Typically, when you picture a tow truck, you think about it coming to help a driver in distress. Perhaps you’ve found yourself stranded at the side of the road because a lack of gas or mechanical failure left your car unable to operate safely, or maybe you had enough luck to get stuck in a parking lot. Regardless, you expect the tow truck to play the hero in such a scenario. When considering tow truck accidents, you may think of the substantial injuries that occur when a tow truck driver gets hit by another car while attempting to load a disabled vehicle.
When a tow truck causes an accident, however, you may face severe consequences, especially in terms of injuries. Tow trucks often have greater mass than standard passenger vehicles, which can increase the injuries suffered by accident victims. Not only that, tow trucks often haul other vehicles, creating even more possibilities for injury.
Common Causes of Tow Truck Accidents
Tow truck accidents, like any other type of accident, can occur for a variety of reasons, including:
Driver error. While tow truck drivers often spend substantial time on the road and may need a CDL to haul certain sized vehicles or to work for some companies, these drivers still make errors just like any other driver. Driver errors may include:
- Driving while distracted, including talking or texting on a cell phone, eating or drinking, or checking a GPS
- Driving while intoxicated, including using prescription or over the counter medications that cause intoxication
- Failing to follow the rules of the road
- Driver fatigue
- Making an error in judgment
Failure to account for poor weather conditions. Tow trucks, since they haul unwieldy cargo, may suffer more than other vehicles from the effects of poor weather, including slick roads. Tow trucks also see more use during these conditions, since they may need to rescue drivers who slide into ditches or cause other damage to their vehicles.
Mechanical failure. Like other trucks, tow trucks can face serious mechanical errors, from tire blowouts to engine or transmission problems. Tow truck drivers may cause accidents if they cannot signal correctly due to improperly functioning lights. In addition, the mechanics that secure the vehicle to the tow truck—whether the truck uses an old-style hook and chain system, a hydraulic system, or a flatbed truck—must remain in proper working order to keep the tow truck driver and passengers on the road safe. If the mechanism securing the disabled vehicle to the tow truck fails, it can send the disabled vehicle into traffic with nothing to control it, which can result in significant injury.
Failing to follow laws and safety procedures for properly towing a vehicle. In Massachusetts, a commercial company cannot tow a vehicle with any of the towed vehicle’s wheels touching the ground. Dealers and owner-contractors also have specific regulations about how they can safely tow vehicles. An operator that causes an accident while outside these regulations may face serious legal repercussions for the accident.
What Should You Do After a Tow Truck Accident?
After a tow truck accident, many victims find themselves living with serious injuries: traumatic brain injury, spinal cord damage, and amputations are just some examples. What should you do next? Consider these important steps:
Collect Evidence at the Scene, if You Can.
After an accident, you should always prioritize seeking medical attention. However, if you or another person in your vehicle can move safely around the scene, you may want to gather evidence about the accident: photos of the accident scene, the driver’s name and insurance information, and contact information for any witnesses. Photos of the accident scene may prove particularly valuable later. If possible, get a close look at how the tow truck driver connected the towed vehicle to the truck and the plates on the vehicle. If possible, take photos. These photos can help prove whether the tow truck driver followed the law and used adequate safety measures to secure the vehicle in place.
Keep Track of Your Medical Information.
Start a file that contains all of your medical information: reports, scans and x-rays, and bills. You may also want to take photos of your injuries as you progress through the recovery process. By keeping track of this information, you can easily provide evidence of both the severity of your injuries and the expenses you faced as a result of those injuries. Include the following in your records:
- Durable medical equipment use
- Follow-up visits to your doctor
- Physical, occupational, or psychological therapy
- Any alterations made to your home or vehicle because of your injuries
Contact Your Insurance Company.
Your insurance company will often help upfront with costs like repairing your vehicle or getting you in a rental car, which can make transportation easier as you recover from your injuries. If you totaled your vehicle in an accident, you may also want to cancel your existing policy or start a new policy for a new vehicle.
Get in Touch With an Attorney.
If a tow truck driver caused an accident, you may need an attorney to help you seek compensation for your injuries. An attorney can help you:
- Determine who bears responsibility for your accident. In some cases, you may need to deal with the driver’s insurance company. In other cases, including failure to follow Massachusetts statutes for safe towing, you may have a case against the towing company. By talking with an attorney, you can get a better idea of who bears liability for your accident.
- Find important evidence about your accident. Following an accident with serious injuries, you may need an attorney to bring in expert witnesses, hunt down traffic footage, or work with witnesses to discover what happened during the accident.
- Take negotiations off of your shoulders. Working with an attorney often increases the compensation you can receive for your injuries. Some people also find that having an attorney handle negotiations reduces a great deal of stress during the recovery process.
If you suffered serious injuries in a tow truck accident, contact a truck accident lawyer as soon as possible to get the legal representation and assistance you deserve for your injuries.