Updated: August 4, 2021
Tow Truck Accident Lawyer
Tow trucks are intended to help people in trouble but are sometimes the vehicle that causes an accident. These vehicles pose a danger due to their heavy weight, large blind spots, and inexperienced drivers.
In this article, you will learn the ins and outs of tow truck accident litigation from the Injury Advocates Group, a boutique personal injury law firm. We are located in Los Angeles, but are available to provide a free consultation regardless of where you are located.
Table of Contents
Tow Truck Accident 411
Tow Truck Accident Settlement Information
3 Steps to Take After a Tow Truck Accident
If you were in an accident with a tow truck, there are certain things you should do immediately that will arm us with the evidence we need to protect your claim.
1. Take many photographs of the road from different angles. These should be photos of the vehicles and of the road so that any rubber marks and their location can be seen. Our legal team has used this type of evidence to devastating effect in several cases. However, rubber marks do not last for very long. They begin to deteriorate immediately and within several days may be gone. You must preserve this evidence at the accident scene.
2. Call and retain a lawyer. You need advice on what statements and injury reports you should and should not write. DO NOT write any such statements before speaking with a lawyer. Once you prepare that statement without a lawyer, it may be discoverable and a savvy insurance lawyer will twist your words out of context to prevent you from recovering a fair settlement.
3. Seek medical treatment. Many people do not understand that soft tissue injuries are a process, not an event. If you broke a bone, you will often know it is broken and seek immediate medical attention. But a soft tissue injury is not as obvious, which results in people ignoring it. That delay in treatment will be twisted into an argument that you were not hurt. We have ways of fighting that insurance company argument, but the better course of action is to seek immediate medical treatment, receive proper diagnostics for your symptoms, and follow through with any advice medical personnel provide you.
Tow Trucks Present Increased Accident Risks
Available data shows scary numbers related to tow trucks that demonstrates they pose an increased risk of accidents and injuries to other vehicles on the road. For example:
♦ During one five year study period, 191 tow truck workers were killed.
♦ That number alone is high, but it’s even more concerning when compared against the average for other industries. That comparison shows that tow truck employee deaths are almost 15 times more frequent than other industries.
♦ Approximately 500,000 truck accidents in the US occur each year, with a substantial number of these being tow trucks.
This data makes sense when considered in light of the heavy weight and safety limitations of tow trucks, discussed below.
We know how to use this data to prove liability, and sometimes punitive damages, in tow truck accident cases. It is important to frame the case in the context of the potential known harm and the behavior, or lack thereof, of the defendants notwithstanding their knowledge of that harm and related risk of extreme injury.
Tow Truck Accident Dangers
There are several facts that may account for the high frequency of tow truck accidents and tow truck employee deaths. Some of those facts are listed below, though this list is not exhaustive. It is important to hire an attorney familiar with proving liability related to each of these dangers.
Our lawyers do more than just check the liability box by proving the tow truck failed to account for the below facts. We utilize these safety breaches into dollars for our clients by using our findings in liability to drive up our client’s damages awards. Make sure your lawyer is doing the same thing.
Unsafely Hooked Vehicles
If the vehicle being towed is not properly secured, there is a danger that the towed vehicle will fall onto the road or another vehicle and cause an accident. These are often high impact accidents because the dislodging happens while the tow truck is moving, meaning you may have a 4,000 pound object suddenly dropped in front of you while traveling 50 miles per hour.
The greater the speed of a vehicle, the greater its stopping distance. A tow truck is a heavy vehicle. When the weight of a hauled vehicle is added to that equation, a tow truck can take considerable distance to stop.
The tow truck driver must account for the extra weight, in addition to additional factors, such as the grade of the road, weather, timing of traffic signals, and other variables. These variables make it difficult for a tow truck to slow down in time, resulting in increased risks of a rear-end accident.
Tow trucks have larger blind spots than a typical car. Those blind spots are made even larger due to the size of the tow truck and the vehicle it is towing.
