When Tow Trucks Get Into Accidents

We see tow trucks as the helper vehicles on the road. They show up after a wreck and safely remove the cars involved in the accident, then transport them to places where they can be repaired. And that’s exactly what they are, most of the time. But what happens when they are involved in an accident—when a helper vehicle causes a wreck rather than cleaning up after one?

How an Experienced Tow Truck Accident Attorney Can Help

Tatiana Boohoff Lawyer
Tatiana Boohoff, Truck Accident Attorney

If you were seriously injured in a tow truck accident, you may find yourself buried under medical bills and feeling like you might crumble from the stress—to say nothing of the physical pain your injuries may have left you with. Even if you have auto or health insurance, you may reach the benefit limits of your policy or be faced with paying a large deductible or coinsurance amount. And you aren’t alone. Sadly, medical bills are the number one reason that people in the U.S. file for bankruptcy.
But you don’t have to be one of those people. Washington law allows you to seek monetary damages from the person who caused your accident in the form of a personal injury lawsuit. Under Washington law, you have three years from the date of your accident to file your lawsuit. This is known as the statute of limitations.
While three years may seem like a long time, it can pass quickly when you are focused on healing. As soon as you are able, contact an experienced tow truck accident attorney who can provide an evaluation of your case and advise you on how to properly proceed so you don’t miss the filing deadline. Filing your lawsuit after the statute of limitations has expired will likely result in your lawsuit being dismissed by a judge in its entirety, leaving you with no way to pursue compensation for the losses you’ve suffered.

Filing Your Lawsuit

After finding a good attorney, the work of preparing your lawsuit begins. The first, and one of the most important decisions you and your attorney will make in your case, is who the defendants (the people you will make your claim against) should be in your lawsuit.
Sounds simple, doesn’t it? But it’s a decision that can be quite complicated. Certainly the truck driver will be a defendant. It may also be appropriate to include the driver’s employer, the employer’s insurance company, the driver’s insurance company, or perhaps even the local government where your accident happened if the road was improperly maintained or the government failed in its responsibility to mitigate other hazards.
A party who feels it has been improperly sued can ask the court to dismiss the lawsuit against it. If the court grants that request, you will then have to go back to the drawing board, potentially causing you to run up against the statute of limitations.

Negotiation, Negotiation, Negotiation

The vast majority of personal injury lawsuits are settled out of court and never make it before a jury. A competent tow truck accident attorney will understand the importance of engaging in meaningful negotiations.
You may receive a settlement offer fairly soon after filing your suit. It’s unlikely that this offer will be the best one to come your way. As your case progresses and your attorney’s team of professionals dive into investigating your case, new information will almost certainly come to light concerning how the accident happened and who was at fault. Your attorney can use this information to go back to the defendants and seek a better offer.
Settlement talks can occur all the way up until the jury receives your case for deliberation. That’s why negotiation is such an important part of any personal injury lawsuit. It’s also why you and your attorney must always keep the door open to future negotiations.

Taking Your Case to Trial

While your case may never make it to trial, you still need an attorney with experience taking cases all the way to a jury. Litigation requires skills that not all attorneys possess. It requires practice and experience. Your attorney’s ability to select and speak to jurors, question witnesses in an effective way, and break down complicated medical issues into language that jurors can understand can seriously affect the outcome of your case.
Make sure you choose an attorney who not only has trial experience, but who has tried personal injury cases. Attorneys develop focus areas and just as you wouldn’t want a podiatrist to treat your brain injury, you wouldn’t want to retain a criminal defense attorney to represent you in your tow truck lawsuit.

What Causes Tow Truck Accidents?

Tow truck drivers are susceptible to making the same types of errors as other drivers on the road. The problem is that because of tow trucks’ size and the heavy loads they carry when transporting other vehicles, tow truck accidents can result in more serious injuries and more extensive property damage than accidents involving only passenger vehicles.
Tow truck accidents are usually caused either by driver error or by an improperly maintained tow truck. Common driver mistakes include:

  • Driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol. Driving after having consumed alcohol or drugs is always a bad idea. Intoxication slows a driver’s reaction time, limits their ability to fully appreciate their surroundings, and impairs a driver’s judgment overall. Disregarding speed limits, not allowing enough time to stop at intersections, and swerving from lane to lane are common behaviors in someone who is intoxicated.
  • Drowsy driving. Being sleep-deprived affects the body in much the same way as intoxication does—it slows reaction time and prevents a driver from appreciating the dangers around them or reacting to their surroundings safely. Beyond that, a drowsy driver may actually fall asleep at the wheel, which can have devastating consequences.
  • Distracted driving. Driving while distracted has become an ever-increasing problem. In a world in which most people have smartphones within arms-reach at nearly all times, it is tempting to reach for the phone and answer a message, respond to an email, or check notifications. Looking away from the road, even for a few seconds, limits a driver’s ability to recognize and respond to circumstances or hazards on the road.

