driver’s speed (but most traffic on that road is going much faster than the posted limit so even without proof it is more likely than not), and I was so frazzled after the accident that I didn’t take a single picture. Police report is just matter-of-fact and doesn’t assign any fault. I do have a record of a social media conversation about the accident, where a lot of local folks are complaining about how dangerous that intersection is and how it ought to have lights or be a 4-way stop.

    I *did* stop, look, yield RoW to other cars, had my attention split into three different directions of travel but believed the way was clear as best as I could tell… so I guess the question is, does that qualify as “Due Caution?” I don’t know.

    Reply
  15. Cindi

    Thank you so much for this blog. I just received notification of my request for appeal. I was making a left tur at the T intersection fron church st onto Andover st. In Andover. No signals or stop signs, two way street with one white line. I had watched the traffic and made the turn when it was safe. I had got to the middle of the road and was facing north. A car that was about 500 feet up the road to my left suddenly hit my passenger side front fender. She had swerved to my right and hit me. The posted speed limit here is 20. There is no way she would not have seen me turning. I feel she was distracted, speeding, lost control and hit my car.
    I am charged with being more than 50% at fault. Would it be better for me to appeal in person? I am 68 and feel my age will be held against me. I make this turn just about every day for the last 35 years, near me house. Never had an accident.

    Reply
    1. jik Post author

      I am having a bit of trouble understanding the details of your accident.

      Your statement of “two way street with one white line” seems inconsistent with what I see. I looked up that intersection on Google Maps, and there’s no center line t all on Church Street, and Andover Street has a solid double yellow line, not one white line.

      It’s not clear to me how you could have been both in “the middle of the road” and “facing north.” Given that Andover Street runs north/south, it seems to me that by the time your car was facing north, you should have been finished turning and solidly in the right line on Andover Street, not in the middle of the road.

      I am having a hard time understanding how a car that was “up the road to [your] left suddenly hit [your] passenger side front fender. It seems to me that would have to mean that the other car veered all the way over the center line and was driving in your lane when they hit you. Is that in fact what happened?

      At 20 m.p.h., it would take a car 17 seconds to travel 500 feet. That’s hardly “suddenly.” How are you estimating that the car was 500 feet away from you? How fast do you think it was going.

      I am asking you these questions to illustrate that your description of the accident seems somewhat muddled and confusing, and that, more than your age, will be held against you in an appeal.

      Did a police officer respond to the scene of the accident? Was a police report filed? Were you issued a moving violation? Did you or the other driver or the police officer take any photos of the positions of the two vehicles when the accident occurred?

      Reply
  16. Mike R.

    My 18 year old daughter had a single car accident in the snow ($5K damage) and won on appeal. She was traveling below the speed limit (approx 20mph) and slowed to take a turn and her car slid straight into the median and over a sign.

    She was not ticketed by police, they told her there were a rash of accidents happening at the moment due to road conditions. Tow truck driver said it was real slick (ice under layer of snow).

    They board recommended she come in person rather than send in written explanation. Not sure if it helped, but since I pay for insurance, I’m thrilled the surcharge will drop off!

    I saw this blog when googling after the accident, so I thought I’d update. You can argue weather/road conditions are more than 50% and win in a single car accident.

    Reply
  17. Stephanie DeTomasi

    I had my license revoked until 1/2016. Recently in July of this year, I bought my first car outright, followed by my very first auto policy. I met with an agent & she gave me a printout of my surchargeable incidents for the past 6 years. There are 2 incidents in particular:

    1) Single incident in 7/2013 with 3 surchargeable offenses. I was given 5 points for only 1 of the 3 offenses, all major.
    2) Another single incident in 7/2014 with 3 surchargeable offenses. (July isn’t actually my worst month!) Of the 3 offenses listed in 7/2014, I have points for 2/3 offenses (4 & 5).

    From what I’ve gathered, you can only be pointed for the highest offense in the single incident, no matter how many surchargeable offenses. Is this correct? If so, where would I start seeing as I curved that 30 day mark?!

    Reply
    1. jik Post author

      The questions you ask are outside the scope of what this blog posting / forum is about and I’m not particularly qualified to answer them.

      Having said that, I think it’s highly unlikely that the appeals board will allow you to appeal incidents from more than four years ago, regardless of the circumstances. They do occasionally extend the deadline, but extending it for more than four years seems unlikely.

      I have no idea whether it is true that “you can only be pointed for the highest offense in the single incident.” There are web sites that seem to claim that, but I don’t know how accurate they are.

      Note that the surcharge for the 7/2013 accident should roll off your insurance when you renew next year, and depending on the exact date of the 7/2014 accident and your policy renewal date, the 7/2014 surcharges will roll off either next year or the year after. You may just have to take your lumps and wait for that to happen.

      I don’t tend to have much sympathy for people who were in accidents in which they were truly at fault, trying to evade the surcharges. That’s not what this blog is about.

      Reply
  18. MPDA

    Curious to hear your thoughts about this situation and thanks in advance. My insurance company found me more than 50% at fault but I am considering appealing:

    At around 7:30 a.m. I was driving north on Chestnut Street in West Newton, MA, approximately 150-200 feet from the intersection of Chestnut and Washington Streets. I initiated a u-turn to position my car to go southbound on Chestnut St. At the time I engaged in the u-turn, there were no other vehicles present on the road in either direction. When I was approximately 80% complete with the turn and already occupying much of the southbound lane, a pickup truck turned quickly onto Chestnut Street from Washington Street. As I was completing my turn, the driver of the truck attempted to speed by me on the right hand side, driving not in a lane but in an area of the road consisting of white-lined parking spaces that were not occupied by any vehicles at the time. Upon attempting to speed around me and cut back in front of my vehicle, the truck struck the front of my vehicle on the passenger side. The driver of the truck pulled his vehicle over to the side of the road approximately 25 feet in front of where I had pulled my vehicle over. I got out of my vehicle to inspect the damage. While I was standing in front of my vehicle, the driver of the truck that hit me got out of his vehicle and walked over towards where I was standing. He came towards me, looked at the damage to my vehicle, and said something to the effect of, “Don’t worry about my truck.” He then proceeded to walk back to his truck, get in, and drive away without providing me any information about himself, his insurance, or his vehicle. As he was driving away, I recorded his license plate and apparently my insurance company was able to follow up with him.

    The insurance company is just saying that because it happened after an illegal u-turn it is my fault no matter what. My argument is that regardless of what put me in the position when the collision occurred, I was essentially possessing the lane when he tried to drive around me and hit me. Given the exact same circumstances, my insurance company said that if he hit the back of my car it would have been his fault but because he hit the front it demonstrates I am at fault.

    Any thoughts would be greatly appreciated.

    Reply
    1. jik Post author

      As I’ve remarked elsewhere on this page (most recently here), more than one driver can be found “more than 50% at fault” for the same accident. The percentages don’t have to add up to 100.

      The other driver was definitely at fault because he passed you illegally on the right and collided with your vehicle in a way that he completely could have avoided.

      You were at fault for making the illegal U-Turn.

      Having said that, it doesn’t sound reasonable for the insurance company to argue that you were at fault for the accident. The fact that you had just made an illegal U-turn doesn’t actually sound at all relevant to the fact that the other driver collided with your vehicle. It sounds like your vehicle was 100% visible to him when he attempted to pass you on the right, and yet he did so anyway and collided with you as a result.