For example, a tow truck may not appreciate that a car is directly behind it, and therefore make a sudden and dangerous stop, resulting in a rear-end accident that is not your fault. More likely, dangerous lane changes may occur that result in throwing you off the road and suffering serious injuries.
Poorly Maintained Vehicles
Many tow trucks are independently owned and operated. Most others are owned and operated by small mom and pop companies with a small number of tow trucks. These small companies and owner operators do not have a sophisticated safety procedure. They often do not perform systematic safety inspections, and stretch the vehicles to the limit, running them on dated parts, worn down components, and tires with limited tread.
In exchange for saving money on vehicle upkeep, the result is a fleet of tow trucks on the road that are not operating at full safety and pose a risk of injuring others on the road.
California Laws for Tow Trucks
California Code Section 22658 outlines laws that apply to tow trucks in California. The entire Code Section is available for free. Unlike certain other commercial truck codes in California, Section 22658 does not provide specific limiting rules for tow trucks in terms of their safe operation. Those safety rules are found in the general vehicle code.
An attorney should review the facts of how your tow truck accident happened, and identify based on that accident the different vehicle codes that were violated. This is important because violation of a statute can help prove that the tow truck driver was negligent and at fault for causing your accident.
Proving Liability in Tow Truck Accidents
The Injury Advocates Group Tow Truck Liability Checklist
At Injury Advocates Group, we created a checklist for commercial truck accident cases to help us ensure we leave no stone unturned.
In every tow truck accident case, we run through this check list when analyzing the case. That checklist has several pages on liability, part of which includes the following items that we investigate in our pursuit of what happened in your accident:
♦ Tire marks on the road?
♦ Was tow truck speeding to be first one to an accident site?
♦ Was tow truck driver working for more than 10 hours straight?
♦ Was tow truck driver experienced in hitching a tow?
♦ How long was the driver working as a tow truck driver?
♦ When were the tires last changed on the tow truck?
♦ Was the tow truck idling in a shoulder where no car needed to be towed?
♦ When was the tow truck’s last safety inspection?
♦ Did the tow truck driver seek medical treatment after the accident?
♦ Was the tow truck driver taking any regular medications and from which pharmacy?
♦ Was the tow truck driver operating her/his normal tow truck?
♦ When were the side-mirrors last adjusted or checked before the accident?
Using the Injury Advocates Group Tow Truck Liability Checklist
Each of the above questions has specific potential implications for your case. Each leads to a decision tree of discovery requests and questions that we propound onto the tow truck driver and trucking company to flush out every fact available that can improve the value of your case.
For example, consider a situation where the tow truck was hauling a car badly torn up from an accident. These questions become relevant:
♦ Were pieces of that car falling off?
♦ Did one such piece get dislodged and cause you to suffer a tire blow out at 70 miles per hour?
♦ Did the tow truck driver observe this risk but lazily disregard it to save time?
Each accident requires unique investigation to find out what happened. We do not utilize a cookie cutter approach for these cases. Call our office and ask what we can do help with your tow truck accident claim.
Searching for Responsible Parties in Tow Truck Accidents
Beyond the obvious liability of a negligent tow truck driver, it is important to search to uncover any corporate responsibility. This includes negligence related to hiring, training, or supervising the tow truck driver.
Proving the company’s negligence is not necessary – because it will be liable for the negligence of its agents, such as the tow truck driver – but it can help increase the value of your claim due to certain strategic reasons. Therefore, we always investigate whether we can pursue a viable claim against corporate officers, supervisors, or the corporate entity itself. Call us for a free no obligation evaluation of your claim to discuss how we can help maximize your tow truck accident recovery.
Different types of Tow Trucks
There are several common types of tow trucks. Each presents its own hazards. Depending on the tow truck involved, different expertise may be necessary to prove fault, depending on how the accident happened. For example, if the vehicle being towed became dislodged from the tow-truck and caused an accident, special experts are needed for the type of mechanism involved in the specific type of tow truck involved. Below are the common types of tow trucks.
