As an owner of a vehicle, you are responsible for all towing fees, including the hook up, towing from the scene of the collision to the tow yard, and daily storage charges from the day of the car accident all the way through the date your accrued balance is settled and paid in full. If the accident was not your fault, then the other party will ultimately be responsible for the towing company’s charges. However, if the accident is deemed your fault, or if the other party is uninsured or cannot be located, then the responsibility to pay the towing company still rests with you. Therefore, as a precaution, it is advisable to do everything in your power to get your car out of the tow yard. It is much better to pay the tow yard $500.00 and then recoup that from the other driver’s insurance, than to let the fees accrue to $3,000.00 with no assurance that it will be paid. That way, you minimize damages and your own exposure. Moreover, you have a legal duty to take reasonable measures to minimize your damages.
Every person who is bringing a car accident claim has a legal duty under California law to mitigate damages. This means that you must take reasonable steps to minimize your damages that you are claiming. The duty to mitigate frequently comes up in the context of recoupment of towing and tow yard charges. If you promptly go to the tow yard, pay for towing and storage and remove your vehicle, then you have taken prudent measures to keep the towing and storage fees as low as possible and you will have no problem recovering them from the party who was at fault for the accident. If, however, you just let your vehicle sit in the tow yard accruing daily storage charges until your vehicle is sold to satisfy the towing company’s storage lien, then the other party will argue that you did not mitigate your damages and will object to fully reimbursing your losses.
Lien Sale and Your Liability
When a towing company tows your vehicle from the scene of an accident, it acquires a lien for the towing fees as well as daily storage charges. Storage charges do not accrue endlessly. After the statutory time expires, the storage charges stop and the towing company performs a statutory lien sale of your vehicle, selling your car or truck at auction value and applying the proceeds to the outstanding towing fees and storage charges. If the proceeds are not sufficient to satisfy your outstanding balance, the towing company will sue you for the remaining balance owed. You will be liable for all remaining charges on your account.
What If I Don’t Have Money
The question often arises: what if I don’t have money to pay the tow yard? The answer is not so simple. You have a duty to take reasonable measures to pay the tow yard. If you don’t have money, then arguably you should put the charges on a credit card and then seek to recoup those charges. You could also borrow money from a friend or family member, get your car out of the tow yard, then recoup that from the person who caused the accident, then pay back the person from whom you borrowed the funds. But if you don’t have any available balances on credit cards, and have any person from whom you can borrow money, then you may have not choice but to let your car sit in the tow yard until it is sold at lien sale. In this case, you will have more difficultly in recouping the towing fees and storage charges. Your car accident attorney will need to prove that you had no ability to get your car out of the tow yard, hence the storage charges and subsequent lien sale occurred through no fault of your own and despite your best efforts to curtail the charges.
Working With Insurance Companies
Accruing storage charges pose a problem in almost every car accident case. For this reason, your attorney will be working closely with all insurance companies, and with you, in an effort to get your car out of the tow yard as soon as possible. In most cases, the insurance company for the party who was at fault for the accident will move your vehicle to a storage-free facility assuming that the insurance company has enough policy funds. If policy funds are inadequate, then your car will sit and eventually proceed to a lien sale unless you are able to cover the balance owed to the towing company. Unless you can get assurance from your car accident attorney within one week after an accident that an insurance company will move your car to a tow free facility, it is always best practice to pay to get your car out of the tow yard and temporarily store it at your home or body shop of choice until the accident investigation is complete.