When people hear about a truck accident, they probably imagine a crash with a tractor-trailer large enough to crush a smaller vehicle. But it’s also possible to be injured in an accident with a tow truck. California law requires all drivers to slow down and “move over” if a stationary tow truck at the side of the road displays flashing amber warning lights while helping transport a vehicle to another location. This “move over” law helps protect the tow truck driver, the truck itself, and whatever vehicle is being relocated.
Although tow truck drivers help move vehicles after an accident, it’s also possible for these drivers to cause crashes that result in severe or fatal injuries. Tow trucks can present increased safety risks, and crashes with passenger cars can have life-altering consequences. If you’ve been injured in an accident with a tow truck, you need to call the tow truck accident lawyer team at Case Barnett Law to help ensure you obtain fair compensation.
How Tow Truck Accidents Happen
There are four main types of tow trucks: hook and chain, integrated, wheel lift, and flatbeds. Tow trucks are huge, heavy vehicles with limited visibility. If they’re not adequately maintained and operated, their sheer size can cause serious crashes and catastrophic injuries. There are various ways a tow truck driver can cause an accident. As is the case with many vehicle crashes, driving distracted and failing to follow traffic laws are common reasons tow truck drivers injure other drivers. However, there are other causes of tow truck accidents, including:
A common cause of tow truck accidents is improper loading. The cargo on a tow truck must be properly secured. This cargo can shift side to side, forward, and back, increasing the risk that the cargo will become loose, or the straps will break, and the cargo will fall off the truck into the road. If the cargo is a seriously damaged vehicle, any hanging part or pieces of debris can also fall into the roadway and cause an accident. Drivers behind the truck have only a few seconds to react if the cargo on the tow truck detaches. Additionally, cargo on a tow truck often creates a higher center of gravity, and if the driver must swerve or take a sharp curve, there’s a greater risk that the truck can roll over.
Mechanical and Equipment Failure
Like any trucking company, towing companies must maintain their trucks to ensure they’re in good working order. They must inspect their equipment regularly for defects and mechanical issues. Equipment problems can lead to collisions that cause severe injuries. And because a lot can go wrong with a tow truck, the towing company’s trucks must be inspected to ensure there is no transmission or brake failure, the tires are inflated properly, and the belts, chains, straps, and winches used to secure the cargo are in good shape.
Speeding to be First on the Scene
Typically, the first tow truck driver to the scene of an accident is the one who gets the job. Thus, many tow truck drivers are under pressure to arrive first, and they may break the law by speeding. This excessive speed can contribute to a crash in the following ways:
- The tow truck driver can lose control of the truck more easily.
- The tow truck driver has less time to brake or react to a road hazard.
- The force of the crash can cause significant damage to the injured party.
Driver fatigue or drowsy driving can cause an accident and happen to any driver. But when a tow truck driver gets behind the wheel when they’re tired, they are at a higher risk of causing a catastrophic accident that results in severe injuries. The size and weight of the tow truck alone are dangerous, but the added weight of another car or motorcycle as cargo increases the risk of fatal injuries in a crash. When tow truck drivers are fatigued, they will be less responsive to traffic changes and the need for a quick reaction should there be a road hazard.
Steps to Take After a California Tow Truck Accident
Any vehicle accident is unsettling, and it’s hard to know what to do in the aftermath. If you were injured in a crash with a tow truck, there are important steps to take to ensure you obtain a fair settlement, including:
Seek Medical Attention
It’s important to get medical attention immediately following the accident. In the aftermath, your body may have a fight or flight response—when your body has a surge of adrenaline. This adrenaline can mask the pain; you may not feel pain or have symptoms until hours or days later. Not only is getting seen by a physician critical for your well-being, but it also provides a record to show the crash injured you should you file a personal injury claim.
Collect Information and Evidence
You may be unable to collect information if you’re injured after the crash, but if you can, try to collect as much data as you can, including:
- The truck operator’s driver’s license number, vehicle ID, and insurance information
- The name, phone, address, and insurance information for the owner of the tow truck
- The names and contact information of any witnesses, including any passenger in the tow truck
- The name and badge number of the police officer who writes the accident report
- Photographs of the accident scene, the placement of your vehicle and the tow truck, road signs, street lights, skid marks, and your injuries
How Our California Tow Truck Accident Attorney Can Help
Hiring a skilled, experienced tow truck accident attorney increases your chances of obtaining a fair settlement for your damages. The attorneys at Case Barnett Law will investigate the crash by:
- Determining if the tow truck operator was negligent in the accident
- Determining if the towing company performed regular maintenance checks on its vehicles
- Investigating the truck manufacturer to determine if failed equipment played a part in the crash
- Collecting evidence from the towing company, including dashcam and on-board camera footage
- Determining if the operator was trained properly
- Talking to witnesses
Once we’ve investigated the accident, we’ll evaluate your injuries, hospital costs, and need for a specialist's care, assess the cost of any needed future medical care; determine the amount of your lost wages; consider the level of your pain and suffering; and value your claim.