A tow truck is a vehicle that hauls away a disabled truck or car following a traffic accident. However, in some cases, a tow truck is the at-fault vehicle in a serious motor vehicle collision. Just like the operators of passenger vehicles, tow truck drivers must operate their vehicles carefully, safely, and responsibly while they are out on the road.
When a tow truck driver uses the vehicle negligently, the driver can be responsible for the accidents and injuries that result. In some cases, additional entities might share responsibility for an accident such as the company employing the tow truck driver.
If you or someone you care about has suffered injuries in an accident that involves a tow truck, a knowledgeable tow truck accident attorney can determine your legal options. Your attorney can review your accident with you and determine who or what caused it. Your attorney can then pursue a claim against the at-fault tow truck driver or company, seeking monetary compensation and damages. Your lawyer can help you file the necessary claim, and if litigation becomes necessary, file a lawsuit in the civil court system.
Tow Truck Classifications
Different types of tow trucks operate throughout the United States. The primary purpose of tow trucks is to haul away cars and trucks after they become disabled on the roadway, usually because of a serious car crash that makes them non-drivable from the collision scene. A tow truck will then transport the disabled vehicle to a repair shop, or in some cases, to a demolition facility.
In addition, tow trucks range in their shapes and sizes. Some tow trucks are of the boom and winch variety, while others are wheel lift tow trucks, hook and chain tow trucks, or flatbed trailer tow trucks. The hook and chain variety is the most common type, and these vehicles usually tow disabled cars and trucks from the scene of an accident.
When a tow truck becomes involved in a collision with another vehicle, the accident victim can suffer severe personal injuries and other damages. If you suffered injuries in an accident that a tow truck driver caused, a skilled truck accident lawyer can obtain a copy of the police report and other documents to ascertain how the collision happened. Your attorney can then help you select the best legal options for your case.
Tow Truck Driver Negligence That Can Lead to an Accident
When a large and heavy tow truck especially one that is hauling another vehicle collides with a smaller passenger vehicle, the passenger vehicle occupants are typically the ones who suffer injuries.
There are several categories of tow truck driver negligence that may result in a serious accident. After all, these vehicles are frequently difficult to maneuver and control due to their unusual shapes and heavy loads when hauling other vehicles. Just like the operators of a passenger vehicle, tow truck drivers must drive reasonably and carefully.
In addition, they must follow all traffic laws and regulations, including the posted speed limit signs. When tow truck drivers violate these regulations, they significantly increase the chances that they will cause an accident with another vehicle.
Tow truck drivers should also take care when maneuvering their vehicles. A tow truck, on average, weighs approximately 10,000 pounds. This weight, plus the weight of any vehicle that the tow truck is hauling, can make a tow truck difficult to maneuver. Moreover, when tow trucks haul vehicles, they can have trouble negotiating sharp turns. Drivers also need to carefully drive their vehicles on steep hills.
In addition to following the rules of the road, tow truck operators must refrain from engaging in distracted driving. Distracted driving is anything that diverts a motor vehicle operator’s attention away from the road. This can include fiddling with a GPS device, listening to loud music in the vehicle, or turning one’s head away from the road for a couple of seconds. When a tow truck driver does any of these things, they might miss an oncoming motor vehicle or a cyclist/pedestrian in the vicinity.
Likewise, tow truck operators must refrain from intoxicated driving. When a driver operates the vehicle while under the influence of drugs or alcohol, the driver might experience blurred vision and other physical symptoms. The driver can also suffer delayed reaction time, preventing them from stopping the vehicle in time to avoid a collision.
Similarly, tow truck drivers are responsible for using reasonable care when loading a vehicle onto the truck. They must take the necessary steps to secure the vehicle to the truck. Otherwise, the vehicle can become loose while the tow truck is in motion, roll off the tow truck, and bring about a serious traffic accident with another vehicle.
Other Potential Causes of Tow Truck Accidents
Tow truck driver carelessness and negligence is not the only potential cause of tow truck accidents. These collisions sometimes happen when a tow truck contains defective equipment. For example, there might be a defect with the chains and ties that operators use to secure the vehicle that the tow truck is hauling. When these fasteners are not secure, the whole vehicle can roll out into the roadway while the tow truck is moving.
Tow truck drivers and the companies that employ them must ensure that all truck equipment works safely before venturing onto the road. In addition, product manufacturers, such as chain and fastener manufacturers, can cause accidents when tow truck cargo detaches and rolls out into the road, causing an accident.
Sometimes, tow truck companies and their drivers didn’t cause a motor vehicle crash.