In addition to driver error, failing to properly maintain a tow truck can lead to accidents. Faulty brakes can cause an accident by making it harder to stop the truck. Improper tire pressure can cause a tire to blow out and explode, creating obstacles for other drivers and making the truck harder to control. Testing and inspecting mechanical equipment (chains, hooks, hydraulics, etc.) on a tow truck is important so that the driver knows that their truck is in proper working order. Regular inspection is a must to ensure that the tow truck is road-ready.

What to Do After a Tow Truck Accident

Tow truck accidents can lead to horrific injuries that come with lifelong consequences and extreme financial burdens. At the scene of your accident, if you are able, you should take the steps detailed below.
You may be too seriously injured to do so anyway, but never leave the scene of a tow truck accident. Regardless of the severity of the accident, someone at the scene should call 911. Medical professionals will be dispatched and law enforcement officials will arrive and conduct a preliminary investigation. It is a good idea to take photos of the accident scene, including where the vehicles ended up, damage to all involved cars, and injuries. Remember while taking photos to stay out of oncoming traffic and remain in a safe area.
Law enforcement officers will also document the scene through photographs and possibly video. In addition, they will talk to any available witnesses and interview those involved in the accident if those people can communicate well enough to provide information. You should do the same. Take contact information, including the names and phone numbers of anyone who observed the accident. They could be witnesses in a future lawsuit or help you in pursuing other remedies available to you. And always exchange contact and insurance information with the other drivers involved in the accident.
After they leave the scene of your accident, the responding officers will prepare an accident report detailing their observations. Be sure you request and receive a copy of it. The information it contains may prove valuable to you if you file a lawsuit down the road.
Even if you do not require transportation by emergency services to a medical treatment facility, it’s a good idea to have an EMT on the scene check you over for injuries or visit an urgent care facility or your doctor as soon as possible. You may be in shock and not realize how seriously you were injured, but a medical professional may recognize something you don’t feel because your body is flooded with adrenaline.

Kinds of Tow Trucks

Different cars require different types of trucks. All of them are large and all can cause significant property damage when involved in collisions with other vehicles. Their size also means that passenger vehicle occupants involved in crashes with tow trucks are more likely to sustain injuries and that those injuries are more likely to be serious. When a tow truck is loaded with another vehicle, the increased weight can make the accident even more catastrophic. There are four common types of tow trucks you will see on the road.

Flatbed Tow Trucks

When you think of a tow truck, the image of a flatbed truck probably pops into your head. They are the most common kinds of tow trucks on the road. Also known as side or rollback trucks, flatbeds are composed of a truck cab attached to a long flat truck bed. The flatbed moves vertically to allow vehicles to be safely loaded onto it. Lowering the bed allows the car to be driven or pulled up onto it. Widely seen as the best method for towing cars, they are most often used to recover vehicles that are broken down or that have been in accidents.

Integrated Tow Trucks

When busses or other large vehicles break down, integrated tow trucks come to the rescue. Because their loads are so much larger than those carried by other types of tow trucks, they have a greater number of axles. In addition, an integrated tow truck’s arm, used lift vehicles onto the truck, is mounted at its center rather than being mounted at the back, as on other types of tow trucks.

Hook and Chain Tow Trucks

These days, hook and chain tow trucks are seen less frequently than in the past. As their name indicates, this kind of tow truck utilizes chains and hooks to lift the front end of the towed vehicle while leaving its rear wheels on the ground. The vehicle is then essentially dragged to its destination. Although effective in getting cars from one place to another, hook and chain trucks often damage the cars they tow by loosening their bumpers and causing scratches. They also put extreme strain on the car’s frame. Cars equipped with four-wheel drive can sustain damage to their drivetrains. Because of these drawbacks, hook and chain tow trucks are now primarily used to transport cars to junkyards, rather than to repair shops.

Wheel-Lift Tow Trucks

Wheel-lift tow trucks operate similarly to their hook and chain counterparts by lifting one end of the car and dragging it with its rear wheels on the ground. The benefit to a wheel-lift system is that it uses a metal yoke to attach hooks under the front wheel. This causes less strain and damage to the car than a hook and chain system. Wheel-lift trucks are used in much the same way as flatbed tow trucks—for roadside breakdowns and to transport vehicles to repair shops.

A Truck Accident Attorney Can Answer Your Questions

Don’t face lifelong physical effects and mounting medical bills alone after an accident. A truck accident lawyer with a proven track record of recovery for clients can bring experience, a competent support team, in-depth knowledge of the law, and compassion to your case, and help you decide what to do next.

Boohoff Law
2200 6th Avenue, Suite 768
Seattle, WA 98121
(877) 999-9999

January 13, 2020
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