Every time you hit the road, you are bound to see a vehicle towing another vehicle. Tow trucks come in different shapes and sizes, ranging from a smaller “pickup” style truck to a car carrier designed to haul many cars at the same time. Their size and role often make them more of a danger than other vehicles on the road.
Another problem is the casual towing vehicles. Every year thousands of RV drivers and vacationers take to the road with their family car, boat, or recreational vehicle in tow. These drivers are less experienced than commercial tow truck drivers, making sharing the road all the more perilous.
Accidents involving specialized vehicles, such as tow trucks, can be significantly more catastrophic and complex in nature. Given their size and the unique risks they pose, tow truck accidents can lead to severe injuries and complicated legal battles. Because too many car accident lawyers think they are truck accident lawyers. The details in these cases are important, and you need an experienced truck accident lawyer to manage them.
Why Are Tow Trucks So Dangerous?
Tow trucks are large and cumbersome vehicles. As such, they have limited maneuverability compared to a normal car. Given this size disparity, any accident with a normal passenger vehicle is likely to cause more severe damage and injury to the smaller vehicle.
Plus, tow truck drivers may not be as experienced as they should be when operating such a large vehicle. While commercial and governmental tow truck drivers are specially licensed to drive larger vehicles, individuals who drive RVs or those who tow a trailer may not be as competent or experienced.
Regardless of the size of the vehicle, the same group of contributing factors leads to the majority of accidents. This includes distracted driving, driver fatigue, poor weather conditions, and speeding (among others). While these same issues plague tow truck drivers, the results of a crash are more severe when they are driving a large vehicle or towing another vehicle.
Common Tow Truck Accidents
Given the fact that tow trucks are so heavy, it is more difficult for them to slow down and stop. This increases the risk of rear-end collisions for other drivers. Also, the size and height of tow trucks give them a higher center of gravity, which makes them more vulnerable to rollovers. Similar to a semi-truck, tow trucks also have a larger blind spot, compromising the safety of those driving next to them. Less commonly, some tow truck drivers may negligently tow cars, causing their loads to shift or come loose. It goes without saying that this presents an enormous hazard to other drivers. In the non-commercial context, though, inexperienced drivers may improperly hitch their load to the truck, blocking following drivers’ view of their brake lights and turn signals. The bottom line is: a lot more can go wrong when it comes to tow trucks compared to normal passenger vehicles.
Causes of Tow Truck Accidents
The act of towing is far more intricate than it appear and lawyers need to understand these intricacies if they want to purse a tow truck accident lawsuit. It’s not just about hitching one vehicle to another and driving away. The details here really matter.
- Weight Distribution: Towing demands an in-depth comprehension of how weight should be distributed across the tow truck, especially when hauling another vehicle. Misjudgments can lead to uneven weight distribution, which can cause the tow truck to become unstable, especially when making turns or sudden stops.
- Securement Techniques: The art of securing a vehicle goes beyond merely attaching it. There are multiple points of securement, each needing the right tension and angle. If done wrongly, the towed vehicle can become unanchored during transit, endangering other road users.
- Vehicle Handling: Tow truck drivers need to be skilled in handling their vehicles under various conditions. With another vehicle in tow, braking distances increase, maneuvering becomes trickier, and even simple tasks like reversing take on a whole new dimension. Inadequate training can lead to errors in judgment or vehicle mishandling, culminating in severe accidents.
It’s not just about getting the vehicle onto the tow truck; it’s about doing it right. But the problem is tow truck drivers get paid to get it done quickly. Here is where mistakes get made:
- Vehicle Positioning: The positioning of the towed vehicle plays a crucial role in stability. If it’s too far to the back or front, it can throw off the tow truck’s balance, especially at higher speeds.
- Securement Devices: Chains, winches, and flatbed clamps must be in perfect working order and used appropriately. Overlooking even one can be catastrophic.
A tow truck is an ensemble of numerous mechanical and electronic parts, all working in harmony. A failure in even a single component can be the precursor to disaster. This type of truck accident lawsuit can be more complicated and there are so many different things that our lawyers see that go wrong in these types of cases. These are the big three problems we see.
Other factors that can potentially be involved in tow truck accidents include:
- Brakes: Given the extra weight they carry, tow trucks rely heavily on their braking systems. Worn-out brake pads or malfunctioning brake lines can dramatically increase stopping distances.
- Hitches & Hydraulics: These are the primary mechanisms used to secure and lift vehicles. Should they fail, the towed vehicle could be dropped suddenly, causing accidents or significant damage.
- Lighting Systems: Especially important during night or low-visibility conditions, functioning lights ensure that other road users are aware of the tow truck’s presence and actions.
