When your car malfunctions or gets stuck, Houston tow trucks are the only way out. You might be driving along the North Freeway when your engine gives up and a tow truck has to deliver you and your vehicle to a garage for repairs.
As essential as they are, however, tow trucks pose a risk of accidents on Houston roads. The damages in an accident with a tow truck can be more severe, due to the truck’s size. Sadly, they can be lifetakers just as often as they can be lifesavers.
If you were in an accident in Houston involving a tow truck, you might wonder what to do next. An attorney can help you with your questions and represent you as you fight to get the compensation you deserve.
Contact us now to get the money you need to pay for your injuries and other resulting impacts, and read below for more information about Houston tow truck accidents.
Different Types Of Tow Trucks
Tow trucks come in several forms you may encounter on Houston roads. One type is a flatbed truck, which has an extended platform attached to the back. The flatbed slides out to carry smaller vehicles. A car has a reduced risk of damage when on a flatbed.
Another type is a wheel lift tow truck, which uses a yoke to attach to the front wheels of a car. The vehicle does not use any hooks or chains, and the back wheels remain on the ground during the drive. Some companies use a wheel lift tow truck since it can get cars off the highway faster.
You might also see hook and chain tow trucks. They are similar to wheel lift trucks but include a hook and chain. This type of truck tends to accidentally damage cars and is thus used less often.
In the case of larger vehicles in need of assistance, an integrated tow truck is often the best option. This type of truck provides more power and stability to pull heavy loads out from difficult situations.
Additionally, some towing companies use a boom truck. Boom trucks have a hydraulic arm to tow cars, and they can serve many other purposes.
The type of towing truck a company sends out depends on the condition and type of vehicle. Many of the trucks have the equipment necessary to do the job, but each kind of tow truck presents different accident risks.
Rules For Tow Trucks
To operate a tow truck on Houston streets, a person needs to have a special permit. The permits are valid for up to one year after issue and should apply to one of three areas: incident management, private property, and consent tow.
The incident management permit is initiated by a peace officer and allows the tow truck to tow without a vehicle owner’s consent.
A non-consensual tow on private property requires a private property permit. One example of where a non-consensual tow would be necessary is where an unauthorized vehicle has parked in a private parking facility.
A consent towing permit allows the tow truck to do its job and haul your vehicle with your permission.
Any kind of permit requires applicants to pass a criminal background check. The Department of Licensing and Regulation may perform periodic inspections of a towing company. Towing operators also need to work safely and competently.
Conditions Increasing Houston Tow Truck Accidents
Many conditions that heighten the risk of accidents for motor vehicles tend to make accidents with tow trucks even more likely.
One of the first that may come to mind is hazardous weather, such as rain or ice. A car may break down or get stuck in any type of weather condition. Rain decreases visibility and increases the chance of a tow truck hitting a stopped motorist. Vehicles also often slide on ice, resulting in accidents. Tow truck drivers need to exercise even more care on slick road conditions since these often prompt their services.
Heavy traffic is another condition that heightens the risk of accidents for all motorists, but especially tow trucks. Houston is home to over a million residents, and hundreds of visitors travel through the city each day. Traffic tends to peak at certain times and days. Since tow trucks are larger, they often have a harder time maneuvering around other vehicles in dense traffic. Maneuvering can become dangerous since the trucks also have to carry around heavy loads, and have additional protrusions like cables and beds that can collide with other vehicles.
Distraction increases the risk of accidents for any driver. Any number of things can cause a driving distraction, whether the radio, other passengers, or phones. Events outside a vehicle can cause a motorist to take their attention away from the road. Tow truck drivers often have to travel to places they are unfamiliar with and may become distracted trying to navigate to their destinations.
Speeding and other reckless behaviors can also increase the risk of tow truck accidents. An accident may happen at an intersection or highway when someone does not move over or slow down in time for a stopped truck on the side of the road. A tow truck may also speed or fail to yield on its way to pick up a stuck car.
Furthermore, if the tow truck does not secure a smaller vehicle properly, the car could roll off and hit another motorist.
All in all, these combinations of hazards result in a higher chance of damages from a tow truck accident.
Types Of Tow Truck Accidents
The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health revealed the leading cause of death in the towing industry is vehicle crashes. Many tow trucks are in nonfatal accidents as well.
One type of tow truck crash is a pedestrian collision. The Texas Department of Transportation found there was a 5% increase in pedestrian accidents in one recent year. A pedestrian accident involves a single vehicle crashing into a pedestrian. A pedestrian accident could happen, for instance, if a tow truck driver is backing toward a vehicle and fails to notice a pedestrian behind them. Such accidents can devastate pedestrians due to their complete exposure to the massive size and weight of the truck.
In some cases, tow trucks end up in multiple-vehicle accidents due to negligence. A rear-end collision could result if a tow truck in a rush fails to keep sufficient distance between their vehicle and the vehicle in front of them and the vehicle in front needs to brake suddenly. Tow trucks can cause more serious injuries in rear-end accidents.
