Tow Truck Accident Injury Claims
Most of us never think about a tow truck unless our car is broken down and we need to have it hauled to a repair shop. Many drivers on the roadway are familiar with the “move over” rules which pertain to ambulances, fire trucks, and police vehicles, but many are unfamiliar with the fact that tow trucks are considered first responders and are extended the same courtesy. Naturally, while we depend on a tow truck to assist us at the scene of an accident if our vehicle is damaged, what we forget about is that sometimes, tow trucks are the source of an accident.
Types of Tow Trucks
There are four types of tow trucks that you may see on Florida roadways, each serving a specific purpose. These include:
- Flatbed tow trucks – Flatbeds utilize a hydraulic system that allows for a vehicle to be driven onto the truck or allows for the driver to pull it up using the hydraulic lift. These are considered the safest type of tow truck, but this does not always prevent them from being involved in an accident.
- Integrated tow trucks – Generally these trucks are used for towing buses or other trucks. These tow trucks have more axles than a traditional tow truck and the arm used to lift vehicles is in the core of the truck versus mounted on the back.
- Hook and chain tow trucks – Because so many vehicles have front-wheel drive, you do not often see these types of tow trucks responding to roadway accidents. Primarily, this type of tow truck is used for vehicles that are being junked because they are well-known for causing additional damage to the vehicle, they are towing thanks to the wrapped chains which are used on these tow trucks.
- Wheel-lift tow truck – These trucks use a metal yoke instead of chains and hooks to hook a vehicle up by the front or rear wheels. This is accomplished using a pneumatic hoist or hydraulic lift and they are not considered as safe as a flatbed truck.
As you can see, between the size of a tow truck and the mechanisms under which they work, if you are involved in an accident with a tow truck, your car could sustain serious damage. More importantly, you and any passengers in your vehicle could sustain serious injuries. Tow truck accidents in many ways are similar to other commercial vehicle accidents, which can result in life-long problems for victims of an accident involving a tow truck.
Causes of Tow Truck Accidents
Any type of vehicle may be involved in an accident as a result of negligent operation. Tow trucks are no exception. Tow truck drivers may not be paying attention to the traffic around them, could be operating under the influence of alcohol or prescription drugs, and may disobey traffic rules. The fact remains, tow truck drivers are not different than any other driver, and while they are first responders, they are still required to follow the rules of the road when not responding to an accident scene. Anyone who is a victim of a tow truck accident can sustain serious injuries, primarily because tow trucks are typically much larger than a passenger vehicle. Tow truck maintenance is a serious concern because these vehicles have several mechanisms that can result in another person being injured should they fail. Mechanical failure can occur in the engine, in tow truck cables or hydraulic systems, or because of faulty brakes. Regular inspection of the various parts of a tow truck is imperative to keep all drivers safe on Florida roadways. Tow truck drivers must be properly trained to ensure they have properly secured disabled or junk vehicles on the tow truck. If the vehicle being towed has been attached incorrectly, the vehicle could come loose and cause an accident; which leads to serious injury, or even death. Another concern with tow trucks is their brake lights could be obstructed from view to other drivers when they are towing another car. Tow truck drivers are held to the same driving hour limitations as most commercial vehicles and they must also pass regular physical exams and maintain a commercial driver’s license (CDL).
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Injuries Sustained in Tow Truck Accidents
The type of injury a victim of a tow truck accident may sustain depends largely on the reason for the accident. Someone who is a victim of a tow truck accident because of brake failure can sustain serious back, head and neck injuries as well as have their car totaled. The victim is not only facing the weight of a tow truck, but also of the vehicle being towed. These types of injuries can cause victims to miss long periods of time from work, suffer debilitating pain, and may need repeated surgical procedures before they begin their recovery period. When tow truck mechanisms fail, or the driver has failed to properly secure a vehicle, your car could be struck by the vehicle falling from the tow truck. While you may be able to avoid being struck by the tow truck, the impact from a car, or truck, falling from a higher level than your vehicle can cause crushing injuries. Depending on the maneuvers which you must undertake to avoid there may be multiple vehicles involved in the accident. Should this occur, you could suffer burns, traumatic brain injury, or crushing injuries resulting in broken bones and internal bleeding.
