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What Happens in a Tow Truck Accident?

With different vehicles traveling on the roadways at any given time, many types of accidents can happen. Large trucks such as tow trucks can cause severe damage and injuries to drivers and passengers of other vehicles when a tow truck accident occurs. Negligent tow trucks and their drivers can raise the risk of injuries to those around them.

What Is a Tow Truck?

Tow Truck Crash Attorney

At some point, you have come across a tow truck on the road or even required their services. Tow trucks haul vehicles that have broken down on the road, sustained serious damage in a crash, or are otherwise inoperable. These towing trucks are also used in certain situations to move illegally parked cars, during vehicle repossessions, or when a car is blocking a path or roadway.

While in most instances, everyday passenger vehicles require towing services, in some situations, a larger vehicle or commercial truck will need towing. The bigger the vehicle that requires towing, the bigger the tow truck. Tow trucks range from light-duty trucks that can haul vehicles less than 11,000 pounds to heavy-duty tow trucks that can haul fully loaded semis at over 80,000 pounds.

These are the most common types of tow trucks found on roadways:

  • Hook and chain tow truck
  • Integrated tow truck
  • Flatbed tow truck
  • Wheel lift tow truck

How Do Tow Trucks Increase the Risk of Injury and Death for Other Motorists?

The build and functions of a commercial tow truck contribute to its hauling capacity for towing vehicles, but the features that make these vehicles more powerful and capable of carrying large loads also create potential hazards for other vehicle occupants on the roadways.

If a vehicle is in an accident with a tow truck, individuals in the accident may sustain serious, life-threatening, or fatal injuries due to the dangers of these much larger and heavier vehicles.

Poor Visibility

Tow trucks are large vehicles that occupy significant space in lanes. When hauling another vehicle, they have a much longer trail, making it difficult for other motorists to see around them. Motorists behind or near a tow truck might have difficulties seeing what is ahead or predicting what the tow truck driver will do next.

In addition, the tow truck drivers themselves have visibility limitations of other vehicles on the road. Many blind spots on a tow truck driver can make lane changes and merges particularly dangerous to vehicles traveling near them.

Challenging Maneuverability

A tow truck does not have the same agility as a vehicle. Tow trucks require more time to stop due to their size and weight. When a tow truck pulls another vehicle, the time necessary to stop increases significantly. In addition, turning, changing lanes, and maneuvering traffic are much more difficult for a tow truck than a smaller vehicle.

A tow truck driver can impede another’s right of way, not only with their vehicle, but the vehicle they are hauling can cause hazards on roadways, intersections, and other crossings.

The added weight of another vehicle can make a tow truck very unstable. Too wide a turn, too aggressive of a shift in direction can cause a rollover, for the towed vehicle to become loose, or for the tow truck driver to lose complete control of their truck and haul.

Susceptible to Rollaways

A unique hazard that tow trucks present to other vehicles are the high risk of rollaway of the towed vehicle. The risk of rollaway is highest while loading the vehicle onto the tow truck. Vehicles, pedestrians, and others traveling nearby or stopped behind a truck that is in the process of loading are in danger of serious or fatal injuries.

Rollaways can also happen when the tow truck is in motion if a vehicle becomes dislodged or loosened, which can then cause the vehicle to roll off the truck into flowing traffic, causing a collision.

What Are the Most Common Causes of Tow Truck Collisions?

Tow trucks have inherent dangers, but what causes the crash is not the truck itself. The actions of the tow truck driver impose these dangers on others who share the road alongside them. Negligence of a tow truck driver increases the risk of an accident and is likely to result in injuries or death of victims when an accident does happen.

Examples of negligent causes of tow truck accidents include:

  • Distracted tow truck driver – Distractions are not only a problem for motorists on their commute. All drivers, even tow truck drivers, face potential distractions behind the wheel. Whether communicating with dispatch, entering an address into their navigation, texting, or simply not paying attention, tow truck driver distractions can result in accidents with other vehicles, pedestrians, or bicyclists.
  • Tow driver under the influence – Drinking and drug use can happen in any profession, and a tow truck driver is no exception. A tow truck driver that operates their rig while under the influence endangers the lives of everyone on the road. Tow truck drivers under the influence are more likely to make mistakes while loading vehicles for towing and make serious errors while driving, leading to an accident.
  • Reckless or aggressive driving – Tow truck drivers may be in a rush to get to a job or hastily pick up a vehicle, such as during a repossession. When a tow truck driver fails to follow the rules of the road or makes risky moves on the roadways, they endanger those in vehicles traveling around them. Abrupt braking, tailgating, or changing lanes without signaling can cause a collision between a tow truck driver and a vehicle.
  • Equipment malfunction – Tow trucks have many components that work in unison for the operation of the tow truck as a vehicle and equipment and parts that assist with loading and hauling another vehicle. If a tow truck fails to undergo routine maintenance or a defective part causes a malfunction, the truck can cause an accident.
  • Tow truck operator error – Depending on the type of tow truck driven, there are different licensing requirements for the tow truck driver. In addition to licensing, a tow truck driver must have sufficient training and experience driving, loading, and hauling vehicles. If a tow truck driver lacks any of these qualifications, they may cause an accident.
  • Speeding – Hauling a vehicle on a tow truck while speeding along the roadways is a dangerous combination that can have tragic consequences on unsuspecting victims. Tow truck drivers who speed can lose control of the vehicle they are hauling and the tow truck, and cannot stop quickly if an obstacle in the road is ahead.
  • Tow truck driver fatigue – Most tow truck companies work 24 hours a day. Drivers are often on-call throughout this time, and they may get little rest between calls, if any, during busy times and shifts. When a tow truck driver is driving while tired, they have slower reaction times and can make bad judgment calls, leading to an accident. In the worst cases of driver fatigue, a tow truck driver may fall asleep at the wheel and lose complete control of the tow truck, causing it to crash into anything or anyone in its path.

What Types of Injuries Can a Tow Truck Cause to Accident Victims?

The injuries from a tow truck accident can be severe or life-threatening. If you sustain an injury, you will likely get immediate medical attention. Victims who survive may require hospitalization, surgery, and a long rehabilitation period. Injuries that may not appear as serious can still result in significant inconveniences in your life, causing you to miss work and experience pain.

Injuries that can occur to a victim in a tow truck accident include:

  • Head and neck injuries
  • Back injuries
  • Traumatic brain injuries
  • Spinal cord injuries
  • Internal injuries
  • Broken bones
  • Burns
  • Cuts and bruising
  • Soft tissue injuries

Who Can You Seek Compensation from After a Tow Truck Crash?

Determining who caused the accident is relevant to your case and who is responsible for paying for your losses when you are the victim of another party’s negligence. Employment of the tow truck driver, insurance coverage, and truck ownership will all play a part in what compensation you may recover and what parties may bear liability to you for the accident. If the tow truck driver caused the accident due to negligence, you can hold them liable to you, but you may seek compensation through other avenues. A tow truck accident attorney has an in-depth understanding of these accident cases and can figure out who the law imposes responsibility on for your damages.

Parties to a tow truck accident case that may be liable to you include:

  • The tow truck driver
  • The tow truck company that employs the driver
  • A manufacturer of the tow truck or parts and equipment on the truck

What Should You Do if You Are the Victim of a Tow Truck Accident?

A crash with a tow truck can be terrifying. Your vehicle may sustain significant damage, and you may find yourself injured and unsure of what to do in the moments after the accident.

If you are a victim of a tow truck accident, you must keep yourself safe at the scene and take steps to protect your rights under the law. What you do in the aftermath of an accident with a tow truck can have an impact not only on your physical recovery but also on your case and compensation.

Call Police

Always call the police after an accident where you suffer a potential injury or sustain property damage. The police will come to the tow truck accident scene to investigate the accident and gather the necessary information for you to proceed with a claim.

Call for Medical Help

If you are in pain, have a visible injury, feel unwell, or are unsure of what happened, call for emergency medical services. You may have hit your head n the crash, lost consciousness, or sustained injuries that you do not recognize. Having EMS come to the scene can make your health a priority, and if you sustain serious injuries, immediately transport you to the nearest emergency room.

Collect What Evidence You Can

Trying to gather evidence while you are in pain and at the scene of an accident may not be something you think about or remember to do. However, if you are physically able to and have a mobile phone or another device readily accessible, snapping a few photographs or videos at the scene can potentially help your claim and case as you attempt to seek compensation and prove fault for the collision.

Continue With Your Medical Care and Recovery

An often overlooked but critical component of an accident is an individual’s effort and commitment to their recovery after an accident. While the injuries you sustain in a tow truck accident are not in your control, your dedication to your recovery and rehabilitation is. You should follow the advice of your medical providers and do what is in your power to heal and have the chance of the best possible recovery from your injuries.

Contact a Tow Truck Accident Attorney

After an accident with a tow truck, you should immediately contact a tow truck accident lawyer for a free evaluation of your case. An attorney can help you seek compensation for your injuries and losses from the tow truck driver or another party liable for your losses.

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