      I’d definitely appeal the surcharge if I were in your shoes.

      Reply
      1. MPDA

        Thanks so much for the feedback. That was my assessment as well and I certainly think I will appeal. In your experience/understanding, is there a benefit to appearing in person vs. submitting a written statement? I read the FAQ and understand I have the option, but am trying to figure out whether one method is more beneficial than the other.

        Reply
        1. jik Post author

          I don’t have enough experience with this to be certain, frankly, but my gut instinct is that in a case like yours it would be beneficial to appear in person if you can swing it. That’s my feeling because the fact that you were making an illegal U-turn complicates things and I think you’ll be more successful at diffusing that complication in person than in writing.

          Reply
        2. miker

          Always appear in person, it gives you the opportunity to answer questions from the hearing officer so they can better understand how your accident happened and why you believe you’re not more than 50% at fault. No one has that opportunity if they mail in a statement.

          Reply
          1. jik Post author

            I disagree.

            If you are not going to make a good impression in person, you should not appear in person.

            There are people who do not make a good impression in person. This is reality.

            There are people who communicate better in writing than in person.

            There are people who get flustered when questioned in person.

            There are all sorts of reasons why it might be better for some people to appeal in writing than appear in person.

            Reply
  19. Kathy

    Thank you for taking the time to respond to all these questions! Great information.
    I was backing up out of a parking space in an open parking lot, and a woman on the opposite side of the row was doing the same thing at the same time. Our cars collided at a very slow speed. There was minimal visible damage to her (high-end) sedan; my SUV was just scratched, nothing to fix. I just got a surcharge notice that they are finding me more than 50% at fault. I would have considered this a classic 50-50 at-fault situation and plan to appeal. Thoughts?

    Reply
    1. jik Post author

      As I understand it — and, as I’ve remarked here before, I’m not a lawyer so take my advice with a grain of salt, it’s worth what you paid for it, etc. — as odd as it may seem, both drivers can be found more than 50% at fault for the same accident.

      Fault is not apportioned out to all drivers involved in an accident in chunks that must add up to 100%. Frankly, the “more than 50% at fault” terminology seems highly misleading. I mean, it’s not like they’re calculating exact percentages of fault for every accident. “You were 83% at fault, you were 27% at fault, etc.” just doesn’t happen. The only time percentages like this actually matter is in a civil lawsuit when damages are being awarded and liability for them is being divided among defendants, and that’s not what’s happening here.

      The question at hand isn’t really more than 50% vs. less than 50%, despite the terminology. The question at hand, as I understand it, is whether the driver involved in an accident was negligent or drove dangerously and could have avoided the accident by being less negligent or dangerous.

      Therefore, circumstances matter. For example, how did you come to collide with the other car? If you were looking behind you as you backed out of the space — as you are expected to do and taught to do at driving school — presumably you would have seen the other car and stopped before hitting it. The fact of the collision suggests that perhaps you looked away, and that is why you were found to be more than 50% at fault.

      If you didn’t look away, and there’s some other explanation for why you collided with the other car that doesn’t involve negligence on your part, then perhaps you can appeal the surcharge and win your appeal.

      Reply
  20. Robert

    I was reading to take a left turn out an ocean state job lot… there is no stop sign, only a white line 15ft from the actually road. (I actually took a tape measure after my accident). There is a lot of trees/branches to my left. I remember stopping at the white line, looking both ways and proceeding… the next thing i remember waking up in an abulance… being taken to the hospital with a concussion. My parents found out the other driver was completely deaf and the offcier told my parents that i didn’t know what day it was. my car was completely totaled… The car was actually flung several feet into the middle of the road. The posted speed limit was 25 mph, with a crossing walk sign right next to to where i was turning left. I believe the other driver was speeding and I didn’t even see him come from my left at all. I’m submitting an appeal. (I have see several times police cars parked watching for traffic in that area) I don’t know what chances I have.. I have a very good driving record anyone have any suggestions how I could win an appeal?

    Reply
    1. jik Post author

      Which Ocean State Job Lot, and which exit (i.e., which street were you exiting onto)? I’d like to take a look at the aerial view so I can better understand the circumstances of your accident before offering an opinion.

      Reply
      1. Robert

        Ocean state. On 97 Main Street north reading Massachusetts . I was turning left out of parking lot onto winter street. Across street is st theresas church

        Reply
        1. jik Post author

          There is a long stretch of straight road, more than 800 feet, to the left of that parking lot exit. Even at 50 miles per hour, twice the speed limit, a car coming from that direction would have been visible to you for 11 seconds.

          Note that when there is a stop line that far back from the road, you’re not supposed to just stop at the stop line and then proceed at full speed. Rather, you’re supposed to stop at the stop line, look both ways, and then move forward slowly until you have enough visibility to confirm that it is safe to proceed at full speed.

          It doesn’t sound like you did that.

          It seems likely to me that you were at fault, or at least I see no substantive evidence to the contrary, so I don’t think a surcharge appeal is justified. Who knows, an appeal might succeed, but I would tend to doubt it.

          The fact that the other driver was deaf is 100% irrelevant and I definitely wouldn’t mention that at the hearing if I were you.

          Also don’t mention anything about your parents at the hearing. You were in the car, not them. Referencing your parents makes you sound like a young, new driver, and that is not the impression you want to make on the people hearing your appeal.

          Reply
          1. Robert

            Will my insurance company be at the hearing. Or just me trying to convince the judge? I wasn’t hit in the parking. If i could send phitos I would. I remember looking left and right. Abd left. I proceeded slowly pulling forward. The road is with trees blocking line iof sight of exiting . I should of used the other exit with stop lights. Will be doing that as much as possible now where ever i go. Ohwell Well see what happens. I have a step 99 record. Now its ruined. Even if the surcharge is witheld. Im worried what is the actual cost increase?? How long.

            Reply
  21. Nick B

    I recently was just sent a notice of surcharge with the appeal form… I’ve filled out the appeal form but wondering if there is anything else I should be prepared with, as I believe I was defiantly not at fault.

    A few weeks back, I was heading to work down 459S South by the Lowell Connector… It was ruffly 8am and due to rush hour traffic was traveling well below the speed limit by about 20 or so mph. I was traveling in the left lane when an 18 wheeled tractor trailer threw an entire tread into my lane.. The tread was so large, it took up almost the entire lane. Since I was by the Lowell Connector, there was no breakdown lane to swerve into and it was completely unavoidable. Any thoughts / insight would be greatly appreciated.

    Reply
    1. jik Post author

      I assume you mean you were “definitely” not at fault, not “defiantly.” You definitely don’t want to be “defiant” when you’re appealing a surcharge, unless you want the appeal committee to rule against you out of spite. 😉

      Did police respond to the accident scene? Do you have a police report or photos or any other documentation to back up your explanation for the cause of the accident?

      Did you describe the accident to the insurance company that way from the start, i.e., do they have documentation of that as the cause of the accident going back to when you first reported it? If so, ask them for a transcript of their file on the accident, so you can prove that you reported it to them like that contemporaneously.

      Bring any evidence described above to the hearing if you have it; it’ll help your case. Otherwise, just go and tell them what happened.

      I think it’s pretty likely that the surcharge will be overturned.

