When you wreck your vehicle or need a lift due to a car that refuses to start, you typically call a tow truck: a large vehicle designed to help pull your car out of whatever tight spot it found itself in and take it to a new destination, often straight to the repair shop. Unfortunately, the fact that you call tow trucks to help you out doesn’t necessarily mean that they never cause accidents themselves. In some cases, tow truck accidents can cause serious injuries. If you have already experienced an accident involving a tow truck get in touch with an experienced auto accident attorney to discuss your legal options.
How Do Tow Trucks Work?
Tow trucks often show up at accident scenes to remove damaged vehicles from the area. Tow trucks may quickly and efficiently hook up a vehicle with little damage, clearing the road and getting the vehicle out of the way. Following more serious accidents, on the other hand, tow trucks may need longer to load the damaged vehicle up and move it out of the way. If not properly installed then it could be the cause of a truck accident.
Tow trucks use several different systems to get the job done: tire left devices, chains and hooks, or an integrated lift can all be used to carefully raise the damaged vehicle. While the chain and hook system may cause damage to the vehicle, it remains the most reliable method for removing the vehicle from tight spots or loading a hard-to-load vehicle.
Sometimes, the tow truck can haul the damaged vehicle behind it, allowing the rear wheels of the vehicle to rest on the ground. Other times, the tow truck may need to load the vehicle up completely. The method used to haul the vehicle will depend on the type of truck, the operator’s preference, and the damage to the vehicle.
4 Types of Tow Trucks
Depending on the type of car accident and the vehicle that needs towing, the towing company may choose different vehicles to send to the accident site. These may include:
- Flatbed tow trucks. Flatbed tow trucks have long beds with flat tops, allowing room to transport large, bulky vehicles as easily as small ones. Following a minor accident or mechanical error, flatbed trucks can easily load vehicles that can still roll on their own wheels: the bed lowers, allowing the other vehicle to roll right up. The vehicle can roll up under its own power or with some help from a chain on the truck.
- Integrated tow trucks. Integrated trucks take care of the heavy-duty jobs that smaller vehicles might not handle as easily. The boom and wheel lift combination system makes it easy for drivers to quickly lift the vehicle from its location onto the truck. Integrated tow trucks can easily move vehicles left in spaces that don’t belong to the driver or where the driver has no right to park. They can also help lift stranded vehicles.
- Hook and chain tow trucks. If you think about old-fashioned tow trucks, you will probably think of a hook and chain truck: the driver uses a hook to pick up the damaged vehicle, a chain to attach it, and then drives off down the road, hauling the damaged vehicle behind it. Hook and chain tow trucks still provide a high degree of effectiveness in many situations; however, these trucks may damage the vehicles that they haul. Hook and chain trucks may drag the back of the towed vehicle on the road, which can increase damage.
- Boom trucks. When you have a serious accident and need help removing a damaged vehicle from the area, you may need a boom truck. Boom trucks have a long “boom” extending out from the back, which can reach into ponds, lakes, and larger drops. The rubber sling on the end of the boom cradles the vehicle while bringing it up out of the place it got stuck. These tow trucks often take care of heavy-duty vehicle rescues, making them the powerhouse of the tow truck world.
Do Tow Trucks Cause Increased Accident Risk?
Tow trucks take up more space on the road than many passenger vehicles. Once they have another vehicle attached, whether resting on a flatbed or pulled behind the tow truck, tow truck drivers may note some increased accident risks. Most often, however, tow truck drivers face serious accident risks when they stop by the side of the road to rescue a stranded driver or retrieve a vehicle that needs assistance.
Each year, tow truck drivers face an average rate of 42.9 deaths per 100,000 workers. In other industries, this number hovers around an average of 2.9 deaths per 100,000 full-time workers. Tow truck drivers may also face more serious injury risks than other types of workers, since they work around speeding vehicles and other potential hazards.
Are you worried about the potential risks associated with tow trucks? Take a look at these common hazards.
- Tow trucks take up more space on the road than other vehicles. In addition to hauling large trailers, including flatbed trailers, tow trucks may take on responsibility for hauling larger vehicles, including construction vehicles and vehicles used for road work. These vehicles may slightly hang over the tow truck’s trailer or bed, causing the vehicle to count as a wide load. These wide load vehicles may need more room to maneuver.
- Tow trucks often have more mass than other vehicles. Tow trucks start out larger than many passenger vehicles. When they have a vehicle behind them, tow trucks substantially increase in mass. More mass means that the tow truck may take more time to get up to speed and, more importantly, more time to stop. When driving on the road with a tow truck, make sure you leave plenty of room for them to slow down or stop. Do not stop suddenly or change lanes in front of them, if possible. This greater mass may also pose increased injury risk in an accident, since larger vehicles may cause more damage than small ones.
