Tow truck drivers have more than just their own vehicles to worry about. Once they hook up the vehicle they need to tow, whether they hook it up to the back of the vehicle or place it on a trailer, tow truck drivers must take both vehicles into account when turning, stopping, and maneuvering through traffic.
Unfortunately, this can lead to a substantially increased risk of collision. Tow trucks involved in accidents may also cause more severe damage to other vehicles and their occupants.
Common Causes of Tow Truck Collisions
Multiple factors can contribute to tow truck collisions. Like other drivers, tow truck drivers can increase their risk of accidents due to distraction, including talking on the phone or texting, checking a GPS or work order, or eating and drinking in the vehicle.
Other factors can also raise accident risks.
- Driver fatigue. Tow truck drivers can get called out at odd hours to deal with stranded vehicles. As a result, they may suffer from higher levels of fatigue. Driving fatigued can have just as much negative impact on the driver as driving while intoxicated.
- Improperly secured cargo. Tow truck drivers must exercise caution in securing the vehicles they tow. If they secure them wrong, it can cause the secured vehicle to slip off of the tow truck, leading to a crash. When the disabled vehicle slips off the tow truck, it has no one to control it and no way to pull it back under control, which can substantially raise the risk of a serious accident with severe injuries.
- Improperly trained drivers. Not only does securing the cargo properly require training that can help the driver better understand how to make sure it does not slip loose, driving a tow truck requires specialized training. Unfortunately, many tow truck drivers go into their early days of work without receiving proper training, including training in how to drive with poor visibility due to the vehicle attached to the tow truck and how to maneuver safely with that additional weight.
- Inebriated drivers. Every day, more than 29 people across the United States die in alcohol-related crashes. Even more may suffer severe, even life-altering injuries. Driving drunk often makes it very difficult for the tow truck driver to control his vehicle, since it impairs motor function and cognitive processing skills. Drunk drivers may also have more trouble with reflexes and reactions.
- Driver error. Tow truck drivers, like other drivers, may sometimes ignore the rules of the road. They may choose to speed, which raises accident risk considerably, or ignore other rules of the road. Unfortunately, tow trucks often prove more difficult to avoid when their drivers break the law.
- Improper vehicle maintenance. In some cases, improperly-maintained tow trucks can lead to severe accidents. A lack of brake maintenance or failure to repair the hitch or hook, wheel lift, or hydraulic bed of the truck can cause errors that may lead to collisions with other vehicles.
Who Bears Liability in a Tow Truck Accident?
The driver of the tow truck often bears primary liability for an accident caused by that driver, since he, as the driver, bears primary responsibility for everything that happens behind the wheel. Other parties, however, may share liability for a tow truck accident.
The Towing Company
Sometimes, the towing company has just one employee: the driver who caused your accident. In other cases, the company may share liability for the accident due to its negligence.
This may include:
- Improperly maintained vehicles, including vehicles the tow truck driver may have indicated needed maintenance before the accident
- Failure to properly train tow truck drivers
- Asking tow truck drivers to drive despite fatigue or inebriation
- Continuing to employ a driver with a significant accident history
The Tow Truck Manufacturer
Did your tow truck accident occur because of an unpredictable mechanical defect, not misuse? If so, the tow truck manufacturer may share liability for the accident.
What Should You Do After a Tow Truck Accident?
If you suffer injuries in a tow truck accident, make sure you take action to protect your finances and your physical health after the accident.
1. Seek medical attention immediately.
Visit an emergency room or urgent care facility to have your injuries evaluated. A doctor can help identify injuries that you might not notice at the time of the accident due to adrenaline. Your records from the emergency room or urgent care visit also establish exactly when your injuries occurred, which can help you file a truck accident claim later.
2. Contact your insurance company.
Let your auto insurance company know about the accident and the damage to your vehicle. If you have serious injuries and will need to use your health insurance to pay for medical treatment, you may also want to contact your health insurance company. Let your health insurance company know when the accident occurred, how it occurred, and any questions you have about your coverage.
3. Get in touch with an experienced truck accident attorney.
A truck accident attorney can help investigate and evaluate your claim. Start with a free consultation to get a better idea of what compensation you should expect for injuries sustained in a tow truck accident.
4. Keep track of your expenses related to the accident.
Create a file with your medical records, your medical bills, and any equipment or home modifications needed to help you maintain your independence following the accident. Record your lost time at work, including your lost wages as a result of those missing hours. All of those expenses may factor into your truck accident claim later.
5. Funnel all communications about the accident through your truck accident lawyer.
Let your truck accident lawyer help you address any questions and concerns. If you receive a settlement offer from the insurance company, discuss it with your attorney before accepting it. Tow truck accidents can cause severe injuries, often with lifelong consequences. If you suffer severe injuries in a tow truck accident, do not wait to contact an experienced truck accident attorney as soon after your accident as possible.