Earlier this month I attended a meeting of a state legislative advisory board that was created to study issues in the towing industry. The 11-member board consists of law enforcement officials, state government officials, and members of the state towing association. The board meets twice a year with a stated purpose to make recommendations to the legislature and law enforcement on ways to improve the interaction between the towing industry and those that it serves.
A TowLawyer subscriber called last week about an insurance check he had received as payment for a tractor-trailer roll-over recovery. Before he received the check, he and the insurance company had been engaged in a running dispute about the amount of the invoice. The insurance company sent the towing company a check in the amount that it considered to be reasonable for the recovery services provided. The check was thousands of dollars less than the invoice amount. On the back of the check, at the bottom of the endorsement box, the following words were printed in bold type: “ACCEPTED AS PAYMENT IN FULL.”
The towing and recovery of a tractor-trailer is a complicated situation. It involves expensive equipment and quite often results in a bill of several thousand dollars. Collecting on these types of bills is also complicated and may impact multiple insurance carriers with different types of polices. Sometimes certain policies have coverage whereas others do not.
In a continued push back against excessive towing charges, there is legislation working its way through the Vermont legislature that puts dramatic caps on “involuntary tows.” The so-called Vermont “Towing Bill of Rights” puts a $40.00 maximum charge on involuntary tows and caps the daily storage rate at $12.00. The impetus behind the legislation is that over “200 people…a year end up losing their cars” due to Vermont Tow companies declaring towed cars abandoned and obtaining titles to the same.
In response to “increased” allegations of overcharging, two (2) separate pieces of legislation have been introduced by Missouri lawmakers to give consumers additional protections against excessive tow bills. The Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association (OOIDA) testified in support of both laws and stated that “there is (presently) no recourse or regulation whatsoever when it comes to nonconsensual towing of commercial motor vehicles in Missouri.”
Fifteen or so years ago, when I first started representing tow companies, it was commonplace in my town for tow companies to require cash for payment. No credit cards were accepted. Tow companies didn’t want to accept credit cards for fear that angry consumers would dispute the charge after picking up their vehicle. Thereafter, the City of Kansas City, Missouri outlawed the “cash only” policy. Instead, tow companies were required to accept credit cards if they wanted to perform municipal tows. Most every tow company in the area objected to the credit card ordinance. A few threatened lawsuits. Despite it all, the ordinance has remained.
Happy New Year from TowLawyer. As we head into 2019, it is clear: it is becoming more difficult to collect big ticket tow bills. This website was founded, in part, to help tow companies deal with collection issues. We thank you for the opportunity to be of service and look forward to working with you in 2019.
As we have written about in this blog, downtime claims, which are claims for that time when your tow truck is down and not generating income, are tough and insurance companies often fight them tooth and nail. For this reason, before you retain an attorney to prosecute such a claim and spend even more money, it is best to know what you are getting yourself into.
If you are going to claim a lien on a towed vehicle, please understand your state law. I have been hired a number of times to draft “checklists” for tow staff to follow anytime a vehicle is towed. I think these types of checklists are great ideas because every step of the procedure must be strictly followed.
When a tow company has been stiffed on a tow bill, litigation might be only option. The first choice in considering litigation is often the answer to the following question: who should you sue?