Tow truck accidents may also happen because a tow truck driver blatantly violates driving laws—for example, running a red light. Additionally, side-impact accidents often happen in intersections around Houston, and driving the wrong way or improper passing could lead to head-on collisions. People can sustain serious injuries in a head-on collision even if they are traveling at a slow speed.
Potential Injuries A Houston Tow Truck Accident
No matter what kind of accident with a tow truck a victim endures, they are likely to suffer severe injuries given the greater mass of the tow truck. Even a low-speed crash can be highly injurious.
Examples of injuries you may sustain in a Houston tow truck accident include:
- Neck and shoulder injuries
- Broken bones
- Traumatic brain injuries
- Spinal cord injuries
- Soft tissue injuries
Not every injury will present itself at the time of the accident either. You should visit a hospital or clinic to ensure you do not have any undetected accident injuries.
Who Is Liable In A Houston Tow Truck Accident?
Once you determine the cause of a Houston tow truck accident, you should seek action against the negligent party or parties. However, in many cases, liability is not clear. An experienced Houston tow truck accident attorney can help determine the causes of the accident and whose wrongdoing contributed to the accident.
All drivers have a duty of care, or duty to drive safely and legally. Tow truck drivers, specifically, have a duty to drive safely in light of the greater size of their vehicles and the loads they carry. A tow truck operator must not speed to get to their destination, and they need to obey the traffic laws of the area just like everyone else.
A tow truck company can also bear responsibility for an accident. They need to make sure their drivers receive the right amount of training and certifications before driving. A tow truck company could be liable if it was negligent in any way in hiring a driver who caused an accident.
Companies also must repair and maintain their trucks. They could be liable for an accident due to a tow truck’s malfunction. In some cases, tow truck equipment manufacturers could share liability if a part they manufactured failed to work while the driver operates the tow truck.
Discovering who is liable is important, but it can be difficult to ascertain immediately. If you want to maximize your compensation, it is important to consult with an attorney. They can help you identify all potentially liable parties in your Houston tow truck accident case.
Tow Truck Liability Insurance
Per Texas law, Houston tow truck owners need to carry liability insurance. The liability insurance covers the property and bodily damage a tow truck causes to others.
A Houston tow truck operator must purchase at least $15,000 to $30,000 of liability insurance. Some tow truck companies buy policies for medical payments coverage, too. The policy covers the medical bills of the driver and any passengers who get injured while on the job.
What To Do After A Houston Tow Truck Accident
After a Houston tow truck accident, get any medical help you need and then call the police. Calling the police is important because police officers investigate the scene and record statements from drivers, passengers, and witnesses. With this information, they produce a police report which you can use to support any claim you later bring.
After tending to your health and contacting the police, take photos of the incident, if you’re able. Photos can preserve the accident scene, which may shift after authorities arrive and clear vehicles from the road.
Remain calm and get medical attention as soon as possible, even if you do not require emergency treatment. Hospital records and bills are the primary way you will prove your medical expenses for which you’ll claim compensation later.
Finally, consult a Houston tow truck accident lawyer to find out your legal options. You need to act quickly, because the law limits how long you have to file a claim per the statute of limitations. (The deadline for Houston residents is two years after the collision.)
Additionally, getting an attorney on your case as soon as possible can help you build your case while evidence is still fresh and more easily obtainable.
Insurance Company Tactics
In any car accident claim, insurance companies pose a hurdle that claimants must clear to get the compensation they deserve. During a Houston tow truck accident claim process, you will be in contact with both your insurance company and the negligent party’s insurer. In either case, the insurer may deny or minimize your claim. They may start by offering a quick settlement, which is far less than you deserve.
Insurance companies will also try to get you to talk, and they may use anything you say against your claim. The insurance company may ask you to provide a recorded statement. Even as they do this, some insurers may try to convince a tow truck accident victim that they do not need a lawyer. Victims should not fall prey to this tactic and should get a legal representative as soon as possible to help with communications with the insurance company so that they do not say anything that could hurt their claim.
How Long Does A Houston Tow Truck Accident Claim Take?
Not all claims are the same, and different factors can impact how long a claim takes to resolve. If the defendant’s negligence is easy to prove, you might be able to reach a fair settlement relatively quickly, but if liability is unclear, your case could take a while. In any case, you and your lawyer will need time to gather evidence to prove what parties were negligent—and to what extent.
Additionally, a lawsuit might also take longer if your injuries are more severe. Again, insurance companies want to pay out as little as possible. If the compensation you deserve is high, they will generally fight harder against your claim. Your claim might take longer in these cases while you negotiate a fair settlement, or bring a lawsuit to get a court to order that a defendant pay you a fair amount. Your legal team will also want to track how your injuries impact your life as you heal and take note of any prognosis your doctors give.