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  1. #1
    Join Date
    Jan 2011
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    6

    Default Towing Company Damaged My Car

    My question involves towing laws for the State of: California

    I live in California and got my front-wheel drive 2002 Toyota Camry XLE (full options) lawfully towed under CVC 22658-A last Friday, January 14th. It was parked in a private property apartment complex without a visitor's pass displaying. A couple days later, on Sunday, January 16th, I went to the towing company, paid the dues, and got my car back. The car was towed, as the tow driver explained to me on Wednesday of this week, by a "wrecker" truck which used "go-jacks" on the front wheels to pull my car out of the parking space and the "auto-loader" to tow my car away. I asked him if any hooks and/or chains were used in the process, and he said "no."

    I wish my story would have ended at that-- I lost some money and learned my lesson... BUT this is not the case. My car was NOT in the condition in which it was from BEFORE it was towed away.

    Immediately after the clerk (owner was not present) released my car, I gave the vehicle a 360-degree inspection and discovered that the "front left fender liner" and "front left engine under cover" was damaged. The hard-plastic "front left engine under cover," which is located right underneath the front bumper, appeared to have been ripped from the INSIDE OUT, as if by a hook. Definitely I could not have caused this, because if I had mistakenly hit a curb while trying to park, the plastic piece under the front bumper would have been crushed from the OUTSIDE IN, and not the other way around. Anyhow, I took my cell phone and snapped several photos of the damage on the spot.

    The second issue I noticed was when I turned the car on. The "ABS" (Anti-lock Braking System) light was on. This light, as well as any other, has never turned on before. This leads me to believe the towing company caused it to light up.

    Thirdly, as I drove away from the towing company, I immediately noticed two new driving sensations which I have never felt in the four years that I've driven this car. Firstly, the car felt drastically underpowered-- I had to depress the gas pedal much deeper than usual in order to accelerate to the speeds at which I normally drive. The car felt significantly weakened. I checked the "overdrive" function to see if my car performed from 0-60 as it normally did, but unfortunately the car felt and sounded sluggish in both "overdrive" and non-overdrive modes. The difference between "overdrive" and non-overdrive is now virtually unnoticeable, which is totally unusual because the "overdrive" used to help me pick up significant speed while entering freeways. This leads me to believe that somehow, the transmission was affected during the towing.

    Secondly, while driven on a straightaway on the freeway without my assisting the steering wheel, the car veers ever so slightly to the right. At first I thought it must have been the unequal air resistance/drag that the broken piece on the left front bumper which caused this, so I experimented driving no-handed on a straight path at 20-25 mph. The same slight turning to the right occurred-- this leads me to believe the alignment is off.

    To summarize, this is what is different from before my car was towed and after it was: Damage to the front left fender area, "ABS" light on, weaker acceleration than normal, "overdrive" function hardly, if not at all, makes the vehicle go faster, and slightly incorrect alignment.

    AND here's the key point why my story was worth reading: On December 21st, 2010, my car was completely repaired by a reputable auto body shop after a minor accident. Coincidentally, the damages were on the front left bumper area and the entire region was replaced with NEW parts. Since then, only my grandmother and I have driven the car, and both of us are very gentle with the car. Honestly, I can't think of a better word to describe how my car ran since December 21st than "perfectly."

    So, to recap, my car was completely fixed up on December 21st, 2010, and since then we had absolutely no problems with the car until the last time I parked it on that Friday evening of January 14th. Then, it gets towed on the 14th of January, and by the time we pick it up on the 16th the car has all these issues. I strongly believe something MUST have gone awry during the tow. All these problems the car is having now could not have possibly come from me, because I am sure it was perfect until I parked it last Friday night, on the 14th.

    I've said my whole bit to the employees of the towing company. Oddly, the owner is a very difficult man to get a hold of. The towing company wants my insurance to contact them. I contacted my insurance company today, they will give me a call back soon. They also told me that although the fender will be covered by insurance, the transmission, if in fact that is the issue with the car's now sluggish acceleration, is not. The owner of the towing company will have to decide whether it is his fault or not. If not, I am willing to see this to the end and await a court verdict. The problem is, how am I going to prove that the car runs a lot slower than it always used to? Also, why would the "ABS" light be on, when it, in my mind, has nothing to do with the method of towing? So many questions, I don't know what to ask really.

