Bagen Law Firm | May 11, 2023 | Truck Accidents
When you think of a tow truck, you might think of a driver and vehicle who has come to help after your car has broken down or you’ve been in an accident. You don’t think of them as someone who is dangerous and can actually be the cause of an accident—but they can be. Like all other vehicles on the road, tow trucks don’t have immunity from accidents; they can cause and be involved in accidents.
These accidents also aren’t always the fault of the tow truck driver. It takes a well-versed truck accident attorney to determine who is really at fault for your damages. If you recently suffered injuries in an accident with a tow truck, one of your first steps is to call a truck accident attorney who can stand up for your rights.
What Is a Tow Truck?
If you’ve been a licensed driver for a while, you have likely come across a tow truck on the road or even required their services. Tow trucks haul vehicles that have broken down on the road, sustained severe damage in a crash, or are unfortunately otherwise inoperable. These trucks are also helpful in other situations, such as moving illegally parked cars, during vehicle repossessions, or when a car is illegally blocking a path or roadway.
While in most instances, everyday passenger vehicles are the ones requiring towing services, in others, a larger vehicle or commercial truck will need towing. The bigger the vehicle that requires towing, the bigger the tow truck needs to be. Tow trucks can range from light-duty trucks that haul vehicles less than 11,000 pounds to heavy-duty tow trucks that haul fully loaded semis at over 80,000 pounds.
Common types of tow trucks found on roadways include:
- Hook and chain tow truck
- Integrated tow truck
- Flatbed tow truck
- Wheel lift tow truck
A Tow Truck’s Inherent Hazards
Tow trucks are heavy and, often, large trucks. Most aren’t as large as a big rig but are still large enough to cause extensive damage if they collide with another vehicle.
Unfortunately, tow trucks carry the same dangers as other large trucks, including:
- Blind spots. A large truck’s blind spots are in the front and rear and along both sides. If a tow truck has a vehicle on it or is actually towing a vehicle on the road, the blind spots can significantly grow. Truck drivers should carefully clear these blind spots before changing lanes or turning.
- A larger stopping distance is necessary. Even unloaded tow trucks are heavier and need additional stopping room. If they hooked up a vehicle, whether a sling or rollback, they require more stopping distance.
- Wide turns. Tow trucks need to make wide turns due to their length. If a tow truck is turning right, it may or may not be in a second lane. Drivers should avoid pulling up alongside the right side of a tow truck—as they might end up in the driver’s blind spot, and the driver won’t see them when they start making the right turn.
- Challenging maneuverability. A tow truck doesn’t have the same agility as a smaller passenger vehicle. Not only do they require more time to stop due to their size and weight, but also changing lanes, turning, and maneuvering in traffic is much more challenging for a tow truck than a smaller vehicle. A tow truck driver may impede another driver’s right of way, not just with their vehicle but with the vehicle they are hauling. They can create hazards on roadways, intersections, and other crossings. In addition, the extra weight of another vehicle can make a tow truck extremely unstable. Too wide a turn or too aggressive of a shift in any direction can cause a rollover, the towed vehicle to become loose, or the tow truck driver to completely lose control of their truck and the vehicle they are hauling.
- Potential for loose vehicles. A vehicle can easily roll off the back of a tow truck. Whether the driver is loading the vehicle or the vehicle is already loaded, drivers should never follow a tow truck so closely that they don’t have time to act if the vehicle rolls off the back. If a cable or chain breaks and the driver doesn’t chock the wheels, the towed vehicle can hit the front of another vehicle if it rolls off. Other tow truck driver errors might include not tightening excess winch cable or locking the winch.
Causes of Tow Truck Accidents
While hundreds of different mistakes and circumstances can lead to tow truck accidents, they frequently result from:
- Drowsy driving. Many tow truck operators work long shifts and odd hours. Surprisingly, unlike big rig truckers, they’re not legally required to take regular shift breaks. This can lead to extreme fatigue, clouding the driver’s judgment and slowing reaction times. In fact, recent studies show that drowsy driving creates similar dangers to drunk driving.
- Aggressive driving. The first driver to arrive when a vehicle needs a tow typically gets the job. Tow truck drivers, therefore, have a strong incentive to get to the scene fast, even if that means speeding, making sudden lane changes, or ignoring traffic signals and other traffic laws.
- Improperly secured vehicles. Problems with hooks and cables might detach a tow vehicle or force it to roll off the truck bed. If this occurs when the tow truck is moving, other vehicles may get struck by the towed car or collide when drivers behind swerve to get out of the way.