Instead, in some instances, poor road maintenance is a contributing cause of the accident. Municipalities, construction companies, and cities must ensure that they maintain roadways in a reasonably safe condition at all times. Roads should not have defects, such as deep potholes and cracks. When a municipality neglects its responsibility to keep streets safe, loads attached to heavy vehicles can become disengaged and roll out into the road.
Suppose an accident victim can prove that a construction company or municipality’s failure to maintain the road resulted in a tow truck accident. In that case, the municipality/construction company might be legally liable.
In addition to tow truck drivers, the tow truck company that employs a negligent driver can be responsible for an accident. Tow truck companies must hire and retain capable drivers, supervise their drivers, and provide drivers the necessary education and training to safely operate tow trucks and load vehicles onto them.
When trucking companies hire or retain individuals with poor driving records or fail to properly supervise tow truck operators and an accident occurs the company can share in some or all of the accident liability. A tow truck company bears liability if the driver acted within the scope of their employment when the accident occurred.
Finally, tow truck accidents can happen when tow truck drivers and trucking companies neglect proper vehicle maintenance. Drivers and the companies that employ them must ensure that their tow trucks undergo routine maintenance inspections and that when repairs become necessary, they take place promptly. When a tow truck falls into disrepair, serious accidents can happen when the truck is out on the road.
For example, a steering mechanism can go bad, or the braking system can go out, resulting in a free-fall accident or pile-up collision. Moreover, undercarriage or overhead lights on the tow truck might go out, preventing other vehicles from seeing the tow truck.
If you suffer injuries in a motor vehicle collision that involves a tow truck, you might recover monetary compensation. A knowledgeable truck accident attorney can uncover the cause or causes of your accident. In some instances, your lawyer may need to retain an expert accident reconstructionist to get to the bottom of how your accident happened. Your lawyer can retain experts to help you prove your case and compensate you for your accident-related injuries.
Common Injuries that Happen in Tow Truck Accidents
When a large tow truck, especially a speeding tow truck, collides with a smaller passenger vehicle such as a sedan the passenger vehicle occupants will likely suffer more severe injuries. The force of the impact can cause the accident victim’s body to strike something in the vehicle, such as the window or headrest, or to move back and forth abruptly, resulting in soft tissue injuries.
In addition to soft tissue or muscular sprains/strains, a tow truck accident victim can suffer a cut or abrasion, bruising, broken bone, spinal cord injury, or traumatic head and brain injuries, such as concussions.
Tow truck accident victims should immediately seek medical treatment at a local hospital emergency room. When the accident victim receives treatment there, the physician on duty can take the necessary X-rays, CAT scans, or MRIs to determine the accident victim’s medical prognosis and condition.
The provider can render medical treatment for the accident victim at the emergency room if necessary. Moreover, the responding physician can recommend future care and treatment if the accident victim’s condition worsens. For example, the accident victim might need surgery, physical therapy, or some other treatment/procedure.
Seeking same-day medical treatment is extremely important following a tow truck accident. If you file a personal injury claim later, the insurance company will become highly skeptical if you did not seek medical treatment right away after your accident. Specifically, the insurance company adjuster will likely believe that your injuries were not all that severe and/or that you did not take your treatment seriously.
While you receive treatment for your injuries, a knowledgeable truck accident lawyer can begin advocating for you in your case. The right legal team can start to gather your medical records and bills, along with other pertinent documentation such as copies of witness statements, police reports, and investigative reports. Once your medical treatment is complete, your lawyer can submit all of these documents to the insurance company and pursue a favorable settlement on your behalf.
Potential Damages in Tow Truck Accident Personal Injury Cases
If you suffer injuries in a tow truck accident, you might be eligible to recover various damages in your case. The damages you can recover will depend upon the severity of your injuries, the extent of your treatment, and the cost of your treatment. For example, you can pursue compensation for all of your medical bills (even if insurance pays for some or all of them) and lost wages. You might also recover compensation for inconvenience, pain and suffering, emotional distress, and loss of enjoyment of life.
Talk to a Knowledgeable Truck Accident Lawyer Today
If you have suffered injuries in a tow truck accident, you should speak with a personal injury attorney as soon as possible. A lawyer will answer all of your questions and help you pursue a claim or lawsuit for damages. Reach out for a free case evaluation and legal consultation with a knowledgeable truck accident lawyer as soon as possible.
Tow truck accident claims can be highly complex, and they can often require experts and involve multiple liable parties. This is not a process you want to navigate while you recover from your injuries if you recover at all. Now is the time to seek legal help from a law firm with the resources to stand up for your rights.