    All I know for sure is that the the car from before and after the tow has been changed from, in my honest assessment, "perfect, and running wonderfully" to "imperfect, and running sluggishly and askew."

    Do I have a winning chance if I take this to the end? Is it necessary for me to take this to the end? How do I prove all these new problems my car is having? How shall I proceed from here on out? Thank you so much for hearing me out, I apologize for the lengthy discourse.

    P.S. Tomorrow I will visit the local gas station located at the choke point of the freeway by which the tow driver passed, assuming he went straight from towing my car to the company's garage. The gas station has surveillance cameras set up on the road which cars pass just prior to entering the freeway. By reviewing the video evidence, I can determine whether my car was towed correctly or incorrectly. If you want to know what I get from the video recording, I'd be happy to update you on my situation. Again, thank you very much for your well-thought-out advice.

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Sep 2010
    Location
    Oklahoma
    Posts
    695

    Default Re: Towing Company Damaged My Car (Both Insured and Non-Insured Parts)

    First, you need to take the car to three auto body shops and get estimates of the damage. Talk with the mechanics and have them point out the damages, and how they could have been caused. The tow company had a legal right to tow the vehicle, and could excercise the minimum means to acquire your vehicle. Meaning that if there were minor scratches due to them getting the vehicle hooked up those wouldn't be covered. However, it does sound like they may have damaged it beyond that. That is why you need the auto body professional opinions. Submit a letter to the company stating your position and asking that they pay the majority of the bill. ($2500 bill. Company $2250, You $250) Send them the estimates from all three places. If they refuse to pay, then you can file a suit in small claims.

  3. #3
    Join Date
    Jan 2011
    Posts
    6

    Default Re: Towing Company Damaged My Car (Both Insured and Non-Insured Parts)

    Hi antrc170,

    Thank you very much for taking the time to respond to my story. I was unsure how to proceed, but it sounds like I need more sound proof of damages to my car by professionals. I will get three estimates from three different auto body shops, prepare the letter to the towing company, and see what happens.

  4. #4
    Join Date
    Jan 2010
    Location
    North East
    Posts
    2,108

    Default Re: Towing Company Damaged My Car (Both Insured and Non-Insured Parts)

    Not to sound like a jerk, but your never going to receive any damages out of court or in court from ether your insurance company or the other party's insurance company.

    All the damage that you told isn't consistent with the towing of a vehicle.

    Quote Quoting Ofc.RBaek
    View Post
    Immediately after the clerk (owner was not present) released my car, I gave the vehicle a 360-degree inspection and discovered that the "front left fender liner" and "front left engine under cover" was damaged. The hard-plastic "front left engine under cover," which is located right underneath the front bumper, appeared to have been ripped from the INSIDE OUT, as if by a hook. Definitely I could not have caused this, because if I had mistakenly hit a curb while trying to park, the plastic piece under the front bumper would have been crushed from the OUTSIDE IN, and not the other way around. Anyhow, I took my cell phone and snapped several photos of the damage on the spot.
    And

    Quote Quoting Ofc.RBaek
    View Post
    Thirdly, as I drove away from the towing company, I immediately noticed two new driving sensations which I have never felt in the four years that I've driven this car. Firstly, the car felt drastically underpowered-- I had to depress the gas pedal much deeper than usual in order to accelerate to the speeds at which I normally drive. The car felt significantly weakened. I checked the "overdrive" function to see if my car performed from 0-60 as it normally did, but unfortunately the car felt and sounded sluggish in both "overdrive" and non-overdrive modes. The difference between "overdrive" and non-overdrive is now virtually unnoticeable, which is totally unusual because the "overdrive" used to help me pick up significant speed while entering freeways. This leads me to believe that somehow, the transmission was affected during the towing.
    Let's take a look at the way your vehicle should be towed:
    Any vehicle that is towed should be ether put on a rollback wrecker or be towed with the drive wheels off the ground if a sling hoist or wheel lift wrecker is used. Your vehicle is front wheel drive and will need to be towed with the front wheels off the ground.

    It looks like your vehicle was parked with the front end inaccessible to the wrecker so the driver had to use a set of GoJak to get the front end of your vehicle to the rear end of his wrecker. A GoJak is a set and works by placing one by the drive wheel of the vehicle and slipping it under the wheel so the GoJak cradles the wheel. The operator will them pump a lever that will lift the cradled wheel off the ground. The operator will then follow this procedure on the other drive wheel. The GoJak is on 4 casters and while both drive wheels are off the ground the vehicle can safely be pushed back out of the parking space and positioned behind the wrecker without any damage to the transmission of the vehicle because the drive wheels are lifted off the ground.

