The police can impound your vehicle for several reasons, but once it is in their possession, they cannot simply do with it as they please. They have a responsibility to avoid damaging your property whenever possible. If you have a car in the impound lot or recovered it from the lot with damage that was not there before the tow, you might be able to seek compensation for property damage. First, consider who is at fault and how you can prove it.
What Can You Do When You First Notice Damage?
The first thing you do when you notice damage to your vehicle after picking it up is notify the supervisor. If it is aesthetic damage to the body, you can take photographs of the damage to show them. If the damage is mechanical, you may need a witness to testify that the issue did not exist before the impounding.
Documentation is a critical element of your case. For example, time-stamped photographs of visible damage or a recorded video of mechanical damage could be substantial evidence for your claim. In addition, you can use the damage report from a repair yard and an estimate showing the cost of repairing or replacing the vehicle. Keep all the paperwork provided at the impound lot and act fast if you want to file a claim for your losses.
What Are Common Types of Damage That Can Happen During a Tow to the Impound Lot?
Accidents can happen during the towing process, particularly if the person towing the vehicle has limited experience. Additionally, tow trucks share the road with other drivers and are just as susceptible to collisions as anyone else. However, some damages are more easily traced to issues during the tow. For example, damage to the steering system or transmission is common, given how cars connect to the tow truck.
Other damages that could occur during the tow or at the impound lot include the following:
- Dents and scratches
- Broken lights or mirrors
- Damage to the front or rear bumper
- Tire damage
Cars that remain in the impound for an extended period could sustain more damage. For example, if they towed your car and damaged the tire, it could sit in the lot on a bare wheel. Over time, the wheel could bend or warp, rendering it useless.
Who Could Be Liable for the Damage?
When the police impound your vehicle in Manhattan, they will likely use a tow company employed by the government. When you file a claim against the government, you are responsible for proving liability, and in this situation, that can be challenging. If the tow company is privately owned, you could sue the owner or drivers for damages. However, if the police are liable, the circumstances are different.
Details of Your Demand Letter
When you file a claim, you send a demand letter to detail the case, your accusations of liability and what damages you expect to recover. Specific elements you want to include in the demand letter are:
- A detailed account of how your vehicle came into the possession of the police, including exact dates and times and how long they had it.
- Names and information for people involved in the case, including the tow truck driver, the towing company and any officers present at the scene during the impounding of your vehicle.
- A synopsis of any damages your vehicle sustained before impounding, especially if the police took it from the scene of an accident.
- Information regarding any witnesses present when the police impounded your vehicle and when you picked it up from the impound lot.
- Details regarding the damage incurred during police possession and the financial compensation you demand.
You should also include documentation you have of any claims or demands you make in the letter. For example, you can include receipts from the towing company and estimates for auto repair mechanics and part suppliers.
What Damages Can You Recover?
You can likely only recover the cost of repairing damages to your vehicle. However, if you could not use your car once you retrieved it from the impound lot, you could receive compensation for any transportation costs during the time it took to fix your car. In addition, if the damage to your vehicle interfered with your ability to complete your job duties, you might have a chance to recover lost wages.
Keep receipts of everything you claim, including the cost of transportation and pay stubs showing missed wages. When filing an at-fault claim, you are responsible for providing sufficient evidence to support your damages as well.
How Do You Sue the Government for Negligence in Manhattan?
Filing a claim against the government of a municipality was once impossible in New York. However, since 2011, personal injury victims, including victims of property damage, can file a claim against local government entities. The stipulation is that you must prove that the entity had a “special duty” to you and file within the allotted timeframe.
Deadlines for Filing
New York state has specific deadlines for filing claims against the government. For example, you have three years to file a claim for state appropriation or land or six months to file a breach of contract. However, you only have 90 days to complete a personal injury or property damage claim. If you have a legal disability, such as being under guardianship, the 90 days may extend to two years.
Proving “Special Duty”
Proving that the police owed you a “special duty” means you must show that one of the following happened:
- The entity or person violated a duty owed to you under a state-mandated statute.
- The entity or person committed to a duty voluntarily and communicated their intention to complete it but failed to do so.
- The entity or person maintained control and direction in the face of a safety violation.
In most municipalities, you can file your claim online through the city website. In Manhattan, you have this option. If you have questions about the process or concerns about fair treatment, you contact a personal injury attorney to discuss the details of your case and potentially hire them to take over your case.
How Do You Get Your Car Out of Impound?
To recover your vehicle from a Manhattan impound lot, you need proper identification and proof that you own the car. The NYPD requires a valid driver’s license, proof of current vehicle registration and a current insurance card for the vehicle. You cannot retrieve a vehicle from an impound without proof of insurance.
Additionally, they will charge fees for towing and storage. For example, the towing cost is typically between $185 and $370 depending on the vehicle’s size. They also charge an overnight storage fee of $20 per night until you pick it up.
When Should You Contact a Personal Injury Attorney?
If you recovered your vehicle from a police impound lot and discovered damage that did not previously exist, you may have a compensation claim. Personal injury attorneys handle more than just cases involving bodily harm. At Cellino Law, we can help you understand your rights and how to hold a government entity accountable for negligence. In addition, we offer a risk-free consultation, so you can ask all your questions without the added stress of incurring financial consequences. Contact us at (800) 555-5555 to schedule your free case evaluation today.