      Reply
    2. Robert

      Try to say it flung into the air. I had that happen years ago. A tread flung off a passenger truck and smaskwd in my radiator. I couldn’t avoid it. I got it under comprehensive amd not my fault. I didn’t get a surcharge

      Reply
  22. Suzie

    hi, honestly thank you so much for having something like this and helping people out. On that note, how likely am I t win an appeal? I believe I might have been 50% at fault but the other driver was equally at fault.

    I had put on my turn signal and then slowed down when I approaches a red light. There was a car that pulled up right next to me shortly after. She had to have seen my right turn signal signal it was still blinking from when I had turned it on previously. the light turned green. I looked and waited for her to see if she was going to go since the light had just turned green. She could have maybe been distracted im not sure. I waited for a little while and she did not move even after the light turned green. I started to turn into her lane since she was not moving and I had taken every safety precaution up till then. my car was angled so that I was already in her lane, she speed up and hit the back corner of my car. She might have just looked up and just stepped on the gas to go since the light was green without seeing that my car already entered her lane. I could not do anything else in that moment since I was already in her lane and if i swerved, I would have maybe hit something or someone else.

    What are my chances and should I believe in person or in writing?

    thank you very much

    Reply
    1. jik Post author

      Was the car to your right in a legal traffic lane?

      Were you trying to switch lanes or make a right turn from the left lane?

      If you were trying to make a right turn from the left lane, and the right lane was a valid traffic lane and not a right-turn-only lane, then you were at fault regardless of the other driver’s behavior. Making a right turn from the left lane is illegal.

      Even if you were trying to switch lanes, it still sounds to me like you were probably more than 50% at fault, because you should have ensured that there was a safe distance between you and the car in the right lane before switching into that lane.

      If you were switching lanes and you believe that you did ensure that there was a safe distance, and you were hit only because the car to your right accelerated excessively without looking where she was going, then you might be able to appeal the surcharge successfully.

      But if your car was “angled” into the right lane, then that sounds like a turn, not a lane switch, and I think it’s going to be difficult to convince the appeals board to overturn the surcharge.

      Reply
  23. Sandy

    Hello,
    I was pulled over last August for speeding. In 30+ years of driving I have never been pulled over, cited a moving a violation ticket, or been in an accident. I have been a 99+ throughout with no incidents ever. Neverng having this happen before I decided to call my insurance broker for advice. Her advice (her being the owner & name on the business) was to just to just pay the ticket. That it would only drop me down 1 point to a (98) & it wouldn’t affect my insurance rates. She did add that I could appeal it, but that it wouldn’t be worth it, especially having to drive all the way out to where it happened, as we were on our way to vacation. Once again this was the owner of many years. So I did what you said and I paid the ticket. Well now I just got my insurance renewal for the year and none of this was true. I went from a 99+ down to a 0 and my insurance premiums went up almost $400 a year. So you can imagine I feel misled and totally screwed over buy an insurance broker and Company I’ve been with since 2008. Now I know this is not me but I have friends that have done much worse and have been deducted much less. Is there anything I can do to appeal this their merit rating? Thank you for your time. ~Sandy

    Reply
    1. jik Post author

      This page explains how your SDIP rating is calculated:

      https://www.mass.gov/service-details/safe-driver-insurance-plan-sdip-and-your-auto-insurance-policy

      It explains why your rating dropped from 99 to 0.

      This page provides additional information about why you are not eligible for a rating of 98 either:

      https://www.mass.gov/service-details/safe-driver-insurance-plan-sdip

      Technically, the $400 increase in your policy is not a surcharge. Rather, you were receiving a safe driver discount on your policy when your rating was 99, and that discount went away when you lost your “excellent driver discount plus” rating.

      You may be able to find a better rate from another insurance company, but short of successfully contesting the ticket, nothing except time will restore it.

      Personally, I do not endorse contesting tickets for things you were actually guilty of. If you were indeed speeding, then taking your lumps is in my opinion the most ethical course of action.

      Reply
  24. Dee

    Hello, thanks for this post. I have an appeal coming up for a single car accident I was in and would appreciate any input/thoughts.

    I was heading north on route 128 around 6am on a clear Thanksgiving morning going a reasonable speed (60mph) in the far right lane and hit a large patch of black ice that I could not see as it was still dark at the time. My vehicle began swerving and I tried to regain control but was not able to due the ice, and my car spun out and collided head on into the highway median so hard that it bounced back from the impact, all airbags deployed and my cars final position was in the far left lane facing the wrong direction. Thankfully there were no other vehicles involved, but it was obvious that my car was totaled.

    I got out of the car and called the police, and someone who was driving behind me in the distance had pulled over to see if I was okay. A state police officer arrived and he informed me that a similar accident had happened about 30 minutes prior due to this same patch of black ice and a sanding truck was on the way. There were no traffic controls indicating this patch of ice in the meantime. Low and behold just minutes later a sanding truck comes driving by. What luck.

    Anyway, I have the police report from the accident that mentions that the road conditions were icy, the weather was clear, there were no traffic controls indicating the black ice, and that MA highway was notified to sand the roads. The police report also indicates that there was no speeding, distractions, or substances that influenced the accident. I went online and printed the weather for the previous day and the morning of the accident. The previous day it did rain, but stopped in the evening and was clear for at least 12 hours prior to the accident with temperatures above freezing. I could not have anticipated this black ice. Just prior to the accident I made it down the mass pike and then halfway up 128 with no issues. I also have pictures from the morning of the accident which shows the damage and how dark it was. I am wondering if the above documents are appropriate to bring to the appeal, and if there is a chance this surcharge can be overturned.

    Thank you for your help,
    Dee

    Reply
    1. jik Post author

      Wow, I’m sorry you had to go through that, and I’m glad you’re OK.

      I would definitely bring all that material to the appeal, and I think there’s a good chance that you will be able to get the surcharge overturned. Good luck!

      Reply
  25. Yoon

    Dear JIK,
    I am so happy to see this for people – thank you!
    My father was driving my car while I was out of town with permission and was not driving for my benefit. He was at a gas station and a car was parked at the pump on the wrong side and made it tight for others to get by. In the attempt to go around the car my dad came into contact with his right side back panel and got out of the car as the owner of the other vehicle (Tony) came over aggressively ordering him to move it as my dad was trying to assess the contact between the car and demanded the keys. My dad said it is a keyless car and then he sat in it and pushed the button to start it and without permission drove further into his own car and “stuck” together. My dad said to get out of the car and told him to drive his own car forward which dislodged the car. His attempt at driving our car made the situation worse by driving further into his own car it was further damaged and he in part contributed and worsened the damage to his own car. What do you think and any tips as to how to word this better would be greatly appreciated. Again thank you for doing what you do for folks out here like us.

    Reply
    1. jik Post author

      Your dad is at fault for hitting the other guy’s car when it wasn’t moving. It’s highly unlikely that you will be able to overturn a surcharge for colliding with a stationary vehicle.

      Note that the at-fault finding for colliding with a stationary vehicle is independent of the amount of damage caused by the collision. Therefore, the fact that the other driver made the damage worse by getting into your car without permission (wow, what an asshole, I can’t believe he did that!) and driving in the wrong direction will not change the fact that your father was found at fault in the accident.

      However, what does change depending on the amount of damage is the number of surcharge points you get on your insurance as a result of the accident. If the damage to the other vehicle was extremely minor before the other driver got into your car and started driving it, then you can and should argue that the only surcharge points your dad should be receive are the minimum number of points for the accident itself, not for the damage.

