After an accident, if your vehicle becomes mechanically disabled or is unsafe to drive, or if you are physically injured and unable to drive your car or ride your motorcycle home, a towing service will be dispatched to the scene of the collision and effectuate a tow. This can have a very undesirable consequence: by law, you become responsible for the towing fees and daily tow yard storage fees! Storage fees can be very expensive and can, and frequently do, cause owners to ultimately lose their vehicle.
There are important steps you can and should take to minimize your liability, and at the same time accelerate the vehicle repair process. In all cases, follow the legal advice contained in this article and you will both protect yourself from storage fees and the loss of your car or motorcycle, and you will also speed up the process of getting your vehicle back on the road quickly as possible.
Most people are surprised to find out that a towing company has a right to tow your car or motorcycle from the scene of an accident, and then charge you both towing fees and daily storage fees for each day that your vehicle sits in their tow yard! If you don’t pay them for the exorbitant towing fees and storage charges, your vehicle will just site there and continue to rack up storage fees and ultimately will be sold by way of a storage lien sale. While this may seem unconscionable, it is completely legal and happens all the time.
In fact, one of the most important things your car accident lawyer or motorcycle lawyer should do after an accident is take immediate steps to minimize your potential liability for tow yard storage fees. There are also steps that you can, and should take, to protect yourself. Your options will partially depend upon the type of insurance coverage you have: collision (“full”) vs. liability only.
Collision coverage, which many people loosely refer to as “full coverage,” pays for the cost of towing and repairs regardless of who was responsible for the collision. This is typically the most expensive part of a policy and is required if your vehicle was financed. If you have collision coverage, chances are you aware you have it.
If you have this type of coverage, then you should immediately call your insurance company from the scene of the collision. Call them as soon as possible, even before the police arrive. Tell them your vehicle needs to be towed and specify the location where you would like to have it towed. It is important that you make this call immediately and before the police arrive. When the police arrive, tell them that you have already ordered a tow. Otherwise, the police may dispatch a tow truck, who will come and tow your vehicle to a tow yard before the tow you ordered arrives.
Where should you have your vehicle towed? We recommend that you have your vehicle taken to the body shop of a dealership for the particular type of car or motorcycle that you own. For example, if you have a Toyota automobile, have your car towed to a Toyota dealership near your home. Similarly, if you have a Harley Davidson motorcycle, have your bike towed to a Harley dealership of your choice.
Having your car or motorcycle towed to a dealer will accomplish two things. First, your vehicle will not be sitting in a tow yard accruing daily storage charges that you will ultimately be responsible for paying. Second, the dealer can immediately begin to assess the damage and write up a repair estimate, which will speed up the repair process.
Liability Coverage Only
If you don’t have collision coverage, then you have only liability coverage, which protects other motorists in the event of an accident if you caused the collision. If the other driver caused the accident, then your liability coverage does nothing: the other driver cannot use it because they caused the collision, and you cannot use it because it’s a coverage that only protects other drivers from collisions caused by you.
If you have only liability coverage, make sure to get the full name of the other driver, the name of their insurance company, and the policy number. You can also take a picture of their insurance card, which should contain all of this information. Then call your lawyer immediately. If you were driving a car at the time of the collision, get the help of a car accident lawyer. He or she can open a claim with the other driver’s insurance and coordinate to have your car or truck moved to a tow free facility as opposed to sitting in a tow yard and accruing daily fees. If you were on a bike at the time of the collision, get the help of a motorcycle lawyer. They can arrange to have your bike towed to a dealer body shop. Again the goal is to stop liability for storage fees.
If you have a towing service either on your policy or through a vehicle association such as AAA, then call that towing service from the scene of the accident, before police arrive and start calling tow trucks. Ask them to immediately send out a tow truck and have your vehicle towed to a dealership near you.