Wrecker Accidents

Texas Wrecker Accident Attorney

Houston Wrecker Lawyer

We have all seen wreckers 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. The 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 wrecker, give us a call to speak to a wrecker accident attorney and discuss your legal options. (713) 932-0777.

Common Causes of  Wrecker Accidents

flatbed tow truck

Here are some of the most common causes of wrecker accidents:

  • wreckers speeding or driving recklessly to get there first,
  • drowsy driving due to working excessive hours,
  • parking in a place that is not safe or impedes traffic,
  • failure to use proper warning signage,
  • failure to secure the tow properly, and;
  • other motorists not paying attention and/or operating their vehicles under the influence of alcohol or drugs.

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 Should I Do After A Wrecker Accident?

If you are in an accident with a wrecker, you should:

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

Being in an accident with a wrecker can be very frightening. It can be easy to forget important things that need to be done.  Try to remain calm. 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 Houston TX truck accident attorney for a free consultation.

Types of Wreckers

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

  • Hook and Chain Wrecker. – 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.
  • Wheel-Lift Wrecker. 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 off the ground for towing.
  • Flatbed Wrecker. A flatbed wrecker is very good for cars. It has a flatbed 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.
  • Rollback Wrecker. A rollback wrecker is the same basic design as a flatbed wrecker except the bed moves back and then tilts so that the rear end lowers down the ground for loading the vehicle. The wrecker bed becomes the ramp.
  • Heavy-Duty Wreckers. Heavy-duty wreckers (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 wrecker operates a little differently and has its risks. The driver needs to be familiar with the one he has been assigned.

Harris County 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 wrecker operators that accept tows from law enforcement. This is separate from the State rules and regulations.   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 have 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 wrecker 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 wrecker 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.

Wrecker Insurance Requirements

wheel lift tow truck

Wreckers 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 wrecker 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 wrecker is conducting a tow under “incident management towing,” then the wrecker 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 wrecker set by Harris County are the same for trucks that accept tows from law enforcement. These requirements are as follows: a. A minimum of $500,000 liability insurance per wrecker 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 wrecker 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.

Author