      If I were you, that’s the angle I would take in my appeal.

      I may be reading too much into what you wrote, but judging from the tone and cadence of your words above, I get the impression that perhaps English is not your first language? Again, I’m just guessing, and not trying to offend, so please forgive me if I’m mistaken. My point in bringing this up is that if your father is not fluent in English, I think he’s going to find it challenging to make a compelling case to the appeal board. It shouldn’t be that way, but that’s just the reality of how people often behave. If I’m right, then I’d like to suggest that your father bring an interpreter with him to the appeal who is fluent in English, to minimize the communication barriers between your father than the appeal board.

      Alternatively, your father can submit his appeal in writing and someone who is a good writer in English to help him formulate it for maximum persuasion.

      Good luck!

      Reply
  26. Olivia Lessard

    Hello, I was recently involved in a 2 car collision where the police officer I called to the scene considered me at fault. I haven’t received anything from my insurance company yet but wanted to get your opinion on if I should appeal if they come to the same conclusion. I was driving on Main Street in an unfamiliar area and my turn was coming up really soon, so I had my right turn signal on to let the cars behind me know I was going to be turning shortly. There was a vehicle stopped at a stop sign on a side road waiting to take a left turn, she saw my blinker and assumed I was turning down the street she was on, and immediately shot out to try and take her turn and hit the right side of my vehicle. The police officer wrote in the report that he thinks I’m at fault for “improper use of turn signal”. I just don’t understand the reasoning and it sounds like something I should appeal. There are many reasons my blinker could have been on, and where I had the right of way, isn’t it the other drivers responsibility to be sure it is safe to leave the stop sign? There was a plaza entrance about 50 ft from the side street, the next street (the one I was going to be turning onto) was immediately after that. For all the other driver knew, I could have had my blinker on because I was pulling off to the shoulder of the road because of an emergency. I just don’t understand the reasoning there. I saw her stopped at the sign as I was driving and the next thing I knew she was hitting me and she totaled her car pretty good, so she was definitely leaving the stop sign at a pretty high speed. I was visibly moving too fast to even safely take that turn… Thanks in advance for your time and input. Great blog!

    Reply
    1. jik Post author

      Personally, if I were you I would appeal both the traffic citation and the surcharge.

      Reply
  27. Andy

    I was just getting on the highway and was trying to merge in the lane to the left. I continued to drive in my lane while waiting to let a truck pass. Meanwhile a car from left lane came into my lane without signaling and applied brakes and stopped. Luckily I was not speeding and on applying brakes, but still was involved in fender bender.
    Insurance company said that since the other driver had established lane, it was my fault. I think other driver was able to establish lane because I was slow and still to shift lane without signaling is still inappropriate.
    Do you think I should appeal?

    Reply
    1. jik Post author

      I’m having trouble understanding the circumstances of your accident.

      Were you in an actual traffic lane on the highway, or were you on the entrance ramp, not yet fully merged into a traffic lane?

      If you were in an actual traffic lane and driving at a reasonable speed for that lane, then the fact that you were “just getting on the highway” doesn’t seem in any way relevant to your accident. So I’m confused about why you mentioned that.

      If you were in an actual traffic lane, driving at a reasonable speed, and someone cut in front of you and immediately braked before you had time to increase your distance from them after they cut into your lane, then yes, I think you should appeal the surcharge on those grounds.

      I don’t know what the insurance company means when they say “the other driver had established lane.” That sounds like nonsense to me, so it seems like either they told you nonsense, or you aren’t accurately relaying what they told you. In any case, it’s irrelevant, because as I’ve noted in other comments here, since you were the rear vehicle in a rear-ending accident, the insurance company was required by law to issue you a surcharge notice, regardless of whether they actually believe you were at fault.

      Reply
      1. Andy

        It is tricky because- most entrance ramps will merge into main lanes, but this ramp is weird in a way that ramp continues as a main lane- which then leads to another (next lane). I was in the same lane as the ramp but the ramp was over. So I was on the highway trying to merge in to the lane to the left.

        But thank you for your answer. I really appreciate it.

        Reply
  28. James

    Rear end Collision

    I was sitting behind another car at a green light waiting to turn left across oncoming traffic and into the mall parking lot. The driver ahead of me had more than enough time to turn but was distracted by the phone held to her head. I beeped to let her know the light was green . No movement. Beeped again. She looked up at her rearview and threw her free hand up in a “What do you want?” manner. I motioned her to go. She slowly proceeded, then abruptly stopped. Now I’m in the path of oncoming traffic. I wasn’t riding her bumper. I honked longer. As she’s cursing me in her mirror, she speeds up and then slams on her brakes. Too late for me to react.

    Am I still more than 50% at an appeal?
    thanks.

    Reply
    1. jik Post author

      If I were in your shoes, I would appeal. Though I honestly can’t say how likely it is that your appeal will be successful.

      Reply
  29. Zuleisha Y

    Hi,

    So I was found 50%+ at faukt for a rear end collision that was not my fault at all. I was driving north down a busy 4 lane roadway, the lane to the far right was the merging lane and I was the next lane over to the left of it. It was rush hour traffic and there were so many cars on the road, not to mention it was pouring. The man in the merging lane by law is suppose to yield prior to merging, and instead of yielding as he was supposed to flew down the roadway and out of nowhere with no signal, nothing, jumped right in front of my car (not entirely in front, about half of the left side of his car made it in front of mine). I had no way of avoiding the collision as he gave himself a foot or less to merge in front of my car. It was virtually impossible to stop in time(which I tried) to avoid the accident as I had no time or space to not hit him in the rear. There was virtually no damage to my car (98 Toyota RAV4) and his rear had a dent in his trunk portion (also a RAV4 but newer). I have a few days left to appeal it and am trying to word my story in such a way they don’t try to blame me when it wasn’t my fault. I gave my statement the first time and evidently something I said threw them off and found me at fault.

    Do you think I have a chance at winning and what should I say or not say to explain this in such a way they don’t over analyze every word I say???

    Thank you!

    Reply
    1. jik Post author

      Don’t assume that “something [you] said threw them off.” According to state law, the insurance company was required to issue you a surcharge notice because you were the rear driver in a rear-end collision. The circumstances of the collision and your statement were irrelevant to the issuance of that surcharge notice; they had no choice about it.

      You should definitely appeal. Just explain, calmly, what happened. I think it’s likely that the surcharge will be overturned.

      Reply
  30. Don

    This is a great blog, and I’d like to thank you for running it and providing your advice.

    I am wondering what my chances are of winning an appeal, and if it makes sense to invest the time to show up at the hearing or if my chances are about the same just submitting written evidence.

    I was in a parking garage, backing up into a parking spot, and hit the adjacent car. Mitigating circumstances that I put on the appeal form included that it was 6am so not very light out, thunderstorms making it even darker than usual, overhead light out of service in the garage making things harder to see, relied more on my backup camera because of the poor lighting in the garage, but the picture was distorted due to the rain that kicked up on the camera lens (I didn’t realize how distorted it was until after the accident unfortunately), and the fact that (also didn’t realize this until after I contacted the car) the car was slightly over the yellow line.

    I know normally making contact with a parked car is a no brainer at fault accident, but I wonder if the circumstances involved would make it likely to be found less than 50% at fault. Also wondering if there is benefit in appearing personally vs. just sending in written evidence. Finally, albeit maybe a technicality, the accident date on the form is not correct — the accident happened a week before the accident date on the form. I appreciate your thoughts and advice.

