Massachusetts has strict OUI laws and penalties -- you can expect an OUI to cost hundreds to thousands of dollars in fees and added insurance costs. However, Massachusetts offers some strong consumer protections, allowing a person convicted of OUI the opportunity to access competitive insurance coverage using the agent of their choice.
Driving without insurance is illegal in almost every state, including Massachusetts, so it’s almost always necessary to ensure you have the required minimum coverage. Insurance coverage is encompassed by a policy, for which drivers pay a premium or an annual charge. In return, the insurance company will pay for events that fall under the coverage, up to the limit amount.
Premiums are determined by the insurance company based on several factors, including driver characteristics, type of car and the amount of coverage. Some states, including Massachusetts, have insurance credit scores, which inform the insurance company of a driver’s risk level. This is managed by the Merit Rating Board in Massachusetts, which keeps a driving record for all operators, including records for out-of-state events. The rating system, Safe Driver Insurance Program (“SDIP”) will add “points” to your score for the charge of OUI, signaling to insurance companies that you are a higher risk. This will increase your premium, and cause some insurers to not offer coverage.
Any at-fault accident or traffic law violation may result in a surcharge to a driver’s insurance. For any accident claim where an operator is more than 50% at fault, the insurance company will inform the Merit Rating Board. At-fault accidents with property damage or personal injury may also result in a surcharge. You can review a sample table of searchable events and amounts here. An operator’s SDIP points are based on the number and type of surchargeable events in a six year history.
Operators insured in Massachusetts will receive points added to their merit rating and a surcharge for traffic law violations. Depending on whether the violation is a minor or major offense, either 2 or 5 points will be added to an operator’s merit rating. The schedule is published in 211 CMR 134.00, appendix A of the Safe Driver Insurance Plan.
Often, an OUI is not the only violation charged from the same incident. However, under 211 CMR 134.10, an operator charged with multiple violations arising from the same incident will only accrue the single highest-scoring violation’s points. For instance, OUI is five points and negligent operation is two points. A driver charged with both violations arising from the same incident will only receive five additional points to their merit rating.
These events and the rating of the Merit Review Board are not only shared with an operator’s insurance company. The RMV may use traffic law offenses to suspend an operator’s license or registration and can restrict an out-of-state driver’s right to operate in Massachusetts.
Your insurer may cancel your policy for limited reasons, such as suspension or revocation of your license. Some insurers do not cover operators with an OUI on their record. You have the right to notice of cancellation 20 days before the insurance is cancelled. You have the right to appeal this cancellation to the Board of Appeal. The Board may or may not overturn the decision to cancel your policy. You can talk to your insurance company about the cancellation to try and re-obtain coverage, but you may need to shop around if your current company will not offer you insurance.Following any DUI or charge of driving on a suspended license, the DMV may require you to file an SR-22 form to prove you have insurance. Also called a certificate of financial responsibility, not every insurance company will offer this. It requires the company to inform the RMV of any change in coverage. The RMV will likely notify you if this is necessary. It is best to contact the RMV with any questions or concerns regarding a certificate of financial responsibility.
Right to Insurance
Under the Massachusetts Consumer Bill of Rights for Automobile Insurance, you have the right to obtain insurance. Insurers may not exclude you if you fall under a protected category, due to your credit rating or sevel other factors identified in 211 CMR 72.04. They may however, deny you coverage for surchargeable events and driver history. A consumer unable to secure their own insurance may obtain coverage through the Massachusetts Auto Insurance Plan (“MAIP”).
MAIP is not one insurance company, but rather a program run by the state to ensure high-risk drivers can secure adequate coverage. Any insurer licensed to provide insurance in Massachusetts must participate in MAIP as an Assigned Risk Company (“ARC”). Operators may apply through any insurance agent and be assigned to an ARC. This agent will be your representative for the duration of your relationship with the ARC, regardless of company affiliation.
There are private insurers who will still cover an operator with an OUI, but consumers should be aware that the company will likely raise the premium considerably, and may do so under state law. Consumers are advised to do their research and shop around.
Unfortunately, an OUI will always follow you on your driving record. It is not removed from your driving history after any number of years. Massachusetts has a lifetime lookback period, which means that any prior OUI may be used to enhance penalties for any violation in the future. While you may be eligible to seal your record or otherwise see the charge leave your criminal record, the record will permanently on your driving record and could impact subsequent offenses.An OUI conviction can cause financial hardship and stress in many ways for drivers. A successful defense can safeguard against years of surcharges and a permanent mark on your driving record. For smart and aggressive defense using the most up to date knowledge of the law and the science of alcohol and drugs on impairment, call the Law Offices of Joseph D. Bernard.