The Massachusetts Division of Insurance has ruled that Toyota owners who are involved in accidents due to gas pedal problems can appeal their recent or even old auto insurance surcharges to have a re-hearing.
The regulators decided late last month that drivers who are covered by the massive recall by Toyota may request to have their surcharges reversed if proof can be provided that shows that auto acceleration was the cause of the accident.
Toyota decided to recall some 4.2 million vehicles with gas pedal mechanisms which are potentially dangerous. This also covers the Pontiac Vibe and several Lexus car models.
Division of Insurance official explained that due to the recently announced recall of certain Toyota vehicles for ‘unintended acceleration’, the division issued the ruling for owners who ‘may have received an at-fault determination’ because of an accident occurrence.
Drivers who seek to reverse surcharges should show that they were using Toyota models which are covered by the massive recall. Also, drivers can file appeals, which may cost around $50, before March 30 or within 60 days of being notified of the recall (whichever is later), according to Division of Insurance spokesman Jason Lefferts.
The Division of Insurance expanded the appeal process in early February. At-fault appeals would be allowed if a recall notice was received and was involved in an accident. Owners who have already filed an appeal with at-fault determinations and lost are also eligible.
Property Casualty Insurers Association of America regional manager Frank O’Brien said that the appeal process is Massachusetts is unprecedented since the ruling is state-mandated and state-run. This is reminiscent of old automobile insurance systems wherein the state sets rates, according to O’Brien.
Because of the unique scenario in Massachusetts, the regional manager said it is difficult to predict how the appeal extension will impact the industry. Surcharges, which are typically levied after a moving violation or at-fault accident or, vary for each insurer, O’Brien said.
Toyota first announced a worldwide recall of its vehicles ‘to correct sticking accelerator pedals on specific models.’
The automobile giant’s first recall, floor mat entrapment, dealt with the propensity for the driver’s floor mat to interfere with the gas pedal and causing it to ‘get stuck in the wide-open position.’
Toyota’s second recall, pedal, involves the possibility that the pedal mechanism may ‘mechanically stick in a partially depressed position of return slowly to an idle position.’
Since both recalls have been called, sales of new models which may also be affected have been suspended temporarily. Moreover, production in some of the North American plants has been halted momentarily.