    Reply
    1. jik Post author

      The likelihood of successfully appealing this surcharge on the merits is extremely low. None of the mitigating factors you mentioned change the fact that you are responsible for being sufficiently aware of your surroundings not to collide with stationary objects.

      Whether you’d be better off appearing in person vs. sending in a written appeal depends on whether you come off as likable, trustworthy, and persuasive in person. Only you can be the judge of that.

      The date being wrong on the surcharge notice is not likely to cause it to be overturned. If there’s an error on the surcharge notice, you’re supposed to contact the insurance company and ask them to fix the error and issue you a new notice before filing your appeal.

      Reply
      1. Don

        I decided to throw a Hail Mary pass. Luckily, I came across as likable, trustworthy, and persuasive in person. 😀 Thanks again for offering your advice to me and to so many.

        Reply
        1. jik Post author

          Do you mean to say that your surcharge was overturned? If so, then wow, I’m surprised. I will have to recalibrate the advice I give here based on that new data point. 😉

          Reply
          1. Don

            Yes, it was. Be careful on recalibrating based on my data point, I could very well be an outlier… my wife swears I am an outlier… 🙂

            Reply
  31. Janice

    I was in a car accident and was determined to be at fault by my insurance company. I was traveling west down a secondary road with a stop sign. I stopped at the stop sign but my view was obstructed by a parked truck at the corner of the intersection to my left. The street I was attempting to enter turns into a one way to my right. My goal was to cross the intersection. I was not turning.

    I looked behind the truck and did not see any oncoming traffic. I did notice that the traffic light at the next intersection to my left was yellow. I proceeded with caution and was barely moving when a car hit the front corner of the driver’s side of my vehicle. Only the front end of my car was passed the truck when I was hit. My insurance company found me at fault and charged me 4 points. There was very little damage to my car. The total cost to fix my car was $680.00. The other driver’s car was totaled and my insurance company paid 16,000 for the other car and deemed it a major collision.

    I am appealing the insurance company decision on the grounds that I was not at fault. I stopped at the stop sign but since my view was obstructed there was no way for me to see the oncoming car and I proceeded with caution. (I have pictures.) Also, The fact that the street light at the intersection the driver would have to cross before hitting me was yellow, he would have had to either speed up to make the light before it turned red or run the red light. He did not have time to wait for a green light. The distance between the two intersections is about 75 yards. As mentioned previously, only the front end of my car was passed the truck when I was hit. I would think that the amount of damage to the other car would also be an indicator of speed. The speed limit on this road is 25 MPH.

    I have traveled this same road five days a week for 17 years and in those 17 years, I have seen six accidents at this intersection so I know the intersection is dangerous and always take caution. Prior to the accident I had an excellent driving record with no points. Do you think I have a shot at winning my appeal? Four points seems excessive, especially when I had accident forgiveness on my policy. Thanks

    Reply
    1. jik Post author

      I think there’s a good chance your appeal will succeed. Good luck.

      The number of points you got in this case is solely due to the cost of the damage; it has nothing to do with the the driving mistake you (supposedly) made. See this page (“A major at-fault accident results in a claim payment of more than $5000 for damage to someone else’s property, collision, limited collision, or bodily injury to others.”). Major at-fault accidents get four points automatically. So if I were you I wouldn’t focus on the number of points you were surcharged. Just make the argument that you were driving safely and the accident was caused by the other driver’s excessive speed.

      Reply
      1. Janice

        I lost my appeal. I really feel strongly about this. I did everything possible to be safe. Do people have much luck appealing the board’s decision?

        Reply
        1. jik Post author

          I’m sorry you lost your appeal. It does seem unfair.

          I don’t have any experience with the process of appealing a decision by the appeals board, so I can’t comment on how likely it is to be successful. However, I can say that the legal fees for doing so may very well exceed the extra insurance premiums you’ll end up paying as a result of the surcharge. :-/

          Reply
  32. Joe

    Hi! This is a great resource. I’ve read through, I think, nearly every post and I get the sense that SDIP starts to add points when the damage is over $500 but what about a moving violation where there is no damage? Can you point me anything that might help me there?

    I mean, I can understand the idea of being fined (the ticket) for a moving violation but there if is no damage then I’m not sure how to react or what (if anything) can be done.

    The violation for a left turn at an intersection where I was following a bunch of other cars (and my GPS). I was new to the city at the time (first time driving on campus area, just to move in). When I went back to take pictures I did notice a No Left sign. I’m assuming it was new or something because of the other cars doing the same along with the instruction from the GPS. I mean, I did pay the ticket, I just hate to pay an insurance increase particularly since the insurance company had no costs.

    Any thoughts?

    Reply
    1. jik Post author

      Your rates don’t go up when you are surcharged to pay off the cost to the insurance company of your prior accident. Rather, the rate increase reflects the fact that a surcharge indicates that you are at higher risk of having an accident in the future. It’s also intended to to encourage safer driving habits, i.e., if you know moving violations lead to surcharges and higher rates, you are less likely to commit moving violations.

      Therefore, the fact that your illegal left turn did not cause any damage is not grounds for the surcharge to be appealed.

      I wouldn’t assume that the “no left turn” sign was new just because other cars were turning left at that intersection. People ignore signs all the time. It seems just as possible that you just didn’t see it the first time, perhaps because other drivers were turning left so you thought you had no reason to check if a left turn was OK. Having said that, you could call the town’s traffic department and ask whether in fact the sign was newly erected, and they should be able to tell you.

      I think that a surcharge appeal on the basis of the fact that there were multiple other cars turning left at the same intersection so you thought it was OK, and your GPS also told you that it was OK, might be successful, but it’s not a sure thing. If I were in your shoes I would probably appeal.

      Reply
  33. Nikolaus Kennedy

    Hi Jonathan Kramens
    Can you tell me what I should do for my Surcharge. My truck slipped on the ice on the trail in my woods in my homes backyard. The truck glanced on the tree on my left front fender . I was driving less than 5 miles per hour. Do you think that I have a potential to change the surcharge notice? I was driving alone in the truck .
    Thank you,
    Nik

    Reply
    1. jik Post author

      A surcharge appeal for a single-vehicle accidental collision with a stationary object is unlikely to be successful.

      There’s a chance that you could succeed on the basis of the icy conditions, but it seems to me like rather long odds. I believe that the fact that you were driving on your own property makes things worse. Arguably, you should be aware of the driving conditions on your own property, and you are responsible for maintaining the roads and trails on your property.

      If I were in your shoes, I wouldn’t try to appeal.

      Your mileage may vary. I’m not a lawyer, and my advice is worth what you paid for it.

      Reply
  34. bita

    Hi

    Hit snow /rock on road on extremely snowy windy day . not got letter At Fault accident

    Reply
      1. jik Post author

        I might reply if I understood what you’re asking. I have no idea. Your comment above is incomprehensible.