- Environmental Factors: Nature often adds another layer of challenge to towing and towing is often done in poor conditions. Does this mean it is not the tow truck driver’s fault? No. The driver has to manage the conditions and act reasonably. Here are the three main weather-related issues.
- Wet Roads: Rain can reduce tire grip, increasing the likelihood of skidding. For a tow truck, which already has reduced maneuverability due to its size and weight, this risk is magnified.
- Icy Conditions: Ice is a tow truck’s nemesis. Even with chains or specialized tires, tow trucks can slide, especially when going downhill.
- Visibility: Fog, heavy rain, or snow can drastically reduce visibility. In such conditions, the chances of other vehicles colliding with the tow truck or the towed vehicle increase.
The Aftermath of a Tow Truck Accident
The results of a tow truck accident are not good. Given their size, impacts and resulting injuries are often far more severe than those of normal passenger vehicles. Although the types of injuries are similar, their increased severity can lead to traumatic injury and even death. If you or a family member has been injured as a result of a tow truck accident, you have the right to seek compensation for your injuries.
You should be able to recover the most compensation that you possibly can. Miller & Zois has experience handling large truck accidents, and that experience only helps us fight even harder for you. If you have been injured, contact Miller & Zois at 800-553-8082.
Tow Truck Verdicts and Settlements
While the value of a case depends on the facts, and it is impossible to predict how a jury will rule, the following cases should give an idea of the value of tow truck accident cases.
- 2023, Florida: $662,631 Verdict: The plaintiff is operating his tow truck at an accident scene on the highway when he was struck and seriously injured by a vehicle in the nearby traffic. He sues the Miami Police department for negligently failing to secure the scene of the accident. His injuries included fractures of his right tibia and fibula, as well as unspecified injuries to his neck, back, right knee and left shoulder.
- 2023, Virginia: $700,000 Verdict: A tow truck driver and battery technician is assisting a vehicle owner with a presumed dead battery in her manual transmission car. As the technician tests the battery, the vehicle owner suddenly drives the vehicle forward, trapping the technician’s leg between the two vehicles. This results in an abrasion and hematoma on the inner side of the technician’s left knee, which later develops into a MRSA infection. The technician requires 16 debridement sessions and self-packs the wound around 30 times, ending up with a scar. The plaintiff files a two truck accident lawsuit. He testifies about the MRSA infection, its physical pain, and the mental distress from the treatments. His wife, often the best witness in a damages, case, testifies on the suffering he endured. His medical expenses total $31,196.20, with a wage loss of $27,500, making the total economic damages $58,696.20. The defendant’s last settlement offer is $185,000. Following two days of trial and deliberation, the jury awards the technician $700,000.
- 2023, California: $869,726 Verdict: The plaintiff is stopped at a red-light when she is rear-ended by the defendant’s tow truck. The plaintiff suffers significant injuries including a left paracentral/neural foraminal focal disc herniation at the C5-C6 level, disc bulge at C6-C7, disc bulge indenting the ventral thecal sac, traumatic brain injury, left foot fracture, intervertebral disc disorder with myelopathy in the lumbar region, and blurred vision.
- 2023, Florida: $850,000 Verdict: The plaintiff claims to suffer permanent spinal injuries, requiring interventional/invasive pain management, radiofrequency ablation surgery and implantation of a spinal cord stimulator, after the vehicle she is driving westbound on an expressway, slowing for police activity in the area, is rear-ended by a tow truck.
- 2022, Washington: $110,388 Verdict: The plaintiff is driving northbound through an intersection when the defendant, driving a tow truck, comes westbound, fails to yield and strikes the plaintiff on the passenger side. The plaintiff allegedly suffers a musculoskeletal strain, feet and ankle swelling and bladder incontinence, depression and Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD).
- 2014, Illinois: $11,600, Verdict: The plaintiff stops at an intersection and is rear-ended by a tow truck. Her injuries are minor and consist mostly of soft tissue damage. She sues the tow truck company alleging negligence, and the jury awards her $11,600.
- 2014, New York: $340,000, Verdict: The plaintiff was driving in NYC when a tow truck strikes the right rear portion of his SUV. As a result of the crash, the plaintiff suffers back, neck, and shoulder injuries. He sues the tow truck driver, alleging that he ran a stop sign. The defense argues that the injuries came from a preexisting condition. The jury awards the plaintiff $340,000.
- 2002, Maryland: $85,000, Verdict: A 16-year-old driver is driving across an intersection when a tow truck turns out in front on him. The two collide and the driver suffers facial lacerations. The tow truck driver claims that the other driver was speeding, making him responsible for the accident. Regardless, the driver sues and the jury awards him $85,000.
Hiring a Lawyer for Your Case
If you have been injured by a tow truck or other motor vehicle though no fault of your own, call Miller & Zois today at 800-553-8082. You can also get a free online consultation online.