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Need insurance information? Here are some quick tips

Members of the Massachusetts Bar Association's Consumer Advocacy Task Force provide video tips about auto, homeowners, life insurance and more.

*INSURANCE

Helpful Tips

Here are some information and resources for individuals who have questions about insurance in Massachusetts:

Insurance (General)

Auto Insurance

Homeowners Insurance

Life Insurance

Health Insurance

  • Find health insurance information in "Health Care" under the Consumer Protection Resources

 


Useful Resources

The Massachusetts Bar Association's Consumer Advocacy Task Force recommends that consumers visit the following websites and phone numbers for supplemental information concerning their insurance questions:

Massachusetts Office of Consumer Affairs & Business Regulation, Insurance

A comprehensive site containing tips and advice regarding vehicle, personal, health and homeowner's insurance. There, you will find useful information, including tips on purchasing certain insurance policies, insurance fraud, or filing a complaint against an insurer or insurance agent.

Massachusetts Division of Insurance, Shopping for Auto Insurance

A step-by-step guide on purchasing automobile insurance.

Massachusetts Division of Insurance, Consumer Complaint Form

Massachusetts Division of Insurance's complaint form and contact information for additional assistance.

Massachusetts Office of Consumer Affairs & Business Regulation, Homeowners Guide

A useful guide containing general explanations regarding homeowner's insurance and key coverage issues to look out for.

 


Helpful Tips

Insurance (General)

How do I get an insurance policy?

Each person or business should think hard about their individual needs and research the types of insurance available to protect those needs.  Get recommendations from family and friends, and speak with an insurance broker about options and rates.

What should I look for when purchasing a policy?

When purchasing an insurance policy, make sure you understand its terms -- including anything it excludes from coverage. It is important to understand the monetary value of what you are purchasing.

Once you purchase an insurance policy, make sure you get a copy and maintain it in a safe place.  Understand what your obligations are in the event of a loss or insurable event.  Provide the insurance company with whatever information you have available to support your claim, such as medical records or repair receipts.     

What are the insurance company's obligations?

Insurance companies must act in good faith when analyzing and handling their policyholders' insurance claims, and Massachusetts law specifically prohibits certain unfair and deceptive conduct.  For example:

  • Insurance companies cannot refuse to pay claims without conducting a reasonable investigation based upon all available information.
  • Insurance companies must promptly provide a reasonable explanation for the denial of a claim.
  • Insurance companies must pay a claim when it becomes reasonably clear that the policyholder suffered a covered loss.  

What if there's a problem?

If an insurance company has engaged in unfair or deceptive conduct, you may have a claim against them to enforce the policy or for damages.  If you prevail, you will most likely be entitled to recover your attorneys' fees. A court may double or triple the damages award against the insurance company if they are found to have acted knowingly or willfully.

If you believe your insurance company improperly denied a claim or is not handling your claim in good faith, you may be able to seek relief and recover your attorneys' fees in doing so

Auto Insurance

Who is covered on my auto policy? If I let a friend or family member borrow my car, are they covered under my auto policy?

Your auto insurance policy must list all licensed drivers living in your household who are related to you by blood, marriage, or adoption, including drivers already covered by their own insurance policies. You should also list any person who occasionally drives your car. While the policy only requires you to list "customary" operators, insurers often interpret this term broadly, and some require that you list anyone who may use your vehicle.

Drivers who have their own policy should be listed on your policy as "deferred operators." Their addition will not affect your premium. You may exclude any household member who does not drive your car, but in order to do so, you must submit an "exclusion form" to your insurance company. Drivers who only have a Learner's Permit are not required to be listed on your policy until they are fully licensed.

If you fail to list any "customary" operator or licensed household member, your insurance company might refuse to pay your claim, even if you were driving at the time of the accident.

Do I pay my insurance premium if my car is totaled?

Yes, you must pay an insurance premium even if your auto is declared a total loss until such time that you return your license plates to the Registry of Motor Vehicles. Your auto policy terminates when you return the license plates to the Registry of Motor Vehicles.

What do I do if I disagree with my auto insurance company's repair or replacement estimate?

If you disagree with your insurance company's adjustor's estimate of property damage to your vehicle, you can contest it. Be prepared to provide proof that your car had special features that made it more valuable than the standard industry estimate or book value of your vehicle.

What do I tell my auto insurance company if I get in a car accident?

You should immediately notify your insurance company that you have been involved in an accident. You should be prepared to provide the agent with information regarding where and when the accident occurred as well as the identifying of the other parties involved information (including their insurer). This initial report of the accident is very important so you should make sure your information is as accurate as possible.

Homeowners Insurance

A tree fell and damaged my roof during a storm.  Does my homeowners insurance cover this?

In most cases, yes.

A neighbor slips and falls on my property and threatens to take me to court.  Does my homeowner's policy protect me?

Yes, a standard homeowner's policy will cover defense (legal) costs as well as any award for damages. However, you must promptly notify your insurance agent when you become aware of the claim and you will not be covered for any settlement or compromise that you make without the consent of your insurance carrier.

Does my homeowner's policy cover for "Acts of God?"

The answer is that it depends. Many "Acts of God" are covered, but some, such as floods and earthquakes are not covered by a basic homeowner's insurance policy and will require additional coverage at extra expense.

Life Insurance

What are the different types of life insurance, and how do I know which one is for me?

There are various types of life insurance to choose from depending upon your needs. Here is an overview:

  • Term life insurance is purchased for a specific period of time -- 10, 15, 20 or 30 years. Premiums are guaranteed to remain the same for the period of time purchased. Term policies can be converted to permanent policies if the need arises.
  • Universal life policies are a combination of term life insurance and cash value insurance, and can remain in effect until age 100 and beyond. The premium and death benefit can be guaranteed for the life of the policy. The interest rate credited to the cash value is at the discretion of the carrier. Premiums are lower than those for whole life.
  • Whole life insurance is a permanent, cash value insurance. The premiums, death benefit and cash value are guaranteed for the life of the contract. We look for policies that pay dividends, which add to the value. Dividends are not guaranteed. Whole life policies are more expensive than universal life, but provide greater safety because of the guarantees.

Will filing bankruptcy affect the value and premiums of any life insurance policies I hold?

Bankruptcy will not affect value or premiums.

What should I look for in choosing a life insurance policy?

  • Determine the need and the time frame for that need. Is term, universal, whole life, or a combination the solution? How much of your current assets can be brought into play? How much more is needed? This is best done with the help of a financial advisor.
  • Determine the strength and stability of the company(ies) you are considering. Check with the rating services: Best, Standard and Poor's, Fitch, Weiss, etc. to see how they rate the carrier(s).
  • Get the Comdex Rating, which is a compilation of all of the services that follow the company(s) you are considering. We look for a Comdex rating of 90 or better whenever possible.

*These answers do not constitute legal advice and are written for general information purposes only. Individuals should consult with a lawyer for specific legal advice.

If you have any questions concerning these topics or other consumer protection issues, we highly suggest that you contact the Massachusetts Bar Association's Lawyer Referral Service. Get an instant online referral here. Or call us to speak to an LRS representative* (Mon.-Fri., 9 a.m. - 4:45 p.m.) at (617) 654-0400 or (866) 627-7577.

 

 

 

 

 




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