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.