Hook and chain tow trucks
These are the most common type of tow trucks. They place a mechanism that often looks like a cross under the vehicle being towed, lock in and lift the wheels, and tow away the vehicle. If secured properly, this type of towing is not as likely to result in an accident, assuming the tow truck driver is familiar with maneuvering turns and lane changes safely with the additional load.
Flatbed tow trucks
These are tow trucks with a flat bed like a larger tractor trailer. The towed vehicle is hauled onto the flatbed and taken away. Securing the hauled vehicle is fairly simple and there is minimal risk of error. Even if unsecured, it is not substantially likely that the unsecured, parked vehicle will fall off the flatbed.
The are much larger and heavier than the other types of tow trucks. As a result, they require more expertise to operate safely. They are used in the tow and rescue of large vehicles, including other commercial trucks. Because of their larger size, they have larger blind spots and pose a higher risk of accidents.
Tow Truck Product Liability Claims
If a tow truck accident causes serious injuries, your attorney should investigate whether a mechanical failure is to blame. If a faulty vehicle part, unrelated to regular maintenance, caused the accident, you could have a valid product liability claim.
There are immediate steps that must be taken in these cases to preserve evidence without which we cannot establish your claim. In these situations, immediately call an attorney so that we can mail out evidence preservation letters, letters of representation, and attempt an inspection of the tow truck.
It is important for your lawyer to have developed a layered discovery plan to use in these product liability claims. For example, with a creative discovery plan and sequence, you can get the tow truck operator and company to impeach themselves by blaming third-parties for the accident, who then come in and team up with us to attack the tow truck team’s defenses.
This is just one example of how we think outside the box, and beyond the basic facts of the accident, to develop complex roadmaps for each case to maximize your recovery.
Tow Truck Insurance Limits
Tow trucks are not subject to the same liability insurance minimum requirements as tractor trailers. The only exception to that is where the tow truck is engaged in interstate commerce. This is likely in Washington, D.C. because its centered in a tri-state area. This is not so likely in Los Angeles, which is surrounded by California jurisdictions in every direction.
If the tow truck is engaged in interstate commerce, then the $750,000 minimum policy limits rule applies.
If the tow truck is engaged in a single state operation, the typical policy can be as low as $250,000. Most tow truck companies and drivers appreciate the risk their vehicles pose, and will have more than $250,000 in liability coverage.
If the policy appears small, our inclination is to continue investigating in pursuit of an umbrella or general commercial policy that offers additional recovery sources for your injuries. When pursued aggressively by an attorney, we find that these policies often surface, which benefits our clients and their recoveries.
Many mutli-vehicle tow truck fleets will have either single vehicle limits in excess of $500,000, or an umbrella policy that provides an extra layer of insurance protection to all of the fleet’s vehicles. These are called umbrella insurance policies, and they typically be at least $1,000,000, and are commonly $5,000,000 for decent sized, multi-vehicle tow truck operation.
Tow Truck Accident Insurance Negotiations
Tow Truck Insurance Carrier Hurdles
We find that tow trucks often do not carry insurance with the usual suspects, such as GEICO or State Farm. This presents major hurdles for someone trying to negotiate a tow truck accident settlement without a lawyer. These hurdles include:
♦ Many tow-truck accident insurers retain outside firms to defend the claim. The carriers anticipate sending claims to those defense firms and using a delay-deny strategy, especially when you are unrepresented.
♦ The smaller, boutique insurance carriers are not as overworked or drowning in files, and spend more time finding ways to fight your claim, dragging out the process, and sending you running in circles with constant requests for additional documentation.
Settlement Hurdles for Tow Truck Accidents
In addition to those additional hurdles, you will face recorded phone calls, written statements, over-intrusive investigation of your medical records, and requests for you to sign health release authorizations.
Some insurance adjuster requests you should fulfill, and others you should not. Without a lawyer, you are shooting the in dark. If you guess wrong on any part of the process, you could jeopardize the value of your claim by tens of thousands of dollars.