    There is no way that a set of GoJak can damage a transmission or due and kind of under carriage damage to plastics as described in your statement.

    Let's look at how your vehicle was towed. Your vehicle was towed with a wrecker that used an Auto Loader. An auto loader is a wheel lift that will lift one end of a vehicle off the ground presumably by the drive wheels. The only part of the vehicle that the wheel lift physically touches is the tires. The operator of the wrecker will place the wheel lift on the ground and back as close to the vehicle as he can get. He will then extend the wheel lift outwards so the wheel lift will touch the tires of the vehicle. He can now close the jaws of the auto loader so they wrap around and pinch the tires so he can safely lift the one end of the vehicle off the ground.

    There is no way that a wheel lift can damage a transmission as long as the drive wheels were lifted off the ground. If the vehicle was towed with the drive wheels on the ground then it would definitely damage the transmission because the internal parts of the transmission would be moving as the wheels of the vehicle spin, and when parts in the transmission spin they need to be properly lubricated. When the vehicles engine is not running, the pump that pumps the transmission fluid threw all the gears of the transmission is not sending any fluid to the vital parts of the transmission. Without proper lubrication, the transmission would be damaged the same way that en engine would be damaged by running the engine without engine oil. We know for a fact that your vehicle was towed with the drive wheels off the ground because the operator of the wrecker did not have the keys to your vehicle to put your transmission in neutral so the drive wheels could spin freely. If the operator would have towed your vehicle from the rear, your drive wheels would have been on the ground, locked and would not spin. This would still not damage the transmission but would damage your tires because they would be dragged along the ground.

    It could be possible that when the vehicle was left at the tow yard that the operator when bringing the wheel lift away from your vehicle grabbed the plastic under cover that covered the engine with part of the wheel lift damaging it, but not so possible to damage the fender liner. You will need to prove this thou.

    You said that the vehicle was in a prior accident and the same side of the vehicle just fixed in December. I suggest that you look at the paper work that the auto body shop gave you and see what parts were replaced or fixed. The plastic cover parts that were damaged must be replaced because they cannot be fixed.

    If these parts were not replaced on your paper work from the accident then it would be exceptionally hard to prove that the wheel lift damaged your plastics. If the plastics were replaced then it would be, just plain hard to prove.

    Quote Quoting Ofc.RBaek
    View Post
    Secondly, while driven on a straightaway on the freeway without my assisting the steering wheel, the car veers ever so slightly to the right. At first I thought it must have been the unequal air resistance/drag that the broken piece on the left front bumper which caused this, so I experimented driving no-handed on a straight path at 20-25 mph. The same slight turning to the right occurred-- this leads me to believe the alignment is off.

    There is no way that the plastic cover could make your vehicle pull slightly to the right and your belief that the alignment being off is correct. Let's take a look at how your vehicle can fall out of alignment. The most frequent way is hitting curbs and potholes that damage parts like an A-frame, tie rod end, ball joints and other steering parts. The other way is just plain wear and tear on the parts from excessive miles.

    I would think that you damaged the part that put your alignment out of speck from the accident back in December and that the auto body shop never replaced this part nor did a proper alignment because there is no way that a wheel lift can come into contact with a steering component.

    Quote Quoting Ofc.RBaek
    View Post
    The second issue I noticed was when I turned the car on. The "ABS" (Anti-lock Braking System) light was on. This light, as well as any other, has never turned on before. This leads me to believe the towing company caused it to light up.
    Not possible what so ever, I can't even begin to explain why not.

    I hope I shed some light on your situation and you can come to a conclusion if you want to proceed with your insurance company or take the towing company to court.

