When you call a tow truck, whether for an accident or because your vehicle broke down, you expect a professional who will get your vehicle to safety. However, even professionals can wreck. And many times, others crash into the tow truck, which could cause you to suffer injuries.
Sometimes, you cannot tell if you can hold the tow truck driver or another driver at fault. Instead of trying to figure it out, concentrate on recovering and let a truck accident lawyer figure out who you can hold responsible for your injuries and losses.
Tow Truck Hazards
Tow trucks are heavy and, for our purposes, are considered to be large trucks. While they are not as large as a big rig, they are large enough to do extensive damage if they wreck into you.
They have the same dangers as other large trucks, including:
- Blind spots. A truck’s blind spots are in the front and rear and along the sides. If a rollback has a vehicle on it, the blind spots could be larger. If you must drive through the blind spot to pass the tow truck, you should get out of the blind spot as quickly as possible.
- They need additional stopping distance. Unloaded tow trucks are heavier and need extra stopping room. If they have a vehicle hooked up, whether the tow truck is a sling or rollback, it needs even more stopping distance.
- Wide turns. Because of the length of a tow truck, it makes wide turns. If a tow truck is making a right turn, it may or may not be in a second lane. Avoid pulling up alongside the right side of a tow truck—you’ll be right in the driver’s blind spot, and they won’t see you when they start making the right turn.
- A vehicle could easily roll off the back of a tow truck. Whether the driver is loading the vehicle or the vehicle is loaded, you should never follow a tow truck so closely that you don’t have time to take action if the vehicle rolls off the back. If a cable or chain breaks and the driver doesn’t chock the wheels, the towed vehicle could smash into the front of your vehicle if it rolls off. Other errors might include not tightening up excess winch cable and not locking the winch.
Staying Safe Around Tow Trucks
You can minimize the risk of an accident with a tow truck if you:
- Obey all traffic laws.
- Don’t hang in a tow truck’s blind spots.
- If you see a tow truck working an accident or picking up a broken-down vehicle on a highway, move over into the next lane, just as you would if first responders were there—even if your state doesn’t have move-over laws.
- If the tow truck is picking your vehicle up, don’t distract the driver while they are loading your vehicle.
- Do not stand or walk behind the tow truck—the vehicle the tow truck is towing could roll off the back of the truck.
- Give a tow truck plenty of space if you are following it. The towed vehicle could easily roll off the back. Giving the tow truck plenty of space allows you the time to take evasive action.
Preventing Tow Truck Accidents for Tow Truck Drivers
OSHA has several regulations to keep tow truck drivers and others safe. However, best practices also keep drivers and others safe.
Some safety tips include:
- Personal protective equipment: Tow truck drivers should always prioritize hazards and safety by wearing high-visibility vests. The best safety vest is a Type P Class 3 vest, which provides the most visibility during the day and at night. The driver should also wear heavy-duty gloves to protect themselves from metal, broken glass, and other hazards at the accident scene.
- Employee training: Before a driver goes out on the road, even if he has experience from another company, tow truck companies should train the new driver. That way, an employer ensures that the driver has the proper training. The tow truck employer should also have refresher safety courses using accredited programs.
- Scene Safety: Tow truck drivers should know how to drive defensively and should know what precautions to use at the pick-up to minimize accidents. For example, a driver should use the grab bars and running boards when leaving and entering the truck and use the appropriate lighting and flares to warn other drivers of a work area.
- Equipment: Tow truck companies should always perform preventative maintenance on their tow trucks. Not only does it save on the cost of repairs, but it could also minimize the risk of deadly accidents since the truck is less likely to break down while towing another vehicle. Drivers should know the tow weight rating and never exceed it.
- Fuel: Keep extra gas and diesel on the truck.
- Emergency equipment: Always carry emergency equipment, such as a fire extinguisher, extra chocks, flares, and other warning devices.
- Check and inspect: Before taking off for a call, check and inspect all equipment, including cables, locking pins, winches, slings, tires, lights, and safety equipment.
- Transmission: Know the towing rules for the various types of vehicles: Front-wheel drive, rear-wheel drive, all-wheel drive, and four-wheel drive.
- Light it up: When you get to the accident scene or pick-up scene, be sure the area is well-lit and that no bright lights are shining into oncoming traffic.
Tow Truck Accident Injuries
Tow truck accident injuries are often more severe than other car accident injuries because of the comb weight of the truck and the vehicle it is towing. While the weight is nowhere near that of a fully loaded tractor-trailer, the cargo can move around or roll off a rollback.