        Reply
  35. Andrew Wagner

    Hi Jonathan,

    Thanks very much for maintaining your blog and post about contesting a surchargeable offense. Its a great resource. In my instance I was attempting make a left turn down a street when I noticed signs indicating the street I wanted to turn down was closed. These signs were located some distance down the street and were not visible on approach to the intersection. I then turned off my signals and was struck from behind by a vehicle attempting to pass me on the right, while my vehicle was stationary. The vehicle clipped my right front wheel well and bumper causing minor damage. I filed a claim with my insurance company who then informed me that I (the stationary object in this scenario) was at fault. The argument they presented was that since I was not technically rear ended they could find me at fault. This occurred in October 2017 and at the time I didn’t understand fully what a surchargeable offense was or how serious the consequences are for your driving record so I opted not to contest. I have since contacted the Merit Rating board and they have agreed to send me a late appeal form. Aside from the delay, do you think my appeal is reasonable? From my perspective, I am only at fault for not appealing this offense earlier.

    Reply
    1. jik Post author

      I don’t understand how the vehicle trying to pass you clipped your right front wheel well and bumper in your scenario.

      It seems to me that a car preparing to make a left turn would be either parallel to the roadway they’re currently on or perhaps angled slightly to the left in preparation for completing the turn. In either of those orientations it would be extremely difficult — almost impossible — for a car passing on the right to collide with the turning car’s right front quadrant.

      Can you tell us more about how this happened?

      Reply
      1. Andrew Wagner

        Certainly, the intersection I was attempting to make a turn at had no turn lane, only a single lane of travel in each direction. There is however a large margin along this road where cars normally park. The other vehicle swerved into this margin to cut around me (the vehicle attempting a turn) and then cut back quickly into the legal lane of travel. As you suggested I was parallel to the road but the other driver anticipated that I wouldn’t be by the time they cut back since they were expecting me to complete a turn. The result was that they clipped my right front wheel well and bumper with their left rear bumper. I should note that I judged the other vehicle to be traveling at a considerable speed when this happened and despite the inconvenience this has caused me I’m glad the incident wasn’t more serious. Thanks very much for taking the time to listen to my story and offer your advice.

        Reply
        1. jik Post author

          I can’t imagine how the insurance company justified finding you at fault. The scenario you described does not, as far as I recall, match any of the scenarios in which the insurance company is required by law to find you at fault. I think they were just wrong. I’d definitely appeal if I were you. And next time pay attention when you get the surcharge letter. 😉

          Reply
          1. Andrew Wagner

            Thanks very much for the encouragement. I reached out to a lawyer who confirmed your assessment. He did mention however that in his experience even very strong claims like mine are not always successfully appealed. This raises an interesting question, are the records of the Merit Rating board public? I’m curious what a careful analysis of their appeals would reveal. I agree that the circumstances of my case indicate that I am not at fault, but I can make the devil’s argument that since the other vehicle did not technically rear end me, making the other driver automatically at fault, there is nothing in the law that requires my insurance company to find me not at fault. Furthermore since my insurance rate increases when surcharges are added to my record it seems my (or any) insurance company is incentivized to find any claimant at fault unless a set of rather narrowly defined scenarios automatically assigns fault to one part or the other. If I were my insurance company I would have found me at fault too, since the burden of proving otherwise falls to me. In any case I’ll keep you posted and will happily send you a copy of my appeal letter should it prove successful. I’ll also try doing a little digging into Merit Rating board statistics.

            Reply
            1. Andrew Wagner

              Hi All,

              In the process of submitting my appeal I’ve learned a few tips and tricks of navigating the RMV, Merit board and Board of Appeals I’d like to share. Before you’ve submitted an appeal to the Board of Appeals make sure to make a copy of your completed appeal form. After mailing your appeal form in the board will cash your $50 check promptly but your appeal will take several weeks to be entered into their database and it will take 4-5 months before they are able to issue a hearing date. This may seem frustrating if you’re eager to have the surchargeable offense removed from the RMVs record of your driving and fortunately there is a pretty painless way to get this to happen. The trick, I discovered almost by accident, is to email the RMV with your request. Their response time is about 5 business days but they can help you our very quickly if you have copies of the appropriate documentation. After I wrote them an email explaining my case they responded with a request for a copy of the cashed check from board of appeals (which I had from my bank) and the appeal form. I emailed them the copies I had and presto! The surcharageable offense was cleared from my RMV record. This process saved me the considerable headache of having to see an RMV hearings officer in person, so it seems so long as one has copies of the appropriate documentation you can skip the lines at the RMV.

            2. jik Post author

              I’m confused. Are you saying that the RMV removed the offense from your record before your appeals hearing?

              I don’t understand why they would do that. I was under the impression that the offense is supposed to stay on you record unless and until your appeal is sustained.

              What happens if your appeal is denied? Does the offense go back onto your RMV record?

            3. Andrew Wagner

              Hi Jonathan,

              Yes. The RMV removed the offense from my record with only the proof that I had submitted an appeal. It seems that the standard is that the offense can be removed from your record while it is being appealed. I’m happy to forward you the email chain I had with the RMV, and I independently verified that the charge was removed from my record. If my appeal is denied I presume the charge will go back on my record, however, I’ve never had anything like this happen to me before so I don’t actually know for sure. My advise remains the same, email or otherwise contact an RMV hearings officer with your appeal directly after submitting it to the appeals board, they may remove the charge from your record while your appeal is being processed and if not you’re no worse off.

              Cheers,

              Andrew

  36. Milo

    Hi, Thank you for the post and for sharing your appeal affidavit.

    I recently had an incident where I was driving way below the speed limit but it was snowing heavily and while trying to take a right turn my car skid out of control and ended up crashing on the side of the road and landed on a small rock. There was absolutely no visible damage to the car but the undercarriage damage from the rock was substantial. The roads were not plowed very well and were very slippery and I have a picture of the roads as well as the angle at which my car hit. The fact that the airbags didn’t open up means the speed was very low and I couldn’t have possibly done much to control my car at that point. And my tire treads are decent too. Should I appeal? I would love to have your thoughts on this. Thank you.

    Reply
    1. jik Post author

      As noted in other comments below, the driver is almost always found to be at fault in single-car accidents.

      The driver is responsible for knowing the road conditions and driving at an appropriate speed for those conditions. It’s sort of by definition a failure in judgment if you were driving on poorly plowed roads fast enough that you went into a skid and ran off the side of the road. Regardless of how slow you were driving, apparently it wasn’t slowly enough, and who else is to blame for that but you?

      I don’t really see what grounds you would have for an appeal.

      Having said that, as I’ve also noted in comments elsewhere, I’m not a lawyer and my advice is worth exactly what you paid for it. If you want competent legal advice, pay a lawyer who handles such cases for an hour of his time to discuss it.

      Reply
    2. Lisa Babs

      Hi Milo,

      I was in a similar predicament a few years ago and I wrote an appeal for an accident due to the weather. I was going under the speed limit due to the snow and when I went to stop at a red light my car slid in the other lane. I was then hit by another car. I got an automatic surcharge for being out of my lane. I wrote a letter and was granted my appeal.

      My letter said I ” was going slower than the speed limit because of the weather and the condition of the roads” and described the road conditions and the details of the accident. I concluded that the accident “was due to weather and road conditions and I believe I was not more than 50% at fault for the accident”.

      Now I’m also not a lawyer, and I know our two cases are different. But I can say it worked for me and the surcharge was removed.

      Reply
    3. Chris

      Thanks to jik for posting this article. I followed his example and appealed a single car accident for my daughter. She was found less than 50% at fault. As for Milo, I’d say appeal it. I don’t see any downside to appealing it.
      State your case, let the Hearing officer determine whether or not you were more than 50% at fault. I spent a lot of time trying to understand what applicable standard of at fault was and found little information.

