When someone's car becomes disabled on the roadway due to a defect, lack of maintenance, or an accident, tow trucks commonly arrive to remove the vehicle to prevent danger to other roadway users, including drivers, motorcyclists, bicyclists, and pedestrians. However, the tow trucks themselves can also be dangerous, resulting in accidents that cause serious injuries or even death.
If the negligent actions of a tow truck driver injured you, find a local truck accident lawyer to assist you with your claim.
The Dangers that Tow Trucks Present to Other Roadway Users
Like other types of large trucks, including dump trucks or tractor-trailers, tow trucks have maneuverability issues related to their size, including:
- Blind spots on all four sides of the vehicle that prevent the driver from seeing drivers in adjacent lanes or behind them.
- The inability to stop quickly due to the vehicle's weight and its cargo.
- Improperly secured cargo. With tractor-trailers, if cargo shifts in the trailer, it can lead to a weight imbalance that can cause an accident. However, with tow trucks, the cargo is generally another vehicle. If that vehicle shifts, the driver can lose control of the vehicle, which becomes unhitched and rolls into other vehicles.
- Risky driving behaviors. In a vehicle with serious maneuverability issues due to its size, risky driving behaviors like speeding, distracted driving, fatigue, or even alcohol impairment cause severe accidents.
- Mechanical issues from lack of maintenance or defective vehicle parts.
- Improper training on how to safely load and tow a vehicle and navigate it through congested areas.
What Injuries Do Tow Truck Accidents Commonly Cause?
As with all larger vehicles, most tow truck accidents pose a high likelihood of injury or death to other roadway users.
Possible tow-truck injuries include:
- Catastrophic injuries such as those involving the brain or spinal cord, resulting in permanent disabilities that prevent the sufferer from earning income.
- Broken bones resulting from the impact of a larger vehicle crashing into a smaller one.
- Internal injuries caused by the jagged pieces of broken ribs that puncture nearby organs and result in additional hazards such as uncontrolled internal bleeding.
- Traumatic limb amputations.
The Dangers Tow Truck Drivers Face
If a tow truck driver is outside their vehicle assisting others, they face a higher likelihood of injury or death in an accident due to the lack of protection. In fact, according to Safety and Health Magazine, tow truck drivers have an on-the-job fatality rate that is 15 times greater than that of any other private industry in the nation.
Sixty-four percent of workplace fatalities for tow truck drivers result from motor vehicle accidents. If another person's negligence injures or kills a tow truck driver in a motor vehicle accident, they or their family members can seek compensation from the at-fault driver. The court process is often the appropriate avenue for seeking compensation instead of filing a worker's compensation claim because the accident was likely caused by a third-party (someone who is not the driver's coworker or employer).
Does the Move Over Law Impact Liability in a Tow Truck Accident?
As explained by AAA Exchange, every state in the nation has a Move Over Law, though many people are unaware of this law. While state laws slightly vary, they generally require drivers to reduce their speed or move over to provide more room for emergency vehicles and workers including tow truck drivers, as well as emergency responders and police to assist individuals after an accident.
Liability refers to the legal responsibility an at-fault party has to compensate the victim for expenses and effects of injuries or property damage. The Move Over Law can affect liability if your accident resulted from another driver failing to move over or slow down for the tow truck. Even if the individual who caused the accident was unaware of the move-over law, they are still liable for injuries and property damage if they fail to follow the law.
Seeking Compensation After a Tow Truck Accident
After a tow truck accident, the following individuals can seek compensation through a truck accident claim:
- Drivers and their passengers, motorcyclists, bicyclists, or pedestrians involved in an accident with a tow truck caused by the tow truck driver.
- Drivers, their passengers, and other roadway users injured in an accident involving tow truck negligence.
- Tow truck drivers injured by other drivers' negligence.
- The family members of anyone killed in a tow truck accident caused by someone else's reckless actions, and who are eligible to seek compensation for their loss through a wrongful death claim.
A truck accident claim generally begins when you hire an attorney. The attorney will investigate the circumstances of your accident to determine all sources of liability and the insurance policies to provide compensation. After making these determinations and assigning a value to your claim, your attorney will submit a demand to the at-fault party's insurer for compensation.
There are three potential outcomes to this demand:
- The insurer can accept the liability of their insured and pay the demand.
- The insurer can deny the claim. However, they must provide the claimant with a reason for the denial.
- The insurer can offer to settle the claim for less than its demanded value.
The first option resolves your claim, while the second one will likely result in filing your truck accident claim in court. The third option will help your attorney to convince the insurer to increase their offer.
Once you determine that the settlement will fairly compensate you for your injury (with guidance from your attorney), you can agree to the settlement and resolve the claim.
Even if settlement negotiations are ongoing, as the statute of limitations on your claim draws near, you should file a lawsuit anyway to reserve your right to use the court system to seek compensation if the insurer fails to settle your claim fairly. Often, filing a lawsuit encourages insurers to increase their offers as they wish to avoid the time, expense, and uncertainty of a trial.
Frequently Asked Questions About Tow Truck Accidents
Most tow trucks require a commercial driver's license (CDL) to operate. CDLs make these claims more difficult to investigate because CDL-holders and their employers must comply with numerous regulations. You must examine their required documentation when determining liability. Here are some of the most frequently asked questions about seeking compensation after a tow truck accident.
How much insurance must tow truck drivers carry?
Tow trucks must have more auto liability insurance than other vehicles on the roadway, due not only to the risks presented by the large vehicle, but also because tow trucks transport other damaged vehicles that could worsen an accident.
There is no established national standard for the amount of insurance for tow truck drivers, although certain states require a liability policy that provides at least $100,000 or $300,000 in liability coverage. Those providing insurance for tow trucks and towing companies generally recommend a policy with $1 million in auto liability to protect the company or the tow truck driver from providing compensation if the claim exceeds the policy's limits.
What happens if I miss the deadline for filing a tow truck accident lawsuit?
If the statute of limitations expires on your claim, then you are barred from using the court system to seek compensation for your injury. Without the court system as an option for seeking compensation, the at-fault party's insurer is unlikely to compensate the claim through a settlement. However, there are some cases where the statute of limitations can toll. Your attorney will advise you if there is an extended deadline in your case.
I can't afford an attorney. Do I need one for a tow truck accident?
Actually, you can. Reputable truck accident lawyers use a contingent-fee billing method that enables you to get the quality legal assistance you need without paying for it until there is a positive outcome to your claim. This secures your ability to seek compensation for your injuries, regardless of your financial status.
Most tow truck drivers follow stricter driving requirements under the CDL. Failing to meet these requirements results in documentation that can prove liability. However, the process of obtaining evidence and meeting the other legal requirements for your claim overwhelms many tow truck accident claimants.
The most important quality your tow truck lawyer brings to your claim is their experience. The second most important quality is a team of legal professionals to do the legwork of gathering evidence to prove your claim to the insurer or the court. Other tasks that a lawyer provides for their client include the provision of guidance and knowledge to help you make decisions about your case, and communication with all parties, including you, the at-fault driver, the at-fault party's insurer, and the court.
Get Help With Your Tow Truck Accident Claim
Tow truck accidents produce some of the most severe injuries an individual can incur. If you were injured or lost a loved one due to such an accident, call a truck accident lawyer near you to answer your legal questions and explore your legal options during a free case evaluation.