When you think of a tow truck, you typically think about them responding to the scene of an accident. Or maybe you imagine them helping you get out of a bind. However, commercial vehicle accidents involving tow trucks are not uncommon. Humans drive tow trucks and humans are not infallible. Tow truck accidents are particularly dangerous for two reasons. First, the size and weight of tow trucks can cause significant damage. Second, if the tow truck is hauling another vehicle, the vehicle may become detached from the tow.
Types of Tow Trucks
All drivers know that vehicles can break down at any time. Break-downs tend to occur at the most inconvenient times and in the most inconvenient places. That’s when a tow truck comes in handy. Before contacting a tow company, you should know which type of tow truck you need. For instance, vehicles with air suspension cannot be towed with a hook device unless you disable the air suspension feature.
The most common type of tow truck is the rollback tow truck. It’s often called a flatbed tow truck or a slide truck. Rollback tow trucks have an empty bed that slides to the ground. The operator is then able to drive or winch a vehicle up on the bed. A rollback truck is the safest vehicle used to transport other vehicles.
Hook and Chain Trucks
When tow truck first became available, they were designed with only a hook and chain mechanism for towing. The operator attaches the hooks under the front or rear of the vehicle using chains to lift one end of the vehicle. The wheels at the other end of the vehicle remain on the ground. As you may have guessed, it is difficult to avoid causing damage to the vehicle being towed. The hook and chain mechanism causes strain to the vehicle. If you tow a rear-wheel drive vehicle on the rear wheels without disconnected the driveshaft, you could damage the drivetrain.
Integrated Tow Trucks
An integrated tow truck is designed to tow large trucks and buses. This type of truck has an extra axle to accommodate the weight of the vehicle it is towing. Additionally, an integrated tow truck has an arm that is embedded in the core of the truck. The arm also assists in accommodating the heavy weight of large vehicles.
Wheel-Lift Tow Trucks
Similar to a hook and chain truck, a wheel-lift tow truck lifts one end of the vehicle while the other two wheels drag. In contrast, a wheel-lift truck utilizes a York system. The system hooks under the front wheels so providing stability that the hook and chain truck lacks.
A Tow Truck Is a First Responder
Texas, like many states, has a move-over law. Most people think of police officers and firefighters when they hear first responders. Texas also considers tow trucks to be first responders. When tow trucks are responding to the scene of an accident, you must give them the right-of-way just as you would for ambulances, fire trucks, police cars, and other first responders. Blocking the roadway or not slowing down considerably to allow first responder’s vehicles to pass increases the risk of an accident.
Tow Truck Accident Causes
Tow trucks are just as prone to accidents as other vehicles. Tow trucks crashes can be caused by a variety of reasons, including:
- Improper maintenance. A tow truck has many components that could cause it to crash if they are not properly maintained. Improper maintenance of the hydraulic system, winches, engine, suspension, airlines, and other components may increase the risk of an accident.
- Driving under the influence. Just like any other driver, a tow truck driver could choose to drive under the influence, increasing the risk of an accident.
- Fatigue. Tow truck drivers must have a commercial driver’s license and must adhere to many of the same standards as other truck drivers. If a driver is fatigued, he or she is more likely to be involved in an accident.
- Equipment failure. Once a vehicle is on the truck, it must be secured. If a strap or chain breaks, the vehicle could fall off the tow truck. If a vehicle becomes detached from a rollback, it could potentially cause severe damage to vehicles following the tow truck.
When you are driving behind a tow truck, always keep a reasonable distance between you and the truck. Distance allows you extra time to take corrective action if something goes wrong with the tow truck.
Tow Truck Accident Injuries
Because of the size of the tow truck and its cargo, accidents can cause severe consequences. You may be lucky enough to get away with minor injuries if the crash happens at lower speeds. Frequently, injuries are severe, if not catastrophic. Injuries may include:
- Bruises, cuts, scrapes, and contusions;
- Secondary infections because of open wounds suffered in the accident;
- Soft tissue injuries including pulled muscles, strains, and sprains;
- Fractures and compound fractures;
- Back and spine injuries;
- Neck and shoulder injuries;
- Traumatic brain injuries; and
Some injuries may have long-term impacts. Back, neck and spine injuries, and traumatic brain injuries could turn into lifelong disabilities. Depending on the type of injury, the amount of pain you suffer and your emotional state you may require a variety of treatment. Treatment may include physical therapy, as well as cognitive or psychological therapy.
Car accidents resulting in serious or life-threatening injuries are traumatic experiences. Severe long-term injuries often cause post traumatic stress disorder, anxiety, or depression. After enduring a traumatic car accident, injured victims may fear getting back into a vehicle.
If you have been injured in a car accident you may be entitled to compensation. Compensation is available for past and future medical expenses, past and future lost wages, and repair or replacement of personal property damaged in the accident. You may also receive additional compensation for long-term injuries, including:
- Pain and suffering;
- Loss of consortium and/or companionship;
- Inconvenience; and
- Loss of use of a limb.
Also, if you lose a loved one in a tow truck accident, you may be entitled to compensation for funeral and burial expenses. Contact a truck accident lawyer if you suffered injuries in a tow truck accident.