      It’s a governing presumption that you are at fault in a single car accident, it’s up to you to rebut it.

      Reply
  37. Seekay

    On 9th December last year I was involved in a rear end collision and my insurance company found me at-fault for the incident, it was snowing that night and I was driving less than 10mph suddenly the driver in front of me hit brakes (an accident happened in front of her so she did a instant full stop), though there was more than a car length gap I couldn’t avoid collision because of the snow/ice road surface, brakes couldn’t stop car, it just floated on the icy surface and hit rear end of the car, though my car had some damages to the bumper etc. no damage to the car in front of me not even a scratch, what are my chances of successful appeal? please advise, thanks in advance.

    Reply
    1. jik Post author

      I don’t think your chances are great, but if I were in your shoes I’d consider appealing.

      You will want to bring evidence of what the weather conditions were that night.

      You will want to bring evidence of the fact that there was another accident which prompted the car in front of you to stop short, if you can get it. Did you take photos? If not, contact the local police department for where the accident occurred and find out if any reports were filed about either your accident or the earlier one which contributed to yours.

      Rear-end collisions are tough, but if you can make a solid case with evidence, you might prevail.

      Reply
      1. Seekay

        Thanks for the quick reply, I have taken few photographs from the place of incident, collision I was involved no one got hurt so police told me to call insurance and asked me file a report later at police station which I did very next day, other accident was major so police and fire department reached to the scene of accident at same time they approached me as well to ask whether anyone got hurt, is there a way to get the crash report from police for the other accident, please advise.

        Reply
        1. jik Post author

          is there a way to get the crash report from police for the other accident, please advise.

          Seems like you’d be better off asking the police that than a blogger.

          Reply
  38. Kimheang SOK

    On Friday 21 2017, 3:50 pm i was traveling from work toward to home. Later on I arrive at wilder street and I travel at the same speed (20). Then I saw stop sign and I stop my vehicle and look left look right carefully, and suppose to go straight but suddenly the car was travelling from another side driving with the over speed (40-50) which was diving by the young boy holding the learner permit in his hand and hit my car. My car was total lost in the front side. And everyone is OK. Finally, the police came and do report about everything. The corp also issue me a citation. They said that i’m wrong more than 50%. So, What’s the solution? Please advise!
    Thank you!

    Reply
  39. Shahenaz

    Hi Dear. I need your advise in an accident of my husband which has led to surcharge to him. We believe its not his fault. Here is what happened
    He was driving in traffic and he was on red signal and waiting for right turn signal to be available. Then signal started for right turn, the car on the fron started moving and suddenly stopped due to pedestrian crossing the road. My husbands car was in safe distance but due to front car driver slammed break suddenly, he did not get enough time and bumper of his car touched to front car. It was minor scratch only on both sides. If there was a padestrian crossing the road, the front driver could have seen him earlier, he started driving without letting padestrian to cross the road and stopped the car suddenly so it is his negligence. But I have been provided surcharge beibg on the rear vehicle. That is not my husbands complete fault. How to present this in appeal to get justice? Thank you.

    Reply
    1. jik Post author

      Legally speaking, if your husband hit the car in front of him when it stopped short then by definition your husband’s car was not at a safe distance, since he did not have enough time to stop.

      Whether the car in front of you could have avoided starting and then stopping short is beside the point. Also, given the circumstances you describe, there’s no way of knowing if it’s true that the other driver “could have seen” the pedestrian earlier. Perhaps the pedestrian jumped out into the road. Perhaps he emerged from behind a parked car.

      If I were in your husband’s shoes and I truly, at the bottom of my heart, felt that I had been driving safely and responsibly and could not have avoided hitting the other car, then I might appeal the surcharge on principle, but I wouldn’t go into the appeal expecting to be successful.

      Reply
  40. wave

    I was waiting at a stop sign at an intersection to make a left turn on main road. the traffic on the main road was stopped, the driver on the main road waved on to me to indicate I can go. I waited for a minute or so for the traffic on the other side of the main road to clear. As I was making the left turn the driver who waved me indicating I could go, also started driving and bumped on my car. I received a letter from my insurance company indicating I am more that 50% at fault. Should I appeal?

    Reply
    1. jik Post author

      This is a very complicated scenario, and for that reason alone it might make sense to appeal it, although I can’t predict how likely it is that your appeal would be successful.

      The thing is, the person who waved you on shouldn’t have done that. Yes, people think it’s the “nice” thing to do, but it just introduces uncertainty and confusion into the right-of-way rules. The rule is clear: someone going straight or turning right has the right of way over someone turning left. He should have gone himself rather than waving you on.

      But wave you on he did. If you had make your left turn immediately after he waved you on, and he pulled out into the intersection and hit you, then I think you could make a clear and convincing case that he yielded the right of way to you by waving you on, and that therefore he was at fault in the accident.

      However, you didn’t make the left turn immediately. You waited a minute before doing so. Did his yielding of the right of way “expire” because of that delay? Well, that’s exactly why I say that this is a complicated scenario, and it’s exactly why I say that waving people on like he did is a bad idea in general. There are no laws or regulations about this. There’s nothing in the Massachusetts Driver’s Manual about whether your right of way “expires” if you wait to long to take advantage someone waving you on. That’s because although someone waving you on may mean something in terms of real-world, day-to-day driving, it does not mean anything at all in terms of the law.

      However, the appeals board isn’t entirely limited by laws and regulations. They can use their best judgment to evaluate whether you were more than 50% at fault, and in the scenario you describe, they might just decide to cut you a break.

      Reply
      1. Anonymous

        Just wanted to post an update. I appealed the surcharge and as a result after the hearing the surcharge was removed (I was found not more that 50% at fault)

        Reply
  41. Sw123

    If I rear ended someone, extremely minor fender bender with mild damage to his rear bumper, old vehicle, and no damage to my vehicle, icy road conditions, any chance I can win an appeal? The guy I hit is trying to cash in and posted on his public Facebook page immediately after the accident that he was hoping his car is totaled so he can get a new one. A police report was filed. Also, can I offer to my insurance company that I would pay the damages out of pocket to avoid a possible surcharge?

    Reply
    1. jik Post author

      If you have reason to believe that the other driver is committing insurance fraud, i.e., gaming the system to claim more damage to his vehicle than actually occurred (Did you take photos said tof the accident at the scene? Always a good idea!), then you should notify your insurance company and the Division of Insurance (http://www.mass.gov/ocabr/insurance/consumer-safety/consumer-alerts/identifying-and-reporting-insurance-fraud.html) immediately.

      I hope you took screenshots of his Facebook posting! If not, and it’s still there, go do it now!

      If you think that the other driver stopped short on purpose to cause you to rear-end him, i.e., his scheme to commit insurance fraud began before the accident occurred rather than him just deciding to take advantage of the situation afterward, then that may be grounds for winning an appeal, since it would imply that the other driver caused the accident on purpose.

      Otherwise, you’re unlikely to win an appeal, because you really are at fault and it’s extremely difficult to overcome the presumption of fault for rear-end collisions. Having said that, the amount of your surcharge depends on the amount of damage caused to the other vehicle, so you may be able to reduce the impact on your insurance rate by dealing with the fraud as described above — if indeed the other driver is inflating the damage.

