You find yourself in the middle of an intersection trying to make sense of the chaos. Your vehicle is smashed to bits, thanks to an inattentive driver who ran a red light, and tow trucks are closing in from every direction. It can happen to anyone…
So what should you, or your drivers, do in such an event? The Automobile Association (AA) advises all motorists to be aware of their rights to avoid falling prey to unscrupulous towing operators.
“We hear too often of motorists who are involved in crashes and the have their vehicles towed away from the scene without their permission, or where their vehicles are taken and then towed and stored at excessive daily rates. There is no need for this to happen; motorists have rights and they must enforce these if they are able to,” notes the AA.
The AA advises the following:
- If you are involved in an incident, and are able to do so, contact your insurer first; don’t let someone else contact them on your behalf. If your insurance includes cover for towing, contact the emergency number provided with your cover.
- It is your right – not anyone else’s – to choose a tow-truck driver. This applies only if you are able to contact them. If you are incapacitated, police or emergency personnel on the scene will make a decision on who should tow your vehicle.
- Always check and read any documentation carefully before signing anything.
- Get all the relevant information from the tow-truck operator before allowing him to move the vehicle. This should include their name, company name, company registration or association registration number, contact number and physical address (and address of their storage yard if it is different to their physical address), and the registration number of the vehicle. If possible, take a photograph of your vehicle with the tow truck before it leaves.
- Establish upfront, and in writing, if possible, how much the service is going to cost (including per kilometre rates), and the cost of storage, especially if you do not have any cover.
- Remove all valuables from your vehicle before it is towed (remember to check everywhere).
- Contact the AA for assistance, if you are member.
The Association says it is important to note that not all tow-truck operators are unscrupulous, and that there are more professional, ethical operators out there than those who aren’t. There are accredited service providers, who adhere to strict rules and ethics.
“It is important for motorists to understand they are in charge of their vehicles, and that they do not have to be intimidated into doing anything they don’t want to do. Being covered through insurance is the best option, but even without it, no-one has the right to take your vehicle without your consent,” advises the AA.