Tow trucks help remove damaged, disabled, or illegally parked vehicles. Tow truck drivers may have duty shifts late at night or early morning. Drivers may drive around on the phone or the radio to receive dispatch calls. Drivers must also train to hook vehicles to their trucks and learn how to operate their tow trucks with vehicles attached. A tow truck driver’s carelessness can easily lead to a devastating accident that can injure innocent people and cause substantial property damage.
Those injured in tow truck accidents could seek compensation from a negligent tow truck driver, towing company, or another responsible party. But remember that pursuing a legal claim can be a complex process. If a tow truck accident injures you, you must know your legal options. An experienced tow truck accident attorney could evaluate your case, advise you of your rights, and demand accountability and compensation from those responsible for the accident and your injuries.
What Is a Tow Truck?
A tow truck is a commercial vehicle that removes disabled, impounded or illegally parked vehicles. A tow truck may secure vehicles via a boom, an underlift, a wheel lift, or a flatbed. Tow trucks are often built on a light truck, van chassis, or heavy truck frame.
A tow truck could get into an accident by colliding with another vehicle or cause a collision while towing or attempting to extract another vehicle.
Common Causes of Tow Truck Accidents
Some of the most common causes of tow truck accidents include:
- Reckless driving
- Distracted driving, including using a cell phone while behind the wheel
- Running red lights or stop signs
- Unsafe turns or lane changes after failing to use turn signals and mirrors
- Drowsy/fatigued driving
- Intoxicated driving
- Improper vehicle hookup
- Tow truck driver inexperience
- Mechanical failure caused by inadequate tow truck maintenance or defective parts
Injuries That Can Occur in Tow Truck Accidents
The tremendous weight of a tow truck transfers more force than a regular passenger vehicle when involved in a collision.
As a result, a tow truck accident can lead to severe injuries such as:
- Lacerations or perforation injuries
- Abrasions or degloving injuries
- Nerve damage
- Ligament sprains or tears
- Muscle/tendon strains or tears
- Spinal cord injuries and paralysis
- Internal organ damage
- Traumatic brain injuries
- Traumatic amputation or loss of limbs
- Crush injuries
What to Do After Suffering Injuries in a Tow Truck Accident?
You should act quickly after suffering injuries in a tow truck accident to protect your potential truck accident claim.
The first steps to take after a tow truck crash should include:
- Report the accident to the authorities by calling 911 or law enforcement
- Exchange information with the tow truck driver, making sure to get the driver’s employer and insurance information
- Get contact information from any eyewitnesses to the accident
- Take photos and videos of the accident scene, including details such as vehicle damage, skid marks, traffic signals, and signs, or road/weather/traffic conditions
- Seek medical attention as soon as possible to document the injuries you suffered and begin treatment
- Follow your healthcare provider’s treatment plan and instruction
- Report the accident to your auto insurance provider
- Gather records of your financial expenses and losses, including vehicle repair invoices, medical expenses, and your pay stubs/income statements
- Keep a journal to document the pain and disabilities you experience during your recovery from your injuries
- Avoid posting about the accident or your injuries on social media, including posting photos and videos of yourself during your medical treatment or your legal claim
After you’ve sought medical treatment, be sure to contact a tow truck accident attorney to discuss the specifics of your case and how they could help you seek justice and accountability.
Holding Parties Liable for a Tow Truck Accident
To hold the at-fault party accountable for a tow truck crash, you’ll need to build a convincing injury claim.
Some of the evidence that could establish fault for a tow truck accident includes:
- Photos and videos from the accident scene
- Tow truck inspection and maintenance records
- Post-accident vehicle inspection/repair reports
- Eyewitness testimony
- Surveillance or traffic camera footage
- Driver cell phone records
- Driver drug/alcohol test results
- Accident reconstruction reports, diagrams, or animations
Multiple parties may have liability for a tow truck accident, including the tow truck driver, the towing company, or the truck manufacturer. Under California’s pure comparative negligence system, liability for injuries and losses caused by a tow truck accident is proportional to each party’s share of fault for the accident, including an injured party who shares fault for the crash.
California’s comparative negligence doctrine allows an injured person partially at fault for the accident and their injuries to pursue compensation from other at-fault parties, even if the injured person bears most of the fault.
However, because the rule apportions liability to each at-fault party, an injured party who shares responsibility for an accident may have their compensation reduced in proportion to their share of fault.
A tow truck accident lawyer can thoroughly investigate the crash to find all available evidence that proves fault for the accident and maximizes your financial recovery.
What Options Do You Have for Financial Recovery After a Tow Truck Accident?
Depending on the specifics of your crash, you could potentially seek compensation from multiple parties after a tow truck accident. You could file a claim against the tow truck driver at fault for the crash or the company that owns the truck and employs the driver.
