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  • Writer's pictureDick Ostrander

Avoiding the Dreaded Surcharge

Recently one of my almost-adult sons was driving to Cape Cod for a fun weekend with a friend when he called to say, “Dad, I have good news and I have bad news.” When he told me the good news was that he was almost at his destination, I realized he was actually just calling to give me the bad news. Sure enough, he said that he had just gotten a speeding ticket, his first ever.

Now, if I didn’t happen to be his insurance agent as well as his father, I’m not sure he would have called me. His concern, like that of all the others who call our office after such an occasion, is one thing and one thing only: What is this going to do to my insurance?

Well, son, “I have good news and I have bad news.” The good news is that you will technically not get a surcharge. The bad news is that your insurance premium is going up, and it’s going to stay up for at least 5 years as a result of your ticket. Although my son had a perfect “99” driving record before the ticket, he will now be slotted as a “0” step driver.

This neutral “0” step rating, or driving code, generates neither a surcharge nor the good-driver discount that he enjoyed when he was a “99” step driver. But, should he get another ticket anytime soon, he’ll get 2 points and start paying a surcharge on top of his premium.

As to having at-fault accidents, they will saddle you with 3 or 4 surcharge points depending on how much your insurance company pays out to you and the other guy as a result of your at-fault accident. To avoid at-fault accident surcharges, you have basically 3 choices: (1) never have an at-fault accident, (2) settle the property-damage claim directly with the other party without involving the insurance company, or (3) appeal the surcharge with the Merit Rating Board (DMV) as soon as you receive the dreaded surcharge notice following your at-fault accident. We frequently recommend to our clients that they attempt to work out a deal with the other party if their accident was a simple one and the other party is a reasonable person. Through the years, I’ve personally helped those wonderful boys of mine do this at least twice.

On another occasion, one of my sons had a total loss when his Jeep slid off the road during an icy snowstorm. He successfully appealed the surcharge, in large part because the police officer noted the icy conditions in his report. In fact, nearly 50% of all drivers who appeal their surcharge have their surcharge “vacated.” So, there is hope; but, in the meantime, our advice is that you go with option (1) and never have an at-fault accident.

So now you know.

Written by Dick Ostrander, owner of Ostrander Insurance ( Ostrander Insurance offers homeowners, automobile and life insurance The office is conveniently located across the street from the Bellingham Post Office. For more information, contact Dick at 508-966-1116.

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