What Do I Do If A Tow Truck Damaged By Property?

Tow truck drivers work nonstop in Manhattan, moving vehicles after collisions and removing people from illegal parking spaces. So it should be no surprise that they occasionally make mistakes that damage someone’s vehicle. However, that is not just part of the trade. If a tow company damaged your car during a tow, you could seek compensation for that loss in claims court, and you may benefit from speaking to a Manhattan attorney about the steps you should take to hold them accountable.

What Should You Do When You Discover Property Damage After a Tow?

You can take legal action after a towing company damages your vehicle. However, as the plaintiff, you are responsible for proving the tow company’s liability and providing sufficient evidence to support your claim for damages incurred. To strengthen your case, you should officially document all damages and know your rights under Manhattan municipal laws.

Document All Damages

Ideally, you could prove that the damages resulted from the towing company’s negligence. Then you could combat any accusations that your vehicle sustained those damages before being in the towing company’s possession. A common reason people need a vehicle tow is in the aftermath of an auto accident. If that is the case, you can take the following steps to prove your claim:

  • Document the accident. Take photographs of your vehicle at the scene. Include close-up photos of any visible damages, and document everything with a video if you can.
  • File a police report. When the police arrive to investigate the accident, they will document their findings in a report you can later access. That could help your claim for injuries or other property damage if you also have an auto accident claim.
  • Record the tow. If you are present during the towing process, use your phone to record it. If the damage occurs at that moment, you will have visual documentation. If it happens later, you will have proof of your car’s state at the time.

Common signs of damage caused by a negligent towing job include dents or scratches on the car’s exterior, deflated or damaged tires and car alignment issues. Damage to the alignment or steering system is likely not visible in photos. It could also be challenging to prove that an alignment issue occurred during the tow, not an auto accident. However, if you are unsure what steps to take once you discover damage, you can contact a car accident lawyer for guidance.

Know Your Rights

When a towing company picks up your vehicle, they take on a duty of care for you, meaning they are responsible for keeping your car safe from damage and protecting your property from being stolen. They are liable for the consequences if they fail to uphold that duty. Therefore, the first step you take is to report the damage to the towing company either by sending them written documentation of what happened or by filing a complaint through the company’s website.

If you have missing belongings, you will need a valuation or proof of the cost of all missing items. Then, you can address the towing company directly, asking for compensation for your damages and lost items. If they refuse to cooperate, you can contact an attorney and file a claim.

Do you Have Collision Insurance Coverage?

New York does not mandate the purchase of collision insurance for drivers. However, if you have collision coverage, you can file a claim. The standard collision policy covers damage caused by any vehicle or object that collides with your car. Since the damage to your vehicle would likely result from something on the tow truck, that would classify as an object or vehicle. However, if you need to cover a deductible first, that would require money from your pocket.

Who Is Liable for Your Damages?

When you file a fault-based claim against a person or entity, you must provide sufficient evidence to prove negligence. For example, you already know that a towing company is responsible for protecting your property once they are in possession of it. This covers the first element of negligence, known as the duty of care. In some cases, a third party could be liable for your damages.

For example, if another vehicle causes an accident with the tow truck while en route, the driver of that vehicle would be responsible for damages to both the tow truck and your vehicle. However, more often than not, the tow truck driver is at fault. Other common scenarios where the tow truck driver would be liable include:

  • Improperly securing the vehicle to the truck bed causes it to unhook and roll into oncoming traffic
  • Striking another car with the truck while changing lanes or merging
  • Drifting into another lane while driving the tow truck

A common misconception is that you would sue the tow truck driver if they damaged your vehicle in tow. However, that is typically only true if the truck driver is an independent contractor or the towing company owner. Most tow truck drivers work for a towing company, and companies are generally liable for their employee’s actions when the accident occurs during the scope of their job duties.

Is the Tow Truck Driver an Employee of the City?

If the tow truck driver is an employee of the city of Manhattan, the claims process is different. For example, if a city tow truck removed your vehicle from an illegal parking space and damaged it during the tow, you have 90 days to file a claim for injury to property with the New York Court of Claims. Additionally, you must prove that the city owed you a duty of care in one of the following ways:

  • The employee volunteered for the duty and communicated their intentions to uphold it, and you relied on them to carry out their responsibility safely.
  • The employee violated a statute enacted to protect you from injury or property damage.
  • The employee took command in a situation involving a present or understood danger.

Ultimately, when the city tow truck driver hooked your vehicle to the tow truck, they assumed responsibility for any damages incurred. When you file a claim, you can request compensation for all damages you can prove and any other out-of-pocket expenses related directly to the incident.

For example, damage to a mechanical function could make it impossible for you to drive the vehicle. Therefore, you could request compensation for transportation expenses. In addition, if you relied on your car to do your job duties and had to miss work while it was under repair, you could request compensation for your loss of income as well.

Can You Contact a Lawyer To Help With Your Claim?

Several factors can affect your claim if a tow company damages your vehicle during a tow. To understand your role in seeking compensation and what legal options are available to you, you may benefit from speaking with a lawyer. At Cellino Law, we handle cases involving property damage in Manhattan daily and can guide you to the right avenue for compensation after hearing the details of your case. Contact us at (888) 888-8888 to schedule your free consultation. At the very least, you will walk away with peace of mind and a better understanding of the next step you should take.

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