What Happens If Your Car Is Damaged While Being Towed?

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Tow trucks are a common sight at the scene of a car accident or broken-down car. If a vehicle can’t run for whatever reason, a tow truck is the most efficient solution to transport the vehicle to an auto repair center or the owner’s home.

While most professional towing companies follow local codes and regulations (which vary from state to state), accidents can still occur. Additionally, illegal or unauthorized towing may have the potential to cause an individual further complications should an incident occur.

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So, what happens if you discover your car has been damaged while being towed? Read on for a helpful guide on essential steps to determine how to get compensation.

Types of Damages Likely to Occur

One of the most common forms of damage caused by a tow truck is car bumper damage. This can occur when the hook is improperly positioned to tow the car.

A tow truck can also cause significant damage if it were to bump your car at any point during the process. Other common damages caused by tow trucks include tire and windshield damage or alignment issues.

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The most significant damage would occur if the tow truck were involved in an accident while transporting the vehicle. In this situation, who is liable?

Fault in an accident of this nature will be handled similarly to other accidents in the state where the incident occured. For example, California uses a comparative negligence system in which liability is proportional based on each party’s determined fault in the incident.

Luckily, tow truck drivers are required to carry a higher standard of insurance because of the nature of their business. This insurance – such as “on the hook towing insurance” – should cover the towed vehicle if an accident were to occur, allowing for compensation to be paid out to the owner of the vehicle.

Below we’ve outlined several scenarios in which the tow truck driver would most likely be found liable.

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  • The vehicle being towed strikes another car alongside it when the driver of the tow truck changes lanes or swerves out of their lane.
  • The vehicle strikes another care when the tow truck makes a wide turn.
  • A vehicle becomes unhooked or rolls off a flatbed while being transported, causing damage when it collides with another vehicle or structure.

If the tow truck and the vehicle they were towing were struck by another vehicle, the fault will need to be determined based on the unique circumstances of the incident. Was one party speeding? Did one of the involved vehicles run a red light? Was there a malfunction with the breaks or another system in one of the cars? Were break lights not displaying? Was one of the drivers impaired in any way? Any number of circumstances could shift the liability in a specific incident.

What Steps Can You Take to Get Compensation?

The tow truck driver is expected to take necessary precautionary measures to prevent your car from being damaged and to help secure your belongings from being stolen. Therefore, if your car is damaged or some of your belongings are missing, the first step is to raise a complaint directly with the towing company in writing.

If you have insurance coverage, inform them about the incidents. If you don’t have insurance, you can hire an auto body specialist to assess the level of damage and the repair costs. If some of your belongings were stolen or missing, you need to provide a valuation of the missing item(s).

Armed with that information, you can write to the towing company and ask for compensation. If they are not willing to compensate for the damages, you can file a claim seeking compensation.

The claim would generally be conducted through a claims court or through your insurance provider. If the extent of damage caused to your car is extreme or your vehicle is rare or costly, you may need to take the legal action beyond the regular small claims court. No matter the circumstances, it is advisable that you seek the help of an attorney.

Thankfully, if you are able to prove that the towing company used incorrect towing procedures while handling your vehicle, then your case will be much stronger.

Talk to your insurance provider or lawyer to learn more about your rights and how you can successfully file a case for compensation. An attorney specializing in such matters will help you evaluate the case and collect relevant evidence and documentation needed to make your case a successful one.

How to Document the Damages

The main hurdle for vehicle owners caught up in such scenarios is the ability to prove that the damage to the car has been caused by the provider of the towing services. If it can be proved that the damage caused is related to the towing procedures, then the case is much easier to handle, especially if pictures and other forms of documentation are available proving that the damages subjected to your car didn’t exist prior to towing.

On the other hand, if your car was previously damaged or towed by a different company in the past, resolving the issue becomes more problematic.

Most damage includes the following:

  • Scratches to the exterior of a car
  • Dents
  • Deflated tires
  • Car alignment issues

The best form of evidence is to take photos of the damage. NOTE: Before your car is towed away, take photos or video of the car so you have a “before” picture to use. This will make it much easier to prove the damage was caused by the tow truck provider. Additionally, you are within your rights to film the process of hooking your car up to the tow truck. If an error were made in the process of hooking up the vehicle, that video could be helpful.

If you didn’t know to take video or photos before the car was towed, take photos immediately after noticing the physical damage to your car.

The service provider may try to offer a defense by claiming your vehicle was damaged from a previous accident or the damage is a pre-existing one – perhaps the reason why the company was called up to tow the vehicle. Make your case foolproof by getting eyewitness statements, as these help to back up the story you present. Additionally, you could get the tow-truck driver to provide an admission to causing damage to your car.

Next Steps

In the event your car has sustained damages while being towed, it is recommended that you contact a lawyer to discuss the details of your case immediately. The attorney will be able to evaluate your case and educate you on your best next steps. An experienced attorney will know the strength of your claim and how best to proceed to get the compensation you deserve.

Katherine Bishop

Katherine Bishop is a staff writer for Attorney at Law Magazine. She has been a writer with the publication for more than four years. She also writes for Real Estate Agent Magazine.

Comments 5

  1. Ron Reichler says:

    Car was hooked up underneath with cable, on flatbed, front end first. My car was at mid point in lift when cable detached and car rolled off flatbed. Car hit bricks of my garage causing scuff marks on back panel. My vehicle is 17 years old so I didn’t think was great damage. I’m more concerned why towguy didn’t KNOW why it slipped away and could there be damage under engine. Now I wouldn’t know that until my car not starting problem is repaired. which could cost in hundreds dollars and if damage occurred , it’s like beating a dead horse. Could I be repairing a dead car. what to do? GEICO expert will be calling back as I explained this all to the receptionist .

  2. sathajubail says:

    Yes sometime there is a damage during towing a car.

  3. Melissa Ackerly says:

    Thanks for pointing out that the tires can be a bit vulnerable if ever something goes wrong when towing a car. I’d like to go to a vehicle repair shop soon because my car doesn’t seem to drive as smoothly ever since I had it towed two weeks ago.

  4. Gregory Kerber says:

    A and B Towing in Portland, Oregon towed my car yesterday morning and when it was done at the shop I picked it up and immediately noticed the alignment pulling to the left. Followed by a rumbling and shaking in the front end when stopping or making a slow turn. I called A and B Towing the next morning – the manager and some other clown could do nothing but say I was lying to them and I was just trying to get my car fixed for free! Never have I seen such unprofessionalism. I kept my cool- but got hung up on 3 times. They insulted me, slandered me, and without a doubt told me to go …. myself. Avoid at all costs if possible, unless you like that sort of thing.

  5. Otilia Green says:

    That’s exactly what happened to my daughter this past weekend. The tow company damaged her car. The police officer stood there and watched everything and didn’t do a thing. I don’t know what to do

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