Towing companies should have commercial insurance policies, which often provide more coverage than the average driver’s insurance policy. You might also have a claim against a party that contracted the towing company, such as a property owner or a municipality.
Finally, you may have the option of recovering compensation from your auto insurance policy if you have purchased certain optional coverages such as:
- Med Pay. Provides compensation for medical bills and other expenses incurred to treat the injuries you suffered in the accident
- Collision coverage. Pays for repairs to your vehicle or reimbursement of your car’s value if the insurance company declares it totaled
- Uninsured/underinsured motorist coverage. Provides financial recovery if the towing company lacks insurance coverage or their insurance policy limits cannot fully compensate you
Compensation Available in a Tow Truck Claim
After a tow truck accident, you could potentially seek compensation for:
- Costs of vehicle repairs
- Reimbursement for the value of your totaled vehicle
- Repair or replacement costs of any other damaged property
- Medical and rehabilitation expenses, including hospitalization, surgery, prescription medications, and physical therapy
- Costs of long-term care you need for permanent disabilities caused by your injuries
- Lost income and future earning capacity after suffering temporary or permanent disability
- Pain and suffering
- Lost quality of life caused by disability or disfigurement/scarring
How an Attorney Can Help You After a Tow Truck Accident
You might face a long road to recovery after a tow truck accident. After focusing on your medical treatment and rehabilitation, you may have difficulty finding the energy to pursue compensation for your expenses and losses. A truck accident attorney can help you by handling the details of preparing and pursuing your legal case while you recover from your injuries.
A lawyer can:
- Investigate the crash and secure evidence to prove who caused the accident
- Identify all potentially liable parties and sources of compensation, including insurance coverage
- Document your injuries and losses to calculate the fair compensation you deserve
- Explain your options to you and prepare you for what to expect in your case, empowering you to make informed decisions for your best interests
- Bring in accident reconstruction, medical, vocational, or financial experts to strengthen your case with reports and testimony
- Prepare and file your insurance and legal claims
- Communicate with insurance adjusters and defense lawyers on your behalf to aggressively negotiate for a full settlement
- File a lawsuit and seek compensation in court
Frequently Asked Questions About Tow Truck Accidents
Common questions that tow truck accident victims have about their rights and options include:
How Long Do You Have to File a Tow Truck Accident Lawsuit?
Under California’s statute of limitations, you must file a lawsuit to recover compensation for injuries within two years of the tow truck accident. A lawsuit filed after the expiration of the statute of limitations runs the risk of being permanently dismissed by the court, causing you to lose your opportunity to obtain financial recovery for expenses and losses you sustained in the tow truck accident.
Do You Need an Attorney for a Tow Truck Claim?
If you’ve never hired an accident attorney, you might worry about the cost of hiring a lawyer to handle your tow truck injury claim. However, having a knowledgeable truck accident lawyer on your side will likely give you a better chance of maximizing your financial recovery than if you handled your case independently.
In addition, attorneys typically represent tow truck accident victims on a contingency fee basis. That means an injured accident victim does not need to pay any money upfront to hire a lawyer. Instead, their lawyer only gets paid if they recover compensation for their client in a settlement or trial.
Should You Talk to the Insurance Company After the Accident?
You will likely be contacted by an insurance adjuster soon after the tow truck accident. The adjuster may ask you about your injuries or ask you to provide a written or recorded statement about the crash. However, remember that insurance representatives are looking for information they can use to deny your claim or minimize the amount they have to pay you.
You should let your attorney handle communicating with the insurance company. Your lawyer will know the tactics that insurers use to undercut injury claims and can help you to avoid jeopardizing your right to recover compensation.
How Long Will a Tow Truck Accident Case Take to Resolve?
Some tow truck injury claims can settle in a few months. However, other cases may take a few years to resolve, especially if you need to file a lawsuit and the case goes to trial.
Factors that affect the timeline of a tow truck accident claim include:
- The severity of your injuries
- How long it takes you to complete medical treatment and rehabilitation
- The extent of your financial expenses and losses
- The number of people injured in the accident
- The number of at-fault parties
- The availability of insurance coverage and applicable policy limits
- The strength of your evidence
- Whether you share fault for causing the accident
- Whether you need to file a lawsuit to pursue your claims
- The court’s schedule for hearing your case
Will I Need to Go to Trial in My Tow Truck Accident Claim?
Most tow truck accident claims settle long before going to trial. After the crash, A personal injury attorney in Bakersfield will send a demand letter and negotiate for a fair settlement from the at-fault party’s insurance.
If they cannot reach a settlement, your lawyer might advise filing a lawsuit to give you the best chance at obtaining the financial recovery you need.