  5. #5
    Join Date
    Jan 2006
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    28,312

    Default Re: Towing Company Damaged My Car (Both Insured and Non-Insured Parts)

    actually I was kind of with ya until you got to:

    which is totally unusual because the "overdrive" used to help me pick up significant speed while entering freeways
    apparently you have no idea what "overdrive" is

    what I would check though is to see if in the hooking or tie down process that your parking brake cable may have been pulled on and if stuck, your parking brakes could be partially applied. That would cause sluggish performance.

    to anything else; you need to have a qualified garage or mechanic determine what the problem is and give a professional recommendation of whether the problem is consistent with damage that might be caused by the various means of moving a car.

    and to the ABS light: yes, there is a way they could have caused it. If they disconnected any of the wheel sensors (which is quite easily done with a variety of towing equipment) or damaged the leads to a sensor, it would cause your ABS system to "turn off" and illuminate the ABS light. You need to have a garage run a code check to see what the problem is with the ABS system. If it is simply an unplugged sensor, easy fix. If they damaged a lead to a sensor, it can be costly to repair. (at least with some cars. haven't checked anything for yours)

  6. #6
    Join Date
    Jan 2010
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    North East
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    Default Re: Towing Company Damaged My Car (Both Insured and Non-Insured Parts)

    Quote Quoting jk
    View Post
    and to the ABS light: yes, there is a way they could have caused it. If they disconnected any of the wheel sensors (which is quite easily done with a variety of towing equipment) or damaged the leads to a sensor, it would cause your ABS system to "turn off" and illuminate the ABS light. You need to have a garage run a code check to see what the problem is with the ABS system. If it is simply an unplugged sensor, easy fix. If they damaged a lead to a sensor, it can be costly to repair. (at least with some cars. haven't checked anything for yours)
    Removing a wheel sensor (speed sensor) so a vehicle can be towed would be just like removing the engine oil dip stick from the engine so the vehicle can be towed. No need whatsoever to do ether.

    And the wheel lift cannot come into contact with a speed sensor knocking it loose because the speed sensor is on the top of the differential housing on the transmission on a front wheel drive vehicle.

  7. #7
    Join Date
    Jan 2006
    Posts
    28,312

    Default Re: Towing Company Damaged My Car (Both Insured and Non-Insured Parts)

    =Who'sThatGuy;488486]Removing a wheel sensor (speed sensor) so a vehicle can be towed would be just like removing the engine oil dip stick from the engine so the vehicle can be towed. No need whatsoever to do ether.
    what I am saying is in their process of either hooking the car or tying it down, it is possible to disconnect a sensor. Not that they would do it on purpose but it can happen.

    And the wheel lift cannot come into contact with a speed sensor knocking it loose because the speed sensor is on the top of the differential housing on the transmission on a front wheel drive vehicle.
    you are very wrong. For 4 wheel anti-lock brakes, there is a sensor placed at each wheel. The trigger ring is often an integral part of the brake rotor (where there are rotors).

    the only sensors I have seen on the differential are pick up trucks with single channel ABS. It was to counter the light rear end spins that happen with an empty PU. Ford had a horrible time with it for awhile.

    here is an image for a front wheel speed sensor for the OP's car


  8. #8
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    Jan 2010
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    North East
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    Default Re: Towing Company Damaged My Car (Both Insured and Non-Insured Parts)

    I still can't see a wheel lift hitting anything other then the tires of the vehicle or the plastic undercarriage part that protects the motor from water.

    Now a sling hoist wrecker can come into contact with steering, brake and other components because they hook a vehicle from the bumper and use chains to connect and hold the vehicle to the tow bar of the sling. However sling hoist wreckers are obsolete, and he had already explained that an auto loader which in today's standards are top of the line equpment was used.

    From the picture that you posted and if a sling hoist was used, it could be possible for the sensor to be hit because a chain would be placed in that proximity of where the sensor is.

  9. #9
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    Default Re: Towing Company Damaged My Car (Both Insured and Non-Insured Parts)

    I have seen tow operators do some pretty odd things when towing. If the weather is bad, a lot of them grab a hook and simply reach underneath and hook whatever they can without even looking. Ever see a front wheel drive car grabbed from the back and drug 50+ feet so they could access the front? (without dollys for the front wheels) I have. Not saying all operators are idiots but there are some real idiots out there when it comes to towing.

    I'm not saying it did happen in this case. Just that is it possible, depending on all that happened. OP can look into the possibility and if nothing of the sort happened, then it didn't.

  10. #10
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    Default Re: Towing Company Damaged My Car (Both Insured and Non-Insured Parts)

    Oh yes I have seen it plenty of times...

    Look at this YouTube video of the NYPD traffic unit towing a vehicle. He places a chain to pull the vehicle out of it's spot on the exact part illustrated in your picture so he can tow the vehicle from the front.

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