Channel 11 investigates tow truck rip offs after Houston car accidents

Here is a link to an interesting story posted on Channel 11’s web site on February 23, 2012 discussing how some unscrupulous tow truck drivers in Houston are taking advantage of car crash victims. The City of Houston and Harris County place a cap on the amount a tow truck company can charge for moving a vehicle after an accident, however in some cases tow truck drivers and storage lots are turning what should have been a maximum $150 tow into thousands of dollars of expense for the car accident victim.

In the Channel 11 article Houston driver Ryan Haley talks about his experience after his Toyota was rear-ended and ordered to be towed by police. His vehicle was towed to Vickery Auto Storage, located off East Mount Houston Road near Highway 59. The morning after the accident he signed papers presented to him by the storage lot: Ryan claims it not honestly explained to him that he was actually signing papers to have his vehicle repaired at City Wide Collision Center, a repair facility that is owned by the same man who owns Vickery Auto Storage.

When the Haley’s insurance company came to pick up the vehicle (which was deemed a total loss and not repairable), Vickery Auto Storage reportedly charged $2,000: labor, a “yard/gate fee”, storage and a $370 tow charge. “The consumer is very, very vulnerable,” said Monica Russo, Investigations Manager of the Houston Better Business Bureau. The BBB gives Vickery Auto Storage and City Wide Collision Center an “F” grade for unresolved consumer complaints.

If you are involved in a car accident Texas law says you have a right to decide where your vehicle is repaired. You should promptly report the accident to your own insurance company, even if you do not plan to file a claim with them. Your insurance contract requires you promptly notify the insurer of an accident so they have an opportunity to investigate. Your insurance company should be able to give you some guidance regarding towing and storage charges to help you avoid some of the problems mentioned in the Channel 11 investigation.

Also remember that you do NOT have to agree to have your vehicle towed to whatever storage lot the tow truck drivers wants to take it to. Tow companies make money towing vehicles but, as the Channel 11 news story makes very clear, they make a lot more money on storing vehicles and repairing them. Put another way, in many cases the tow truck driver will be actively working to get you to agree to have your vehicle taken to a particular storage lot so they can get the repair work. You probably wouldn’t let a complete stranger decide where you went to dinner, so why would you let one decide where to repair your vehicle?

Smith & Hassler has helped thousands of car accident victims over our 20+ years in business.