      Reply
  42. R

    Hello,

    I rear-ended another vehicle and want to send an appeal. Any chance I can win the appeal? I don’t know how much damage the other car got, but it was by all account a minor fender bender.

    Thank you

    Reply
    1. jik Post author

      An appeal of a rear-end collision is unlikely to be successful. There’s a chance if you can argue — with evidence — that the collision was caused by unavoidable road conditions that you could not have anticipated, e.g., black ice or an oil spill or something. But the presumption of fault for someone who rear-ends another vehicle is extremely difficult to overcome.

      Reply
      1. GD

        Recently, I was involved in a rear-end accident. I was driving after work on road that I know it at least 2 years. It was raining at 11:30pm, my speed was below the limit and the distance was kept as car is long. The car in front suddenly stoped fully in the roadway where there is not any sign even traffic light is not there or pediatrician cross. He haven’t nothing in front of him to stop. The police wrote on accident report that there is no reason to stop. After accident I went to him to see how is felling. He was on phone and I asked him if he called the police he said no. I asked him why he is on phone while driving. He said that he wasn’t on phone he used the uber application. So, he was distracted by his phone.
        So, the insurance company determined that I am more than 50 at fault for the accident as it was a rear end collision.
        What chance I have to win the appeal as no more than 50 I am at fault?
        Thank you

        Reply
        1. jik Post author

          The only thing I’m unclear about in your description of the accident is “the distance was kept as car is long.” Do you mean you were one car length behind the car in front of you? If so, then it seems like you may have been following too close.

          Under the two-second rule and assuming an average car length of 15 feet, one car length would only be a safe following distance at speeds up to a little over 5 miles per hour. Personally, I prefer to use a three-second rule or even a five-second rule at higher speeds; using a three-second rule, one car length would be an unsafe following distance for anything faster than 3.5 miles per hour.

          In short, you may have been following the car in front of you too closely.

          Having said that, if I had been an accident like the one you described, and I felt like I had been following at a safe distance, I would appeal. So I suppose my advice to you would be that if you feel that you were following at a safe distance, you should appeal.

          Reply
  43. jamie

    I got into a minor accident on 7/28/17 in Cambridge. I was parked on the street and planning to leave my spot. I looked to make sure I was safe to merge into the lane. When I did so, pretty much 60% of my car was in the lane. However, as I was fully merging the remainder of my car into the lane, a car behind me was trying to cut me by driving into the other lane of opposing traffic. I braked but the other driver didn’t cut me enough and hit my front bumper. My front bumper on the driver’s side had a huge dent and her car had a minor scratch on the passenger side. I have a Toyota Prius and she has a red Kia Soul. The appraisal for my damages are $956 and her damage is $1258. The appraiser said the Kia Soul suffered damages on the fender, tires, rims, and wheels. I took a picture of the car’s passenger side. The wheels, tires, and rims are clearly from past self-damage. She’s definitely driven into the curb an extensive amount. I do see a dent above her fender but that cannot be from the collision. The Soul is much higher than the Prius. How is that logically possible right?
    My insurance (MAPFRE) said if her damages exceed $1000, I will face a surcharge of $500. I will be appealing this surcharge. My question is should I appeal that it wasn’t my fault or that her damages shouldn’t exceed $1000 or both reasons? I would like to appeal whatever gives me a higher chance of winning. Also, will my insurance agent be there? Your thoughts are much appreciated!

    Reply
    1. jik Post author

      If I were you I would appeal on both of those grounds. There’s nothing that says you’re only allowed to appeal for one reason at a time. If you think there are two separate reasons why you shouldn’t be surcharged — and your argument for that sounds pretty reasonable to me — then you should present both of those reasons at the hearing.

      Someone from your insurance company may or may not decide to appear at the hearing and argue against your appeal. My understanding is that they try to schedule hearings that involve the same insurance company in blocks, so that a representative of the insurance company can show up and handle a bunch of hearings in a row.

      You asked whether you’re insurance “agent” would be there. If by that you meant that you actually bought your insurance through an insurance agency rather than directly from the insurance company, and you were asking whether someone from that agency — not the insurance company — would be there, then the answer is no, insurance agencies are not involved in these hearings.

      Reply
      1. jamie

        I’ve told this to my insurance who said I’m automatically at fault. Furthermore, when I mentioned the damages the insurance issued a re-evaluation of both cars through the appraiser who said the damages seem to line up. There’s no way to prove that the other driver’s damages were from the past.
        How likely do you find the MRB to side with me over the insurance and vacate my surcharge?

        Reply
        1. jik Post author

          I’ve told this to my insurance who said I’m automatically at fault.

          What your insurance company is saying is that under Massachusetts law, there are certain kinds of accidents for which there is an automatic presumption of fault on one of the drivers. For example: hitting a stationary object; a rear-end collision (the driver in back is presumed at fault); etc. I’ve linked to the relevant statute in other comments here, though I don’t have time to dig it up right now.

          When one of these types of accidents occurs, the insurance company is, indeed, required by law to issue a surcharge notice finding one of the drivers at fault as specified by the law.

          The law also acknowledges that the presumption of fault in these types of accident is not always correct, which is why the driver who is found at fault is given the option of appealing the finding as you are considering doing.

          In short, the insurance company is correct that they had to find you at fault; you may very well be correct that you were not, in fact, at fault; and the way to reconcile those two facts is to appeal the surcharge as described in the surcharge notice and try to get it overturned.

          There’s no way to prove that the other driver’s damages were from the past.

          You don’t have to “prove” anything. You just have to plant some doubt in the minds of the people who hear your appeal. This isn’t a court of law, so neither reasonable doubt nor even preponderance of evidence is the standard that applies. If you’re polite and civil and present your case calmly, given the facts you outlined, I think there’s a good chance they’ll overturn the surcharge. Not a sure thing, to be sure, but certainly worth the attempt.

          It seems to me that you do have a decent case to make. You can bring the photos you took of the damage to the two vehicles to the hearing and show that there is damage to the Soul in the photos that doesn’t have any corresponding damage to your vehicle. You can show how far above the ground the samage to your vehicle was and how far off the ground all the damage to the Soul was, and show that the appraiser’s claim that they match up doesn’t hold water.

          Reply
          1. jamie

            Also, I withdrew my claim on my end because I fixed the front bumper on my own but my insurance still mailed me a payout check? Is this too good to be true? I’d like to deposit it but afraid of the consequences..

            Reply
            1. jik Post author

              Clearly, if the insurance company sent you a check, they don’t think you withdrew the claim. You will need to call them to straighten things out. You may be not allowed to withdraw the claim if you are determined to be at fault and your insurance company ends up paying for the damage to the other vehicle.

              Some insurance companies will sometimes pay the owner of a vehicle the amount of the repair estimate (minus the deductible), rather than requiring the payout to go directly to the shop that performed the repair. That appears to be what happened here. If you are paid by the insurance company in this way, then there’s nothing wrong or illegal about keeping the money even if you did the repairs yourself or they ended up costing less than the estimate.

  44. Jerry

    My wife was pulling into the parking lot of a local restaurant and hit a large boulder on the edge of the parking lot causing $6000+ in damage (both passenger doors and running board needed replacement). Any chance she could win an appeal? Thanks.

    Reply
    1. jik Post author

      Very little chance. Your wife hit a stationary object. She’s at fault pretty much by definition.

      Reply

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