Steps to Take After Tow Truck Accidents
Seek medical attention after any type of accident, especially after an accident involving a tow truck. The sheer size of the vehicle involved makes it unlikely you will escape the accident unscathed, even if you feel fine. If you believe you are not injured, do not state this to law enforcement, witnesses, or the other driver involved in tow truck accidents. This is information the insurance company will use against you later should you learn you did sustain injuries. Keep in mind, oftentimes back and neck injuries will often be masked by a rush of adrenaline when you have been involved in an accident. It may be a day or later before you feel symptoms. Documenting the scene of a tow truck accident is important so that you can build up evidence in case you pursue a claim. Whenever possible, you should take photographs of the vehicles involved in the accident, including damage to the vehicles. You should also note road conditions including obstructions in the roadway, signage at or near the scene indicating speed limits, and any other signs that may indicate slowing down is necessary. This information could be helpful later. As with any type of a roadway accident in Florida, obtaining contact information from drivers involved in the wreck, witnesses whenever possible, and insurance information is a necessity. In many cases, the police will obtain this information and include it in their report, but if you can obtain it on your own you will have your own independent record.
Notifying Insurance Company of Tow Truck Accidents
Once you have sought medical attention and can do so, contact your insurance company and inform them you have been involved in an accident involving a tow truck. Use caution when speaking with adjusters and avoid answering any unneeded questions. Simply provide the details of the accident without going into any speculation about the cause of the accident or who may be at fault. The insurance company will contact the police department for a full accident report and may send their own investigators to review the scene of the accident and speak with the other driver involved (as well as witnesses). While you have paid your insurance premiums in good faith, your insurance company is not there to look out for your interests before their own. Their goal is to pay as little as possible in claims and protect the interests of their shareholders and the company. Therefore, use a great deal of caution when answering questions, or refer the adjuster to your Florida truck accident lawyer. Once you have notified the insurance company about the accident, contact a qualified Florida truck accident attorney for a consultation.
Consulting a Personal Injury Attorney
Given the no-fault statutes that govern Florida insurance, you may think there is nothing a personal injury attorney can do to help you get the compensation you deserve after an accident. However, just because you are obligated to report the accident to your insurance company, and they are responsible for paying your claim, they may not pay the entire claim. Depending on several factors, such as the status of the tow truck driver, their employer, or even their maintenance company, someone else may be partially liable for reimbursing you after a car accident. Tow truck operators who have had insufficient training, towing companies who fail to maintain their fleet in good working order, or maintenance companies who have incorrectly certified a tow truck is safe to operate may be liable for your injuries. Speaking with a lawyer who understands truck accidents and other types of roadway accidents in Florida can help identify the reasons for the accident and who bears responsibility for compensating you for it.
What Expenses Can Be Collected After a Tow Truck Accident
Keep in mind, you are entitled to recover medical expenses including ongoing costs of medical care after a tow truck accident. You may also be entitled to recover monies you lost due to being unable to work while you recovered from your injuries. Victims of a tow truck accident should not have to bear any of the costs of medical treatment for their injuries, including hospitalization, tests, surgical procedures, medication for pain or infection, or any costs associated with rehabilitation required to get you back to your pre-accident condition. Additionally, if you are currently not working after a tow truck accident and are uncertain about the date you are eligible to return, you are facing additional financial stress while your focus should be on your recovery. When your household has been disrupted because you were a victim of a roadway accident involving a tow truck, you might incur additional expenses such as in-home nursing care during your recovery, transportation costs because you are unable to drive, and in some cases, daycare costs for your children because you are unable to care for them during your recovery. All of these issues should be discussed with a truck accident attorney who can review both monetary and non-monetary losses.
Personal Injury Attorneys Work With Insurers
Because insurance companies are likely to present you with a settlement offer soon after your accident, the sooner you seek legal advice the better. One of the advantages of having an attorney who is representing your best interests is they will be able to help you understand if the insurance company is being fair with their settlement offer. Since insurance adjusters are always told to make as low an offer as possible initially, chances are your first settlement offer will not be the best possible offer your insurance company will make. A personal injury attorney can negotiate with the insurance company on your behalf to make sure you are getting the best settlement offer. Should the insurance company fail to make a reasonable settlement offer, an attorney can help represent you in court against the insurer. In the event the tow truck driver, their employer, or maintenance company can be held liable for your injuries, they can also assist you with filing the appropriate lawsuits. Suffering injuries in any type of accident can derail your life. Those who suffer minor injuries may recover physically in a short period of time but may suffer psychological issues for weeks, months, and even years after because of the trauma involved. While you are taking the time to heal physically from your injuries, you are also under a great deal of stress because you know your family is facing mounting medical bills, your car has likely suffered extensive damage, and you are unable to return to work while you are recovering. If you, or a loved one, have been involved in an accident on Florida roadways involving a tow truck, an experienced personal injury lawyer can help ensure you know your rights and what to expect after an accident.
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