Clever insurance companies occasionally point to the Carmack Amendment as another avenue to collect from tow companies who have damaged motor vehicles in their possession. For those unfamiliar with these types of claims, the Carmack Amendment is a federal law that may create liability for tow companies transporting motor vehicles across the state lines. Unlike conventional liability claims, if applicable, the Carmack Amendment imposes liability on tow companies if the claimant can show that the goods were originally in an undamaged condition and were later damaged.
There was a truly tragic story this month involving a tow truck driver in Watertown, Massachusetts. 68-year-old Benita Horner was involved in a fatal accident that allegedly resulted in Ms. Horner being struck and pinned beneath a tow truck while crossing an intersection. Moments later, the victim’s 38-year-old son, who witnessed his mother being run over, jumped into the tow truck and allegedly repeatedly stabbed the driver, who sustained critical injuries. The victim’s son, who is reporting as having a history of mental health issues, was arrested and charged with attempted murder, assault and battery, and resisting arrest. Meanwhile, no charges have been announced against the tow truck driver.
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.
Happy Labor Day! The tow industry is filled with dedicated and hard working people. Workers who show up to work battling weather, road hazards and other adverse conditions day in, day out. We hope everyone gets some down time this weekend and has a relaxing and safe holiday with family and friends. -TowLawyer
In last week’s blog, I described I case I had involving a night dispatcher who complained about minimum and overtime wage violations. In that situation, the tow company thought they didn’t have to pay either minimum or overtime wages because he paid the dispatcher a salary of $300.00. But just paying a salary, without more, does not make the employee exempt from minimum and overtimes wages.
My first wage and hour case in the tow industry didn’t even involve tow operators. It involved a disgruntled night dispatcher who was being paid $300.00 per week to answer the phones from 7:00 p.m. to 7:00 a.m., seven (7) days a week. She was permitted to take all of the calls on her cell phone, meaning for large portions of the night when the phone wasn’t ringing, she slept at home.
Liens are always a hot topic in the tow community. When properly asserted, they can be a powerful collecting tool. However, like anything, done incorrectly, they expose a tow company to potential liability.
I have a special place in my heart for the tow companies of Arizona. The first ever member of TowLawyer was from Arizona. Upon joining our website, I remember him telling me how the resources of the website were a major help to the tow companies in Arizona who were trying to abide by the law. Recently, however, the bad deeds of a few tow truck companies have negatively impacted towing across the state.
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.
Celebrating our nation and wishing you and your family a happy Independence Day.