Being in a car accident can be a very confusing, time-consuming process and costly process. A common expense after an accident is the infamous towing and storage fee. You may be surprised to learn that towing companies require a fee that must be paid in order for your vehicle to be released. But who pays this fee? Do you have to pay it even if the wreck wasn't your fault? Here, we cover the basics of getting your car back after a wreck.
Don't Move Your Vehicle - Yet
After a wreck and before the tow truck arrives, it's extremely important that you take photos of the accident (your car, the road, street signs nearby, the damage to both vehicles, etc.) before either car is moved. If you believe the accident was the other driver's fault, you're going to need to show the insurance company proof, and pictures are the best way to do this. Only after you've taken pictures should you allow your vehicle to be moved.
Where Was Your Vehicle Towed?
There are two ways that a vehicle can be towed away. The first way is if the driver of the vehicle requests for a tow truck to transport the vehicle away to be picked up at a later time for repairs. The second way is if the police officer at the scene of the accident chooses for the vehicle to be towed to help clear the road and protect others from the damaged vehicle.
If you contacted the towing company, you can contact them for the address and information of the stored vehicle. If the vehicle was towed at an officer’s discretion, then you can contact the city’s police department for information concerning your towed vehicle. If the vehicle was towed away after you were transported to an emergency medical center and you do not know where the vehicle is located, then contacting the police department where the accident occurred would be the next step to take.
Who Pays for the Towing and Storage Fees?
Towing and storage fees can cost hundreds of dollars, especially if the vehicle is unclaimed for more than a day or two. But who pays these fees?
The answer depends on who was the at-fault driver (that is, which driver caused the accident to occur). If you caused the accident, then the towing and storage fees are your responsibility. However, if the other driver caused the accident, then they (or their insurance company) is responsible for paying for the storage fees.
What If the At-Fault Driver Doesn't Have Insurance?
Let's say you were rear-ended by another driver and your car was towed. The wreck was the other driver's fault, and therefore they (and their insurance company) should pay for your car's towing fees. However, if the at-fault driver does not have insurance, does not have enough insurance, or does not have an insurance policy that includes towing fees, then you will need to contact your own car insurance company.
When people purchase car insurance, there are often perks and benefits that are not explicitly disclosed in the buying process. It's likely that your policy includes coverage for towing and storage fees after an accident. Contact your insurance company to find out whether or not you have a policy that covers towing fees.
What If You Can't Afford the Towing or Storage Fee?
If you can’t afford to pay the towing fees, the towing company is legally not allowed to release the vehicle to you. In certain cases, after a vehicle has been towed and the towing fees have not been paid, the towing company will auction off the vehicle. However, don’t panic. This is only done after many weeks, and is not something done frequently. Nevertheless, it is better to have the fees taken care of than having the bad surprise of not finding your vehicle at the car pound.
Compensation for Towing Fees
It is important to note that any fees and expenses associated with the car itself - not having anything to do with the personal injury aspect of a claim - is dealt with the property damage side of the claim. In other words, if an insurance company pays for your vehicle’s property damage, such as paying for a body shop and covering repairs, then the towing fees would be covered.
This is why it is very important to make sure that you get the at-fault driver’s insurance information, driver’s license number, license plate numbers, and any other information that is used to identify the other driver. Without knowing who hit you or what their insurance information is, you could be facing expenses and fees (such as towing and storage fees) for a car accident you did not cause. Is this unfair? Of course it is. However, by obtaining the other driver’s information and a copy of the police report, you can be on track to having your vehicle fixed and returned without you having to pay hundreds of dollars for it.
Do You Need an Attorney?
Not unless you were injured in the wreck. If you were seriously injured in the accident, the last thing you want to worry about is where you car is, how to pay the towing fees and fighting over whose fault the accident was.
If you were hurt in the accident, call the Anderson Law Firm. We're happy to review the details of your case and let you know how we can help during this stressful, frustrating time. All consultations are free, and we charge nothing upfront.