Here’s a real life example from a former client:
He tried to wing it and settle the claim himself. He was eager to prove how strong his claim was, so he signed a medical record release that had no restrictions on it. The insurance adjuster went wild with that release, and pulled up unnecessary, historical medical records. The records were used to reject the client’s demand and argue his injuries were pre-existing.
Our lawyers have settled accident cases pre-suit without disclosing any pre-accident medical records. A flat out denial for those records will generally raise the adjuster’s suspicions. There is a way to maneuver these requests to maintain the integrity of your claim’s value, without making it look like you are hiding hurtful evidence.
How Much Money Can I Get from a Tow Truck Accident Claim?
As a starting point, if a tow truck injures you in an accident, how much you can get will depend on the total amount of the following damage categories:
♦ medical bills
♦ damage to your vehicle
♦ lost income while nursing your injuries
♦ damaged personal items in your vehicle
♦ your pain and suffering
♦ your spouse’s emotional and financial losses related to your injuries
The most difficult of these variables to calculate are the non-economic damages, both yours and those of your spouse. There is no formula to calculate that.
An unskilled attorney will roboticaly suggest that number is some multiple of your medical bills and/or lost wages.
A skilled attorney will evaluate the entire picture of your accident and brainstorm ways to sharing the true value of your losses which are not fairly represented by your medical bills or lost wages. This is what we do at Injury Advocates Group. We have created a proprietary, in-house methodology of evaluating each case based analyzing the hundreds of cases our lawyers have handled.
Our system reviews and grades over 50 unique variables to discover the full value of your claim. Using our approach, our lawyers have historically created value and increased settlement offers where a claim appeared otherwise limited in recovery potential.
Tow Truck Accident Injuries
Because of their large size, weight, and the load they carry, when a tow truck causes an accident the injuries will often be severe or catastrophic. These injuries may include:
♦ Spine & Spinal Cord Injuries
When the injuries are serious, you need an above average attorney on your team. You need a lawyer who is familiar with:
♦ Tow truck accidents
♦ Fighting the bigger and better defense firms that tow truck companies hire to defend them
♦ Is familiar with complex corporate discovery, legal research, and nuanced motions practice
You are welcome to see some of the results our attorneys obtained and judge for yourself what we bring to the table for you.
Winning a Tow Truck Accident
In a traditional car accident, you can often prove liability without any expert testimony. This is because operation of a car is within the understanding of ordinary people.
This is not the case with tow trucks, especially if a disputed issue involves hitching the towed vehicle. Some experts you may need include:
♦ Truck Safety
♦ Commercial Truck Training
♦ Accident Reconstruction
♦ Human Factors Engineering
The more time that passes following a tow truck accident before you call a lawyer, the more difficult it will be for that lawyer to help you. If you or a loved one was injured in an accident with a tow truck, call us sooner than later so we can take immediate steps to protect the value of your claim and retain the necessary experts to help you.
Tow Truck Accident Q&A
How much can I get for my tow truck accident?
Tow truck accidents can vary in range of settlement because as many as 50 variables can be considered to make a decision on the case, but with them being heavier vehicles, and based on cases we have researched and handled, averages are likely between $35,000 and $85,000. One of our lawyers settled a tow truck accident case for $1,000,000. However, that was an above average settlement.
What will increase my chances of winning my tow truck accident?
Having an attorney on your side to guide you through the process can help massively if you are the victim of a tow truck accident. You will also need to make sure you document all of your medical visits and procedures throughout the lifetime of the case. The more clear liability i, the better your overall chances of winning, and winning more money.
Which injuries are common in tow truck accidents?
Injuries in these accidents can include minor injuries like bruising and lacerations, as well as more serious and lifelong damages like brain and spine injuries.
Will the insurance companies investigate my accident?
Yes, the insurance company will always investigate your accident before allowing any payout for your claim. In fact, tow truck companies and their insurance companies will often engage in an aggressive campaign of investigation against you in any accident claim.
How can I advance my case against a tow truck company in an accident?
The best way to make your case better is to collect evidence, take photos at the scene and make sure that you get a police report at the scene of the accident. Note your place in the accident, i.e. where your car was compared to the tow truck and exactly how you were hit.
