Tow Truck Accidents

Wrecker Accident Attorneys in Texas

We have all seen tow trucks running hot with their lights flashing as they race at excessive speeds, weaving in and out of traffic trying to be first to the scene of an accident. They very business model of being a wrecker driver encourages speeding and reckless driving to get there first. Then, there’s the traffic jam that follows as numerous wreck drivers pour onto an accident scene and potentially create new driving hazards for unaware approaching motorists.  There are regulations aimed at keeping them out of the way of traffic, but, as you know, rules are not always followed.  If you have been in a crash with a tow truck, give us a call to speak to a tow truck accident lawyer and discuss your legal options. (713) 932-0777.

Causes of Tow Truck Wrecks

flatbed tow truck

Each year there are numerous accidents involving tow trucks in Texas. Tow truck wrecks can happen for many different reasons. Some of these reasons are the same reasons other cars tend to get in accidents while other are related to failure to follow specific rules.  Here are some of the common causes of tow truck accidents:

In addition to the above, common causes of accidents such as a simple unsafe lane change or failure to check a blind spot can result in a wrecker accident.

What to Do After A Wrecker Accident

Being in an accident with a wrecker can be very frightening. It can be easy to forget important things that need to be done.  So first and foremost, try to remain calm.  Then take these steps:

  1. Assess any injuries.
  2. If you can do so safely, move out of the moving lanes of traffic.
  3. Call 911, report the accident and request police assistance and ambulance if required.
  4. Take down any eyewitness information you can gather.
  5. Take photos of the vehicles and the scene if it can be done safely.
  6. Make a note of the following information which tow truck drivers must legally display on the side of their vehicle:
    1. The permit holder’s name,
    2. The permit holder’s publicly listed phone number,
    3. The permit holder’s city and state, and;
    4. The permit number for the tow truck.

See 16 Texas Administrative Code 86.701(a).

Once the police arrive, you can obtain an incident report number from the investigating officer. After you have attended to your medical needs and are in a stable situation, contact a tow truck accident lawyer for a free consultation.

Types of Tow Trucks

heavy duty tow truckAlthough there is some variation, there are five basic types of tow trucks.  The five types are:

  1. Hook and Chain Tow Truck. – This is the common 1-ton truck with a wench that uses chains with a hook to tow vehicles and other things. The chains can scrape up a paint job if the truck driver is not careful.
  2. Wheel-Lift Tow Truck. This tow truck is very similar to the hook and chain tow truck, but the chains fasten to a device that looks like a yoke but slides up under the car and fastens underneath. The front end of the car is then lifted up off the ground for towing.
  3. Flatbed Tow Truck. A flatbed tow truck is very good for cars. It has a flat bed and ramps that can be lowered so that the vehicle being towed can be pulled up the ramp and onto the truck bed by a hydraulic cylinder.
  4. Rollback Tow Truck. A rollback tow truck is the same basic design as a flatbed tow truck except the bed moves back and then tilts so that the rear end lowers down the ground for loading the vehicle. The truck bed becomes the ramp.
  5. Heavy Duty Tow Trucks. Heavy duty tow trucks (a/k/a integrated tow trucks) are tow trucks used for towing large commercial motor vehicles such as buses or 18-wheeler cabs. They are much sturdier than the typical tow truck and have an extra axle for support.

Each type of tow truck operates a little differently and has its own risks. The driver needs to be familiar with the one he has been assigned.

Harris County Tow Truck and Wrecker Regulations

County regulations can be very helpful in proving negligence on the part of the tow truck driver. Harris County has its own set of requirements for tow truck operators that accept tows from law enforcement. This is separate from the State rules and regulations.  Those rules can be found on the Harris County Sheriff’s Office website here: Harris County Tow Truck Ordinance.  All drivers accepting tows in response to calls by law enforcement must have a valid permit issued by Harris County and a Chip.  Harris County Towing Ordinance Section II(A)(1).   They are further required to comply with several ordinances aimed at preventing accidents and injuries via negligent operation.  Some of these include:

  • Tow truck drivers cannot be in possession of unlicensed weapons, drugs or alcohol while operating a tow truck. Harris County Tow Truck Ordinance Section II(H)(5).
  • Except in an emergency or at the direction of a Law Enforcement Officer, a Tow Operator shall park the Tow Truck at least 100 feet from a Law Enforcement Scene. Harris County Tow Truck Ordinance Section IV(B)(1).
  • A Tow operator may only use beacon lights as directed by state law. Harris County Tow Truck Ordinance Section IV(B)(1).
  • The Tow Operator shall park the Tow Truck on the same side of the road as the damaged Motor Vehicle. Harris County Tow Truck Ordinance Section IV(B)(2)

These regulations are very useful in establishing negligence in a tow truck collision case in Harris County. Often, other counties will have similar Ordinances that can be used to prove liability in your case.

Tow Truck Insurance Requirements

wheel lift tow truck

Tow trucks are generally intrastate vs interstate motor carriers.  This means they typically do not do business across state lines. However, the heavy tow trucks are sometimes interstate motor carriers because they may have to travel across state lines to retrieve 18-wheelers.  If the tow truck in question is involved in interstate trucking, then they will have to maintain a minimum of $750,000 in insurance.

If the tow truck you are in a collision with is only involved in intrastate trucking, then there are both state and local county (and in some cases city) ordinances that may apply.  Under the Texas Administrative Code Section 86.400(d), tow trucks are treated differently based upon whether they are engaged in “incident management towing,” or not. Incident management refers to vehicles being towed from public streets at the permission or request of law enforcement rather than private for-hire towing.

If the tow truck is conducting a tow under “incident management towing,” then the tow truck must maintain a minimum of $500,000.00 per incident in liability insurance.  If not, then it must carry a minimum of $300,000.00 in liability insurance coverage per incident. Additionally, there must be $50,000 additional coverage to protect the cargo. See 16 Texas Administrative Code 86.400(d).

The minimum insurance requirements for each tow truck set by Harris County are basically the same for trucks that accept tows from law enforcement. These requirements are as follows: a. A minimum of $500,000 liability insurance per tow truck per incident, which is combined single limit liability for bodily injury to or death of an individual per occurrence, loss or damage (excluding cargo) per occurrence, or both. b. Harris County Tow Truck Ordinance Section II(H)(5).

Speak to a Wrecker Accident Attorney

If you have been injured due to a collision caused by a wrecker, whether the tow truck driver was speeding to get to an accident, parked in an unsafe place or just not paying attention, you need to talk to a wrecker accident attorney you can trust. Call Simmons and Fletcher, P.C. at (713) 932-0777 today. Our lawyers are experienced with Texas truck accidents and have spent almost 40 years helping victims recover from serious auto collisions and it would be our honor to advise you.


Paul Cannon