When most people think of tow trucks at the scene of an accident, they picture the tow truck cleaning up the crash, not being one of the vehicles in it.
The fact is, however, tow trucks sometimes get into accidents, and when they do, they can cause significant property damage and injuries to victims.
Let’s take a look at the phenomenon of tow truck accidents: how they happen, who has fault for them, and how victims can recover compensation for the injuries and losses they suffer in them.
Tow Truck Accident Risks
Tow trucks can get into accidents in the same ways as other vehicles. Their drivers can make mistakes behind the wheel, like speeding, getting distracted, or driving while under the influence of drugs or alcohol. Like other vehicles, tow trucks can also experience mechanical or electrical failures that cause a loss of control and a crash.
However, tow trucks also face accident risks unique to their particular characteristics and function.
Towing or Carrying a Disabled Vehicle
For one thing, the principal function of tow trucks is to pull or transport disabled vehicles.
That’s an activity that comes with inherent risks.
- It can make the tow truck more unstable and prone to lose control, particularly in poor road or weather conditions.
- It can also heighten the consequences of mechanical or electrical failures, since it creates the possibility of the disabled vehicle coming loose or falling from the tow truck.
- Finally, towing or carrying a disabled vehicle changes the size and shape of a tow truck’s blind spots, requiring the truck driver to adapt to new sightlines to avoid causing an accident.
Stopping at the Side of a Road
Tow trucks also face, and potentially create, accident risks whenever they stop to assist a stranded motorist or to move a disabled vehicle.
The side of a road is an unavoidably dangerous workplace. Tow truck drivers must exercise extra caution in how they position their trucks to avoid causing a hazard to the flow of traffic. They must also take care with where and how they walk around their truck and the disabled vehicle.
Small errors by a tow truck driver on the side of a busy road can lead to large accidents. Passing vehicles may collide with a poorly-positioned tow truck. Or, they may swerve to avoid a collision with a tow truck or its driver, only to get into an accident with another vehicle.
Determining Fault in a Tow Truck Accident
Anyone harmed by a tow truck accident may have the right to receive compensation for their injuries and losses if the crash occurred because of someone else’s dangerous decisions or conduct.
Experienced lawyers for tow truck accident victims will examine the facts of a crash to identify the parties whose failures to act with a reasonable degree of care led to the accident. Those parties, at least in theory, may owe compensation to the victims. In the language of the law, we refer to those at-fault parties having liability for damages.
Who might owe damages for a tow truck accident? It varies from case-to-case, but could include:
- Tow truck drivers, if they make mistakes behind the wheel due to lack of sleep, inexperience, or inebriation or in the course of rendering aid to a disabled vehicle, that contributes to the cause of a crash;
- The owner of the tow truck and/or employer of the tow truck driver, who may have an obligation to answer for the driver’s irresponsible conduct, or may have made their own poor decisions in connection with the truck’s operation, such as by failing to ensure that their drivers have appropriate licenses or that their vehicles remain in roadworthy condition;
- The owner of a disabled vehicle, if, for example, the disabled vehicle’s condition posed unreasonable dangers to the tow driver or the public;
- A tow truck’s manufacturer, in the event a defect in a truck’s parts leads to a mechanical or electrical failure and a crash;
- A government entity that unreasonably caused, failed to fix, or failed to warn the public about a hazardous road condition that contributed to a tow truck crash; or
- A third-party motorist whose own poor decisions or dangerous actions led to a crash with a tow truck.
Every tow truck crash presents a unique set of facts and circumstances for victims’ lawyers to digest in their search for who may owe damages to their clients.
Seeking Compensation for Tow Truck Accidents
Once lawyers for tow truck accident victims identify the party (or parties) at-fault for the crash, they must determine the appropriate course of action for obtaining compensation from that party on their clients’ behalf.
Virginia is an at-fault state for vehicle accidents, which means that drivers who cause accidents generally have a legal liability to pay for the harm the accident causes to others. Virginia law requires drivers (including tow truck operators) to carry accident liability insurance for that purpose.
As such, injured victims of tow truck accidents may demand payment from drivers and others under those policies, which may involve filing a claim directly with an at-fault party’s insurance company, filing a lawsuit in court, or both.
Of course, not all tow truck accidents result from the negligent accidents of drivers or parties responsible for their conduct. Seeking compensation from a party such as a vehicle manufacturer or a government entity may also require taking action in court, against an insurance company, or (in the case of a claim against a government body) engaging in an administrative claims process.
Because of the complexity of any truck accident and the sometimes difficult processes and negotiations involved in insurance claims and lawsuits, victims can maximize their chances of obtaining full compensation by seeking the help of an experienced tow truck accident injury attorney.
Potential Tow Truck Crash Compensation
Victims of tow truck accidents can generally seek two forms of damage compensation from parties at-fault: economic and non-economic.
Economic damages consist of monetary costs of an accident and the injuries it causes, such as:
- Medical bills you paid (or are expected to pay in the future), including doctor’s visits, emergency room treatment, diagnostic tests and services, prescription medication, surgery, and hospital stays;
- Wages lost or expected to lose because of accident-related injuries and disabilities; and
- The costs of repairing or replacing property damaged in an accident.
Non-economic damages consist of all other harm caused by an accident, and typically include the victim’s physical pain, emotional suffering, and diminished quality of life and relationships.
What if a Tow Truck Accident Injures You or a Loved One?
No one expects to suffer harm in a tow truck accident, but it can happen. Victims who suffer injuries in losses in one may have valuable rights to compensation. Learn about your options by contacting an experienced truck accident injury attorney.