Tow trucks are meant to help drivers stranded on the road either due to a mechanical breakdown or some other auto issue, like a flat tire. But what if the vehicle sent to help you ends up causing a crash instead? Who may be liable for your damages?
At Schmidt Kramer, we explain more about tow trucks and what could happen if you are involved in a crash with one.
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Does Pennsylvania Have Certain Regulations for Operating a Tow Truck?
Tow trucks are much appreciated by drivers if they get unexpectedly stuck on the side of the road. However, being a roadside hero is not as easy as it sounds. There are multiple rules and regulations tow truck drivers must follow if they operate a tow truck in Pennsylvania. For instance, they must:
- Obtain a proper license: Tow truck drivers must obtain special licenses to operate these vehicles. This license shows others they have the knowledge and skills to handle your vehicle without causing harm to you or damage to your vehicle.
- Follow safety guidelines: Tow trucks have special lights and signs drivers must use to alert others sharing the road. These drivers face all kinds of weather and hazardous driving situations, so following good safety practices helps to protect them and others sharing the road.
- Adhere to pricing regulations: As in other industries, there are some limitations regarding what tow truck drivers can charge you for their services. In fact, Pennsylvania has specific regulations to ensure what you are charged is reasonable and fair.
How Are Tow Truck Crashes Different From Crashes With Other Trucks?
Tow truck crashes are unique when compared to collisions involving other types of trucks. For starters, the inherent nature of how tow trucks are used means they are often involved in roadside operations. Anytime a vehicle is on the side of the road, the tow truck driver, as well as the vehicle already parked on the road shoulder, is near passing traffic. If on a highway, the traffic is likely passing at high speeds.
Both the tow truck driver and occupants in the stranded vehicle have an increased risk of being involved in a crash. This risk is especially true because of the number of inattentive drivers who might be texting or doing something else that distracts them from seeing the tow truck in time.
In addition to the risk of being on the roadside, a tow truck accident could happen in other ways. One example could involve improper loading or securing of the vehicle being towed.
Overall, the combination of interacting with vulnerable vehicles, where these vehicles are located and the type of equipment being used sets tow truck crashes apart from collisions with other types of trucks.
Who May Be Liable for a Pennsylvania Crash Involving a Tow Truck?
Tow truck crashes can be complex as there could be multiple parties liable, including:
Tow Truck Driver Negligence
Tow truck drivers are required to take additional safety measures to avoid putting others at risk of harm. This legal duty extends to include passing vehicles, as well as the occupants of the vehicle they are assisting. If the driver is negligent in taking these precautions and it contributes to or causes a crash, he or she could be liable for the damages.
Other ways a tow truck driver may be deemed negligent is for failing to adequately use signals or lights to indicate the truck’s maneuvers to traffic passing by. Improper loading of a vehicle that causes further damage or physical harm could also cause the tow truck driver to be held liable.
Tow Truck Company
The trucking company that owns the tow truck could be held liable if crash investigators determine the accident was due to things like insufficient training, negligent hiring or improper loading practices.
Tow Truck Owner
The party that either owns or is responsible for maintaining the tow truck could also share liability in some crashes. For example, if failure to ensure proper maintenance or inspection of the vehicle caused you harm.
Tow trucks are unique in that they have a lot of moving parts required to load or lift the vehicle onto the platform as well as secure it. If the truck experiences some kind of failure because its mechanical or equipment is defective, the manufacturer may be at least partially liable.
Drivers in Passing Vehicles
Sometimes, the fault may not lie with the tow truck driver at all. A crash with a tow truck could put you in harm’s way if the driver of a passing vehicle became distracted. This could happen any number of ways, such as if the driver drifted into the road shoulder and collided with the tow truck and your vehicle. In this situation, both you and the tow truck driver may have a claim.
If, however, passing traffic hit the tow truck because it was improperly parked or jutting out, there could be shared liability between the other driver and the tow truck operator. Not only does passing traffic have a legal duty to pay attention to the road, they also are required to follow Pennsylvania’s move-over law. This law states that drivers passing an emergency vehicle must merge into a lane further away or slow down to 20 miles per hour less than the posted speed limit.
What Should Injured Victims Do After a Crash Involving a Tow Truck?
The first priority should always be to your health and safety. Do not get out of the car unless it is absolutely necessary. If you do have to exit your vehicle, remember you may be in shock and take extra care to watch for passing vehicles.
Other critical steps to take include:
- Call 9-1-1: Getting emergency assistance to the scene as soon as possible means you get the medical help you need faster. This can make all the difference with your ability to recover, especially if you have serious internal bleeding, organ damage or head injuries.
- Get medical attention right away: Never put your health at risk. Always seek medical care and get a full examination after your crash. Taking this step helps you get started on treatment immediately and can help limit the physical damage. It also helps to link your injuries to the crash, which in turn can help you get the compensation you need to cover your damages.
- Seek legal help: While not required, it is highly recommended that you seek legal advice once your injuries have stabilized. Having an attorney manage your case lets you focus on your physical health. He or she can guide you throughout the legal process and ensure you do not make mistakes that could harm your ability to recover compensation. Additionally, evidence can get lost or destroyed quickly after a crash. Your attorney can work quickly to gather this evidence, even while you are still healing from your injuries.
- Notify your insurer: You must also notify your insurer about the crash, but limit what you say, especially before you speak with a lawyer. Insurance companies have many tactics they use to try to reduce how much they pay out on a claim.
Need to Discuss Your Crash With an Attorney? Schmidt Kramer is Here to Help
We are dedicated to helping victims injured by the negligence of others, and our legal team has been doing just that for decades. Schmidt Kramer has a history of proven results, and if we represent you, we will do our utmost to recover the maximum possible compensation on your behalf.
Contact our law offices to learn more about what we do and how we can help. There are absolutely no out-of-pocket costs or fees to pay while we represent you. We only get paid if you do.
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