Towing Damage Liability: Who Is Responsible for Damages During Towing?

Matt Matasci Matt Matasci · Updated July 26, 2023

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Picture this: You just finished pumping some gas, return from the food mart and for some reason, your car refuses to start. You need to get your vehicle to the nearest repair shop, so you call a tow truck through AAA. But when you pick up your vehicle from the mechanics, you discover new damage that wasn’t there before the tow truck drove off. Could this be a case of towing damage? Who is responsible when a tow truck company damages your vehicle?

Let’s explore towing damage liability. We’ll help you understand who’s responsible for damages during the towing process.

Can a Tow Truck Company Be Held Responsible for Towing Damages?

In most cases, yes. A tow truck company can be held responsible for any damages caused to your car during the towing process for failure to exercise “due care.” This failure can include damage during:

  • Connecting the vehicle to the tow truck.
  • The drive in traffic back to the tow yard.
  • Removing the car from the tow truck connection.
  • Moving the car around the tow yard.

Damage Waiver

The tow truck company may be off the hook if you signed a waiver releasing them from responsibility for vehicle damages. If you signed a waiver and the damage is severe enough, it’s worth checking with a legal expert to determine whether the waiver would hold up in small claims court.

The Importance of Evidence

Providing proof that the damage during towing is crucial. That’s why you need to inspect the vehicle before the tow truck driver starts working. If you can establish proof that the towing company is at fault for the damages, they’ll likely accept liability for the damages.

Don’t wait until you suspect towing damage to document your vehicle. Take photos of your vehicle before the tow truck arrives. You should have plenty of time for this – it always seems like tow trucks take forever to arrive! If you accompany the vehicle to the tow yard or mechanic, document the state of the vehicle before it’s disconnected. Damage often occurs while the car is removed from the tow truck.

Photographs of your vehicle before it was towed and prior to being disconnected is the most convincing evidence. Typically photos are definitive proof of the tow truck company’s failure to exercise due care when transporting your vehicle. Most tow truck companies will cooperate with you when you have visual evidence of their negligence.

If the tow truck company doesn’t cooperate, even with visual evidence that proves they caused the damage, you’ll need to get your insurance company involved. They may cover the cost of the damage for you. Another recourse is to take the tow truck company to small claims court. Tort laws vary by state, so look into your state’s laws before taking legal action or hiring an attorney.

Most Common Types of Damage From Tow Trucks

Towing trucks can cause various damages to your vehicle. The most common issues include car bumper damage, which happens when the tow truck’s hook is improperly positioned during towing. Other common tow truck related issues include tire and windshield damage. This can occur when the tow truck inadvertently strikes your car. However, if the tow truck driver is negligent, damage could occur anywhere on the vehicle in the form of scratches and dents.

Who is Held Liable in Towing Accidents?

If there is an accident on the road while your vehicle is being towed, the towing company is held liable for any damages to other vehicles. It doesn’t matter if your vehicle being towed is what damaged the other vehicle the damages will be covered by the towing company. In fact, if your vehicle is what causes the damage, it likely has damage of its own. If the tow truck is in an accident while transporting your vehicle, it’ll be easy to prove the towing company is at fault.

What Steps Can You Take to Get Compensation?

Ideally, the tow truck company will be cooperative and make the process smooth. If they do cooperate and agree to cover the damages to your vehicle, here’s what to do:

  1. Take your vehicle to a mechanic or auto body shop and get a quote for the damage. The tow truck company may have a preferred garage.
  2. Bring the written estimate to the tow truck company. They may agree to pay for the costs upfront or reimburse you after the repairs are made. Remember, the tow truck company is only responsible for damage that they caused during the towing job.

In the unfortunate case that the tow truck disputes the damages, the process gets more complicated. Here’s what to do in the case of a damage dispute:

  1. Contact your insurance company and see if they’ll cover the damage. Check to see if your policy has comprehensive coverage. If you don’t, you may have to pay for the repairs out of pocket.
  2. Depending on the deductible and the level of damage, it may be more affordable to cover the damage instead of using insurance.
  3. Another option is to take the tow truck company to small claims court. Small claims limits vary by state you can find your state’s limit on this chart.

Frequently Asked Questions

What is the cheapest way to transport a pet?

Typically, ground transport is the cheapest way to transport a pet.  Longer trips using a transportation service, like CitizenShipper, typically average around $1.00 per mile.  Using a pet transportation service ensures your pet arrives in your new location safely, while minimizing stress and overall cost. 

How much does it cost to ship a pet internationally? 

While shipping your pet domestically is a relatively straightforward process, international shipping can be more complicated.  Hiring a pet transport service to help with international logistics can save a tremendous amount of stress and time.  

Each country of arrival will have specific regulations regarding pet health checks, necessary vaccination, and possible quarantine requirements.  The cost to ship a pet internationally can vary, especially if you need to board your pet for an extended quarantine. 

How much does it cost to transport cats?

The cost to transport cats will vary depending on the transport method.  Cats can be transported via ground or air transit, and are often small enough to be considered a “carry on” item.  Transporting a cat can cost as little as $25 on Amtrak, or as much as $125 to fly in the main cabin of an airplane.

How much does it cost to travel with a small pet?

Traveling with a small pet, compared to a large pet, is much cheaper.  Smaller pets can fit under the seat in front of you and can often qualify as a “carry on” item.  Traveling with small pets on Amtrak can cost $25, while airlines can charge around $125.  Keep in mind certain companies will only allow cats and dogs to travel.  

What does it cost to ship a puppy?

While puppies are small enough to fly in most airline cabins, they can incur additional costs.  Puppies generally require more attention, and therefore can be more expensive than shipping an adult dog or cat.  

Many breeders will utilize an air nanny service to accompany your puppy.  If the air nanny is experienced, or a regular, certain airlines may provide discounted rates or waive certain fees.  Breeders regularly ship puppies to their new homes and are well-versed in arranging transportation.  

Conclusion

Experiencing damage to your car during towing can be distressing — it’s making a bad situation even worse. However, knowing your rights and taking the appropriate steps can help you resolve the matter smoothly. Reputable towing companies are likely to accept responsibility for damages they cause, especially when presented with evidence. Remember to document the incident, inform the relevant parties and seek professional legal advice if needed.