With a sling truck, the towed vehicle could sway side to side or fall off the hook. In either case, you have the weight of the tow truck plus the weight of the vehicle it is towing slamming into your vehicle.
Accident injuries might include:
- Cuts, scratches, scrapes, bruises, and bumps.
- Strains and sprains.
- Pulled and torn muscles and other soft tissue injuries.
- Face and eye injuries.
- Ear injuries, including deafness, if the wreck causes an explosion.
- Traumatic brain injuries.
- Head, neck, and shoulder injuries.
- Internal injuries.
- Chemical and thermal burns.
- Road rash.
- Back and spinal cord injuries.
- Simple and compound fractures.
You could also sustain secondary injuries, such as infections. Whether the infection is from a cut you sustained in the accident or a surgical wound from repairing accident injuries, the at-fault driver is responsible for that or other secondary injuries.
Additionally, accident injuries could exacerbate existing injuries or illnesses. If you suffer additional pain and suffering with your initial illness or injury because of injuries you sustained in the accident, the at-fault driver is responsible for the additional pain and expenses for existing injuries.
Causes of Tow Truck Accidents
Before your legal team can assess fault for a tow truck accident, the legal team must investigate the accident to determine the cause. In some cases, the tow truck driver might have full responsibility; in other cases, they might share responsibility with others.
Common causes of tow truck accidents include:
- Distracted driving.
- Driving under the influence of drugs, alcohol, prescription drugs, or illicit prescription drugs.
- Driving while tired.
- Poor tow truck maintenance.
- Malfunctioning truck or equipment.
- Driving too fast for the conditions.
- Poorly maintained roads.
- Weather, including the sun.
- Driving aggressively or recklessly.
- Medical emergency.
Recovering Damages After a Tow Truck Accident
If you suffered injuries or lost a loved one in a tow truck accident, you could recover compensatory damages in the form of economic damages and non-economic damages.
Economic damages have a monetary value and include:
- Medical expenses, including doctors’ appointments, surgeries, follow-up appointments, prescriptions, prescribed over-the-counter medications, hand controls for your vehicle, and updates to your home, including but not limited to wheelchair ramps, grab bars, handrails, and widened doorways.
- Therapy expenses, including physical, cognitive, occupational, and psychological therapy.
- Loss of future earning capacity.
- Death-related expenses, including funeral and burial expenses, cremation expenses, certain probate court expenses, and probate attorneys’ fees and courts.
Non-economic damages do not have a monetary value and include:
- Pain and suffering, including emotional distress.
- Loss of quality of life if you have to make life-altering changes, such as taking prescription drugs or using ambulatory aids for the rest of your life.
- Loss of companionship if you can no longer enjoy or participate in family activities and events.
- Loss of consortium if you can no longer enjoy a physical relationship with your spouse.
- Loss of use of a body part such as a finger or a foot.
- Loss of use of a bodily function such as your eyesight or bladder.
- Inconvenience if you have to hire someone else to do the chores you usually do, such as grocery shopping, house cleaning, lawn maintenance, and home repair and maintenance.
- Amputation of a digit or limb.
- Excessive scarring and/or disfigurement.
How Long Does It Takes to Receive a Settlement Check?
Once you settle your case, it takes some time to receive your check.
Your legal team must take several steps:
- One of the attorneys, usually the defendant’s attorney, drafts the settlement agreement.
- Your attorney reviews the settlement agreement; then, if they have no changes, they will review it with you. If you or your attorney has changes, your attorney will notify the defendant’s attorney. If they agree, they will make the changes. If not, you may have to re-negotiate that part of the agreement unless the attorneys have a transcript of the settlement negotiations. Once you verbally agree, you usually cannot make changes. You can only request them if you believe something in the agreement is incorrect.
- Once both sides accept the agreement, you will sign and notarize it.
- Your attorney then forwards it back to the defendant’s attorney, where the defendant also signs the document.
- Once the defendant executes the document, the defendant forwards a check to your attorney.
- Your attorney deposits the check into an escrow account. They must wait until the check clears the bank before he takes the next step. Depending on the amount, the check could take up to 14 days to clear the account.
- Your attorney pays any outstanding medical expenses you have. Be sure to submit all medical invoices. Finally, your personal injury attorney deducts their percentage and writes you a check for the balance. You can then deposit the check and use it as you please.
If you suffered injuries or lost a loved one in a tow truck accident, contact a truck accident lawyer as soon as possible for a free case evaluation.