What role does human error play in accidents with tow truck companies?
Driver error is often at the root of tow truck accidents. Tow truck drivers can become distracted and cause accidents that can seriously injure and even cause death. These are professional drivers who spend a lot of time on the road, and who work long hours, and all of this increases the likelihood of errors.
Does the kind of tow truck that hit me make a difference in my case?
There are a number of different kinds of tow trucks, ranging from flatbed tow-trucks, integrated tow-trucks, hook and chain tow-trucks and wheel-lift tow-trucks. Some are bigger and can therefore cause more damage, like integrated tow-trucks and wheel-lift tow-trucks. If the kind of tow truck that hit you is larger, it can make a positive difference in your case by getting you a larger settlement payout.
If something falls off a tow-truck and causes me to get into an accident, can I sue?
Yes, if something falls off a tow truck and causes you to get into an accident, you can sue. You can hold the driver as well as the tow-truck company responsible for any such incidents. There may be negligence in how the load was tied down, or how the tow truck driver was driving which caused the load to be dislodged.
Am I responsible if a tow-truck hits me while I am in their blind spot?
It is possible, but unlikely, for you to be liable if a tow truck hits you while you are in its blind spot. If you were already established in that lane, you will likely not be liable, but a case analysis is necessary to determine that. If you had just recently gotten into that lane, you might be liable depending on the road layout, use of turn signals, and where the tow truck was in its process of lane change immediately prior to the impact. Putting aside the truth of what happened, it is likely the insurance company will try and hold you accountable and claim you are fully or in part liable.
Los Angeles Tow Truck Accident Lawyer
If you need an experienced tow truck accident lawyer, our Los Angeles based team invites you to call us for legal help. Even if your accident happened outside of Los Angeles, we invite your call to utilize our free consultation.
We will take your call 24/7, and one of our attorneys will personally call you within 24 hours of your call.
A real lawyer will explain your legal rights, answer questions, negotiate with the insurance company for you, and seek a favorable resolution on your behalf. If we do not recover any money, we do not get paid and you owe us nothing. This is a no-risk phone call.
Supporting Citations, Literature & Resources:
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Svenson, A. L., Stevens, S., & Guglielmi, J. (2013). Evaluating driver acceptance of heavy truck vehicle-to-vehicle safety applications.v In 23rd International Technical Conference on the Enhanced Safety of Vehicles (ESV) (pp. 27-30).
Ge, Y. F., Qu, B. Z., Zhang, L., & Lu, B. H. (2019). Controlling and Optimization of Maintenance Production System for EMU Bogiesv. In Proceeding of the 24th International Conference on Industrial Engineering and Engineering Management 2018 (pp. 54-63). Springer, Singapore.
“‘Largely overlooked’: Report details high death, injury rates among tow truck workers” (2019). Safety and Health.
VEHICLE CODE – VEH. DIVISION 11. RULES OF THE ROAD [21000 – 23336] ( Division 11 enacted by Stats. 1959, Ch. 3. ) CHAPTER 10. Removal of Parked and Abandoned Vehicles [22650 – 22856] ( Chapter 10 enacted by Stats. 1959, Ch. 3. )
6 Types Of Tow Trucks (Differences, Uses, Benefits). The Cold Wire.
Smith, L. (2019). DIY Towing and Securing a Load. Team Valvoline.
About the Author
Article Author: This law article was written by attorney Ray Benyamin, Esquire. Mr. Benyamin received his Juris Doctor degree from the Thomas Jefferson School of Law, and his license to practice law from the State Bar of California. His law license number is 277263. He has been practicing law for 10 years. Mr. Benyamin is a registered member of the following legal organizations: Consumer Attorneys Association of Los Angeles (CAALA), the Los Angeles County Bar Association (LACBA), the State Bar of California, the American Bar Association (ABA), and the American Association for Justice (AAJ). Mr. Benyamin has personally helped his clients recover over $10,000,000 in vehicle accident insurance claims in the State of California.
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