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Civil law grants you the right to pursue compensation for any harm, losses, or destruction caused by another person.
For example, if your car was towed without authorization from a towing company, you can take legal action against them in court.
Drawing from my decade of experience as a personal injury attorney, I've recognized that cases concerning tow truck companies rely heavily on the state's laws.
Unfortunately, these regulations can vary drastically from one place to another. In this article, I will guide you through an overall approach to handling such matters.
- It is possible to seek legal action against a towing company for illegally towing your vehicle.
- You could sue if you had your car towed or kept in a tow yard without your permission.
- On the other hand, if you prove that the towing company inflicted harm on your vehicle while improperly towing it, this may constitute a breach of their duty of care.
Are Towing Companies Liable For Damage?
Yes, towing companies are liable for damage if they cause any harm, losses, or destruction while towing your vehicle.
If you can prove that the company's actions were negligent and led to damages, they will be held responsible in a court of law.
In other words, if the tow firm fails to deliver due attention and an automobile becomes damaged during transportation, they might be held responsible for damages caused by their negligence .
When Can You Sue A Towing Company?
You can sue a towing company when they breach their contract or act negligently. This includes overcharging, failing to provide adequate services, causing damage to your vehicle, or violating regulations.
Suppose the tow truck operator fails to take due caution or the towing company illegally towed your car, resulting in damage or loss of property from your vehicle.
In that case, you can potentially pursue legal action by filing a negligent towing lawsuit against them.
Although the ability to fight for towing company damages is available in all states, you should properly understand how these laws apply within your jurisdiction.
Types Of Lawsuits Made Against A Tow Truck Company
Every state, city, and county has its own set of laws governing the rights consumers have about any damages caused by towing companies.
While these regulations differ greatly, some of the most common types of lawsuits that can be brought forth include the following:
1. Illegal Tow
Generally, towing companies must be granted permission from local law enforcement or property owners before towing a vehicle.
Exceptions may exist where vehicles illegally block fire hydrants and lanes – these cases often have the authorization of law.
Even when towing companies have the authorization of a private property owner to remove unapproved vehicles, they must never turn to deception.
According to Missouri law, if unauthorized cars on private property will be towed away, signage needs to be shown "in plain view at all entrances," displaying details about this process.
2. Unlawful Business Practices
It is unlawful for tow lots to levy storage fees on the days they are shuttered. Additionally, most states require that towing services stay operational and staffed during regular business hours throughout the week while displaying their prices and charges visibly.
To put it differently, tow truck companies cannot leave their impound lots open for a brief period each day to collect storage fees.
They must also be honest about the amount they charge for services rendered.
If a towing company recklessly mishandles your car and causes damage, you may have grounds for a negligence claim. This could include failing to take basic precautions while on the tow bed or any other negligent actions that lead to property damage.
Also Read: Negligence vs Intentional Tort
4. Breach of Bailment
A bailment is formed when a person entrusts the custody of their personal property to another without transferring ownership.
As such, it's the responsibility and duty of any towing companies taking on this arrangement to ensure the safety of your vehicle and any possessions within.
Depending on where you live, a tow lot may hold onto your belongings until you pay for any storage costs incurred; other jurisdictions dictate that tow lots return the items to their rightful owners immediately.
Illinois tow lots must return:
- Car seats
- Operator's licenses
- Cash, credit cards, checks, or checkbooks
- A wallet, purse, or anything else containing any operator's license or other identifying documents or materials, as well as cash, credit cards, checks, or checkbooks
- Any personal possessions belonging to a person other than the vehicle owner if that property owner can provide adequate proof of ownership
At times, tow truck businesses may refuse to relinquish a vehicle to its responsible owner despite them having made payment.
This action – taking someone else's possessions to deprive them of them – is referred to as conversion and can be legally filed in court as an intentional TORT.
Factors to Consider Before Taking Legal Action Against a Towing Company
Before taking legal action against a towing company, consider undertaking specific steps.
1. Notify Your Insurance Company
Before taking any other steps, be sure to contact your insurance company. Often you can receive reimbursement for the damage done, leaving only a small amount of expenses, such as towing and storage costs, on your plate. Taking care of this situation could save you money in the long run .
2. Talk to the Towing Company
The next step is to contact the corresponding tow company. They may be willing to negotiate a settlement agreement with you if you can provide evidence that they were responsible for the wrongful towing, any damage incurred, or missing possessions.
3. Consider Filing a Claim in Local Small Claims Court
A third option is to take your case to small claims court. Depending on the state, you may not have legal representation, and there are typically limits as to how much money can be recovered in a settlement.
Other reasons you need to consider are:
- The reason for the tow
- The cost of the tow
- The condition of your car
- The time it took to retrieve your car
What Compensation Can You Seek From a Towing Company?
The compensation you can seek from a towing company depends on the legal action taken. If you file a complaint in small claims court, you can only seek damages up to the limit of that court.
Suppose your case is successful in a lawsuit. In that case, you can potentially sue for the full damages a towing company caused, as well as punitive damages and attorney fees.
If it is found that the tow company was acting recklessly or intentionally maliciously wronged you, then punitive damages may be awarded.
What Damages Can You Receive?
The damages that you can receive depend on the facts of your claim. You could be eligible to receive various kinds of damages, such as compensatory and punitive ones .
If you believe your vehicle has been improperly or illegally towed, you may be eligible to recoup the associated charges.
States often have a minimum amount of money that can potentially be sought after in such cases; therefore, seeking legal counsel is strongly suggested and could reveal additional funds for which you are eligible.
You may be eligible for compensation if your property receives any damage or loss in a car.
To maximize the chances of recovering the cost of repairing, or replacing them depending on circumstances, take pictures of items before and after they were placed into the vehicle. Additionally, keep all receipts as proof.
If you find yourself in a unique situation, you may be eligible to receive punitive damages. These are not for compensation but rather for the punishment of an offender who acted particularly maliciously.
Depending on your particular case against the towing company, these could apply - consult with a lawyer and explore if this is feasible.
See all related personal injury and accident lawsuits we've covered.
Can I Sue a Towing Company for Small Claims?
Yes, you can sue a towing company for small claims. Resolving your dispute with the towing company may be more cost-effective if you take it to small claims court.
What to Do if a Towing Company or Tow Truck Damaged My Car?
If a towing company or tow truck has damaged your car, you can take legal action against them in court or file an insurance claim for compensation.
How to Sue a Towing Company in Small Claims Courts?
To sue a towing company in small claims courts, you must first determine if you have a valid legal claim against the tow company. This typically involves filing an official complaint with the court, gathering evidence to support your case, and presenting your case in front of the judge.
Get Legal Assistance and Consult an Attorney
If you've suffered an injury, enlisting the help of a personal injury attorney may be your best bet.
Contact Schmidt & Clark and speak to our attorney in a free consultation session. We'll help you understand the nuances of your situation and determine if you have a legal case.
Having a lawyer on your side can make negotiating with insurance companies or towing businesses much easier, even if legal action isn't taken.