May 16--BOSTON -- Empty roads and vacant workplaces due to the coronavirus outbreak mean fewer cars on the road, fewer fender benders and fewer insurance clams.
Attorney General Maura Healey's office wants auto insurers to return their windfall to businesses that have been especially hard hit.
In a letter to state Insurance Commissioner Gary Anderson, Healey's office calls on regulators to direct commercial auto insurers to reduce premiums for owners of taxi cabs, limousines, school bus companies, van pools and other businesses that operate fleets of vehicles "commensurate" with the drop in claims.
"Without a reduction, Massachusetts businesses will be overpaying for this insurance at a time when many are already in difficult economic circumstances as a result of the national emergency," wrote Glenn Kaplan, chief of the attorney general's Insurance and Financial Services Division.
Kaplan notes that some insurers have been providing rate relief but only on an "ad hoc" basis. He asked regulators to "level the playing field" by requiring all commercial insurers to reduce premiums.
"This reduction should remain in effect until the substantial reduction in exposure to loss ends," he wrote.
Healey said business have been hit especially hard during the pandemic, and state regulators should be taking steps to ease their financial burdens.
"These businesses deserve to pay fair rates and not be overcharged during this difficult time," she said in a statement.
Stay-at-home orders mean many taxis, limousines companies and other commercial fleet operators are driving less, resulting in fewer crashes and claims.
Some estimates suggest traffic around the state -- even in greater Boston -- has been reduced by more than 50% since the outbreak began.
Many private auto insurers have been touting rebates and discounts for individual policyholders, ranging from 10% to 30%, to reflect the decline in claims.
Several other states, including New Jersey and California, have directed commercial insurers to reduce their rates to reflect lower risks amid the pandemic.
Kaplan said there are other steps auto insurers can take to lessen the the impact on businesses, such as allowing companies to purchase lower cost coverage when the terms of current policies expire.
"It is important that we do all we can to assist policyholders during the pandemic and ensure that the cost of their insurance reflects the true risk of loss," he wrote.
Christian M. Wade covers the Massachusetts Statehouse for North of Boston Media Group's newspapers and websites. Email him at [email protected]
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