- Tow trucks may have poor visibility. While they have large mirrors that help tow truck drivers see what happens around them, towing large vehicles may obscure visibility for tow truck drivers. As with other large trucks, remember that if you cannot see the driver’s mirrors, the driver likely cannot see you. A large vehicle on the tow truck’s bed may make it even more difficult for the tow truck driver to see around him, so exercise particular caution when driving around the vehicle.
- Improperly hooked up vehicles may change lanes or become detached from the tow truck. A vehicle that comes disconnected from the tow truck, especially at a high rate of speed, may pose a substantial risk to other drivers on the road. If you observe a vehicle reacting oddly, make sure to give the tow truck driver plenty of space. If you see a known hazard, notify the tow truck driver if possible.
5 Steps to Do if You’re in a Tow Truck Accident
After an accident with a tow truck, you may find yourself struggling to decide what to do next. Follow these steps to help protect yourself and your finances following a serious accident.
1. Seek medical attention immediately. When you call 911 to report an accident, you will summon both police and ambulance to the scene of the accident. Since tow trucks may cause substantial injuries to other drivers and passengers when involved in an accident, you should take care to seek the medical attention you need. Proceed to the hospital or an urgent care facility if needed. If you do not summon an ambulance and you need medical attention, you will still want to go to urgent care or to the hospital as soon as possible.
At the scene of the accident, make sure you carefully consider whether you can move safely. If the accident scene poses substantial hazards, you may want to stay still to avoid the potential for further injury. Some injuries, like spinal cord injuries, may get worse if you move around the accident scene. If you cannot move around the accident scene, stay still and wait for help to arrive. You may also want to remove yourself from the accident scene if your current location increases the risk of injury—a position near the middle of the road, for example.
As you visit the hospital and receive treatment for your injuries, do your best to keep track of all the information the doctors give you. You may want to start a file that contains all of your medical bills as well as any scans, x-rays, or information provided by your doctors. Not only will this allow you to easily refer back to any treatment information recommended by your doctors, but also it will help you provide important evidence concerning your injuries to the insurance company, your lawyer, and the court, if necessary.
2. Collect evidence. Take a look at the tow truck and collect any identifying information from the vehicle, especially if you can move safely around the accident scene or have a witness who can help you collect evidence. Take a photo of the tow truck, including the name of the towing company on the side, the truck number, and the license plate. You can also take a photo of the truck driver’s license and insurance information, which will make it easier for you to refer back to that information if needed.
If you see witnesses at the scene of the accident, collect their contact information so that your attorney can get in touch with them later. You may also want to take pictures of any other features that might have contributed to the accident, such as dips in the road or hazards that might have sent the tow truck driver off-track.
3. Write your statement about the accident as soon as possible. The more time you allow to pass after your accident, the more difficult you may find it to recall exactly what happened. Going back over the events in your mind may also cause your memory to grow fuzzier. The less accurate your statement grows, the harder it can be to piece together exactly what happened at the scene of the accident. The sooner you record your statement about the accident, the more accurate that statement. You can choose to write it down, create a recording of yourself talking about the accident, or put your version of events in your cell phone to refer back to later.
4. Contact your insurance company. Following a tow truck accident, your insurance company can provide valuable information about exactly what to expect moving forward. If only your vehicle suffered damage, you can work with your insurance company to get compensation for that damage. Your insurance company may also provide you with more information about the claims process and how long it may take to process your claim.
5. Contact an attorney. In many cases, an attorney can offer significant advantages when dealing with the tow truck driver’s insurance company after the accident. Many clients find that working with an attorney increases the compensation offered by the insurance company. The attorney may also:
- Provide you with valuable information about whether the towing company or the driver alone bears responsibility for the accident, based on the circumstances that led to the accident.
- Help find expert witnesses who can help determine if mechanical damage or problems contributed to the accident, which may cause a mechanic to face liability.
- Offer legal advice to help you navigate the claims process and deal with the insurance company.
- Negotiate with the insurance company on your behalf, freeing you up to deal with other concerns and focus on your physical and emotional recovery.
Many people wait too long to contact an attorney after an accident, assuming that they can handle things on their own. If you suffered injuries in a serious tow truck accident, however, contact an attorney as soon as possible. The sooner you contact an auto accident attorney at the law offices of Michael T. Gibson, the sooner the firm can begin work on your behalf, from tracking down expert witnesses to piecing together what really took place at the scene of the accident—and the sooner you can recover the compensation to which you’re entitled.