Frequently asked questions regarding auto insurance brought to you by The Massachusetts Division of Insurance:
Are there any specific time limits for an insurance company to pay for collision or comprehensive claims?
Answer: There are no specific time limits for the settlement of claims. Insurance companies are required by law to pay all claims in a prompt and reasonable amount of time. However, what constitutes "prompt and reasonable" may vary from claim to claim. Claims that require special or extended investigation may take longer to resolve. Inclement weather conditions often cause an increase in the number of claims filed and that can slow the process down as well.
My auto was declared a total loss following an accident. Is my company required to give me the replacement cost?
Answer: When your auto is declared a total loss, your insurance company will only pay you the actual cash value of the auto as of the date of the loss, not the cost to replace it. Your auto's value is determined by the following factors: the retail value for an auto of like kind and quality prior to the accident; the price paid for the auto plus the value of prior improvements to the auto at the time of the accident; the decrease in value of the auto resulting from prior unrelated damage which is detected by the appraiser or for which a claim has been paid; and the actual purchase cost of an available auto of like kind and quality. If your auto has substantial value because of its exceptional condition such as an antique, classic, or restored auto, you should have it appraised and then insure it for the appraised value.
Do I have to pay an insurance premium after my auto is declared a total loss?
Answer: Yes, the auto is considered insured until the policyholder returns the license plates to the Registry of Motor Vehicles. If you don't have your license plate because your auto was stolen or because your auto and plates were destroyed in a fire, you must go to the nearest Registry of Motor Vehicles office and obtain a lost or stolen plates receipt. This receipt must be presented to your insurance company in order to cancel your policy and avoid paying any additional premium.
May I keep my auto if I have a collision, limited collision or comprehensive claim and my insurance company declares it a total loss?
Answer: Your insurance company has the option to take title to your auto when it issues payment on your claim. The insurer is entitled to any salvage value your auto may have. You can, of course, negotiate with your company to purchase your auto for the agreed salvaged value.
The body shop is repairing my auto after an insured loss. Will my insurance company pay for original equipment manufacturer (OEM) parts?
Answer: If the repair of the damaged part impairs the operational safety of the auto, the insurance company will pay to replace it with an OEM part. For non-safety parts, unless your claim occurs during the first 15,000 miles on the auto’s odometer, you are not entitled to OEM parts. For autos with more than 15,000 miles, state regulation allows for the replacement of damaged parts with used, reconditioned or after market parts. You can insist on OEM parts, but you will have to pay the difference in cost.
An object damaged my windshield and I am unable to determine where it came from. Am I covered for this loss?
Answer: Yes, if you have comprehensive insurance you are covered for the full amount of the loss, unless you opted for a $100 deductible for glass breakage. The $300, $500, or $1000 deductible, or whatever you may have selected for comprehensive coverage, does not apply to a glass loss.
Can my insurance company deny a claim for damages to my auto if the principle place of garaging listed on my application is false?
Answer: Yes. If you or someone on your behalf gives false, deceptive, misleading or incomplete information on any application and if such information increases the insurance company's risk of loss, your company may then refuse to pay claims under any or all of the Optional Insurance coverage on the policy. Such information includes the description and place of garaging of the vehicles to be insured, the names of the operators required to be listed and the answers given for all listed operators. In the event that you have moved since you filled out your initial application, promptly notify your insurance company and the Registry of Motor Vehicles of your new address.
Is my insurance company required to notify me of its decision to cancel my policy?
Answer: Yes. Your company must send you a notice at least 20 days prior to the effective date of the cancellation. A notice sent by regular mail with a certificate of mailing receipt obtained from the Post Office is considered sufficient. Certified or registered mail with a return receipt is no longer required.
What can I do if I actually receive a cancellation notice?
Answer: You can pay the exact amount called for on the notice or, if you feel that the cancellation is unjust, you may submit a written appeal to the Board of Appeals at One South Station, Boston, MA 02110-2208. This must be done prior to the effective date of cancellation.
Who is liable for the storage charges on my damaged auto when there is a dispute as to the amount of the claim payment?
Answer: The insurance company is responsible for paying storage charges until it makes a reasonable offer to settle the claim. However, if the consumer disputes the amount offered and the company revises its offer, this does not necessarily mean that the original offer was unreasonable. Disputes over what is reasonable can be resolved with your company through the process described in your insurance policy. You can also submit a written complaint to the Division of Insurance if you are unable to settle the dispute.
May an insurance company request a down payment in advance when I purchase or renew an auto insurance policy? And is it possible to pay my premium monthly?
Answer: Your insurance company may request up to a 30 percent down payment of the annual premium prior to the renewal or issuance of your policy. Many companies offer an installment payment plan for the balance of the premium. You should check with your agent or company to see what options are available to you.
If I own an auto with collision and comprehensive coverage, will my insurance apply to a rental or borrowed private passenger auto?
Answer: Yes. Your collision and comprehensive insurance coverage are transferable to a substitute rented or borrowed private passenger auto that is damaged while it is being operated by you or members of your household with the consent of the owner. There is no coverage under your policy for family friends or significant others. You should be aware that your coverage is available only if you rent or borrow a private passenger auto in the United States or Canada. You should also be aware that your policy does not provide coverage for a borrowed or rented truck. If you are renting a truck, you should check with the rental company regarding the purchase of collision and comprehensive insurance. If you are borrowing a truck, make sure you determine whether or not the owner has purchased collision or comprehensive coverage. If the owner does not have insurance, you may be personally liable for any damage to that truck which is the result of your negligent operation. If the use is for business rather than pleasure, call your agent first. Business use is usually not covered under your personal auto insurance policy.
How do I go about switching insurance companies without paying a penalty?
Answer: Once you receive an invoice reflecting new (not estimated) rates and any applicable new deviations or discounts, you have 30 days to change insurance companies without paying a "short rate" penalty. If you make a change within this 30 day period, you will pay your former insurance company on a pro-rata basis at its newly established rates until the date the coverage with your new insurance company begins. If you choose to switch insurance companies outside of the 30 day period, you will be subject to a short rate penalty which decreases as your policy year progresses.
While reasonable efforts have been made to ensure that this information is accurate, it is general in nature and may not apply to your specific situation. You are urged to contact your agent, broker, company or the Division with your specific situation.
This information was compiled to help consumers answer some of the most frequently asked questions about personal automobile insurance. Additional questions or comments should be made to the Division of Insurance