At TowLawyer.com we often get calls from subscribers frustrated over the lack of enforcement of laws and regulations that apply to their local towing operations. Nothing is more infuriating that seeing a flagrant violation of a towing ordinance or police department regulation by a competitor that goes unenforced. For example, a local ordinance requires all tow trucks to carry a fire extinguisher and broom but none of your competitor’s trucks have that equipment. Or the police department rotation rules require a 10-foot chain-link fence capped with strands of barbed-wire but your competition only has a rickety 6-foot fence patched up with chicken wire and pieces of tin.
On November 7, 2013, the Tennessee Highway Patrol (THP), Chattanooga District, suspended Monteagle Wrecker Service (MWS) from its wrecker rotation list for one (1) year. The THP determined that MWS had violated the THP rotation wrecker rule which prohibits two (2) or more towing companies, owned in whole or in part by the same individual, to participate on the towing list within the same zone. According to the THP, the owner of MWS, Rodney Kilgore, had an ownership interest in two other THP-rotation companies in the same zone. That conclusion was based, in part, on evidence that MWS was processing credit card payments for all three companies. One of the other companies, which was being operated by Rodney Kilgore’s father, William Kilgore, was permanently removed from the THP list on the same day.
On March 27, in the case of Big Wheel Truck Sales v. Safety Insurance Company, Case #16-P- 318, the Massachusetts Court of Appeals held that the removal of a vehicle from the site of a single-vehicle crash, without more, does not constitute a repair, or “remediation,” of the property on which the crash occurred and, therefore, is not payable under a policy of liability insurance issued on the wrecked vehicle.
As a general rule, towing businesses are required by law to pay for the medical treatment and lost wages of employees who suffer work-related injuries, without regard to fault. In order to avoid potentially crippling expenses in that regard, all fifty states require companies with a certain minimum number of employees to purchase workers’ compensation insurance or be adequately self-insured. The minimum number of employees varies from state to state but, typically, the number is between three and ten. Once that threshold number of employees is met, then workers compensation insurance must be obtained by the employer.
No doubt, having a vehicle stolen can be a very unpleasant experience, especially if the owner of the vehicle is uninsured for theft loss. With luck, the stolen vehicle will be found undamaged by a police agency. The vehicle is then towed to the secure impound lot of the police contracted towing company. The uninsured owner is notified. Happy day! The owner hurries to the towing yard to retrieve their vehicle, but — wait — there is a $700 bill for towing and storage fees. The vehicle owner cries, “But I am the victim of the theft! I shouldn’t have to pay.”
Nowadays, towing companies send a lot of e-mails and faxes. I have noticed that many of them contain automatically-inserted confidentiality disclaimers at the bottom of the communication that read something like this: The information transmitted is intended only for the person or entity to which it is addressed and may contain proprietary, business-confidential and/or privileged material. If you are not the intended recipient of this message you are hereby notified that any use, review, retransmission, dissemination, distribution, reproduction or any action taken in reliance upon this message is prohibited.
For as long as you can remember, the city in which your towing company is located has used only one company – not yours – for all of its police-dispatched, nonconsensual tows. Your company is equally qualified to perform police towing work – you have the equipment, experience, insurance, etc. – so you ask the police chief to start using your company on a rotating basis with the current tow company. The chief says that he is satisfied with the service he is getting and denies your request.
Has this ever happened to you? You receive a call from your local police agency to respond to a single vehicle accident. Upon arrival at the scene, you see a 2008 Chevy Cavalier down in a ravine. You can immediately tell that the vehicle is a total loss; salvage worth about $200. The good news is that the vehicle owner, who is still on the scene, informs you that he has full-coverage insurance.
A TowLawyer.com subscriber called me last week about a serious problem with a local municipality. About a year ago, he won the bid contract to provide the city towing services. Recently, however, an insurance company complained about the amount of a tow bill that it had paid for a city-ordered tow. The city recommended that the tow operator refund part of the bill. The tow operator – who felt that his invoice was fair and in compliance with the contract – refused to pay the city’s recommended refund. A few days later, he received a letter from the city manager advising that his towing contract, which still had over two years left on it, was being cancelled in thirty (30) days. That is why he contacted me through the “Talk to a Tow Lawyer” feature on the website.
At TowLawyer.com we receive numerous complaints about towing rotation list rules not being enforced. Most rotation lists are governed by written rules and regulations which set forth guidelines for participation such as equipment specifications, response times, minimum levels of insurance, storage yard requirements, and call dispatching protocols. Typically the rules also contain prohibitions against obtaining multiple spots on the list by using bogus company names, skipping calls without good cause, etc. Suspension or permanent removal is normally called for in the event of a violation.