- Defective or poorly maintained vehicles. Towing companies have a responsibility to inspect and maintain their vehicles routinely. Defects or a lack of maintenance may increase the risk of brake failure and tire blowouts (and other dangerous vehicle problems), which are among the most common causes of tow truck accidents.
What You Should Know About Tow Trucks
When it comes to an injury accident with a tow truck, your attorney already knows:
Tow Trucks Have Cameras
Thanks to today’s technology, most tow trucks have cameras.
They have dash cameras to:
- Document unsafe driver behavior
- Establish the tow truck driver had the right to tow a vehicle.
- Provide a clear picture of the circumstances in case there is an accident.
Obtaining this footage can strengthen your case and help prove liability. While the tow company is unlikely to provide such footage to someone who wants to pursue a claim against them, an attorney can request it as evidence and legally compel the tow truck company to preserve and turn over the evidence. If the attorney can take this step quickly, the chances of the driver or the company erasing the footage decrease.
Tow Trucks Don’t Receive Special Treatment
Some motorists mistakenly believe that tow trucks receive special treatment on the road, just as police, EMS, or fire departments do. In reality, tow trucks are like regular traffic participants. They do not receive special treatment from those they share the road with.
Of course, they deserve courtesy, especially if they are trying to do their job, but they should abide by the same laws as other drivers. So when you file a claim after an accident with a tow truck, you follow the same steps as you will with another vehicle.
Fortunately, if a tow truck driver’s negligence causes the accident, and you can prove it, you can recover damages from their insurance policy. However, suppose their policy limits are too low to cover all your damages. In that case, you can take the driver or the tow company to court.
What Should You Do After a Tow Truck Accident?
The two most crucial steps for you to take after a tow truck accident are seeking medical care and legal help.
Seek Medical Help
Even if you aren’t experiencing pain or other symptoms, see a doctor and have a medical exam. You can still have serious but invisible injuries. For your future claim, you should have your accident and injuries documented as soon as possible so the insurance company for the responsible party can’t blame your injuries on something else.
Don’t worry about who will pay for your medical bills now; the most important step right now is making sure you are physically okay and starting any treatment you might need.
Contact a Skilled Truck Attorney
Next, you should contact a skilled truck accident attorney. You don’t need to be the one to investigate the accident to determine how it happened and who is at fault. That’s the job of your attorney, who will also protect your rights and fight for maximum compensation for your injuries.
However, the more time that goes by after the accident before contacting a truck accident lawyer, the less they can do to help you. Contacting them as soon as possible after a tow truck accident is ideal for many reasons.
Continue With Your Medical Care and Recovery
An often overlooked but vital component of an accident claim is the injured party’s commitment and effort to their recovery after an accident. While you can’t control the injuries you sustain in a tow truck accident, you can control your dedication to your recovery and rehabilitation. Be sure to heed the advice of your medical providers and do all you can to heal and have a chance at the best possible recovery from your injuries.
Who Can You Seek Compensation From After a Tow Truck Accident?
Identifying who caused the tow truck accident is substantial to your injury claim, and who should be held responsible for paying for your damages when you are the victim of someone else’s negligence. Employment of the tow truck driver, truck ownership, and insurance coverage will all play a role in the financial compensation you can recover and who might bear liability to you for the accident.
For example, if the tow truck driver caused the accident because of their negligence, you can hold them liable to you. Still, you may also seek additional compensation through other parties. A tow truck accident attorney has a deep understanding of these accident cases and can discover whom the law imposes responsibility on for your damages.
Parties to a tow truck accident that a truck accident lawyer can hold liable for your damages include:
- The tow truck driver
- The tow truck company that employs the driver
- A manufacturer of the tow truck or its parts and equipment
- Other drivers on the road
- A government entity
The Statute of Limitations
Many injury victims don’t understand that they have limited time to file a personal injury claim, no matter what state they live in or where the accident occurred. This deadline is known as the statute of limitations. Each state can determine its statute of limitations, and there are different ones for various types of civil cases. For example, claims against government entities typically have a shorter deadline.
Under the statute of limitations, the injured party or their attorney must file their legal claim within a certain number of years after their injury. If they fail to do so, they will more than likely lose their right to seek compensation. They may still try to file a claim, but the opposing party will move the court to dismiss it based on the missed deadline. The court will have no choice but to oblige.
This is one reason why contacting a lawyer as soon as possible after a tow truck accident is imperative. They will know what statute of limitation applies to your injury claim and act accordingly to protect your right to compensation.
Contact an Experienced Tow Truck Accident Attorney Today
If you or a loved one recently suffered injuries in an accident with a tow truck, you need to know that you have rights. The best way to protect your rights is to contact an experienced personal injury attorney immediately after your accident.