Are You the Victim of an Illegal Car Tow? Learn What You Can Do About It
No one likes it when their car is towed unexpectedly. It can leave you feeling angry, stressed, and frustrated. Sometimes you might not even know what happened to your vehicle or where it was taken until you call the police to investigate the situation.
Towing companies are in the business of towing cars. That is how they make all their money. There are situations where they might tow your car illegally or unjustly in order to make some extra money. Although this does not happen often, you have to be aware of lawbreaking tow operators in your area. Do not let them violate your rights just to boost their profit margin.
However, you cannot go around accusing innocent towing companies of wrongdoing either. Before you pursue your legal options, make sure the towing company's actions were actually illegal or predatory under the law. If you have verified their actions were unlawful, you can proceed to talk with an attorney.
Posted Towing Signs
When you first notice your car is missing, think about where you parked it before it was taken. Did you park the car in some parking space outside of a hotel, restaurant, apartment building, or some other public location? If so, check around the parking area for signs that warn drivers about parking there.
A posted sign should indicate the rules about parking in the designated spaces. These rules might specify a particular time range when you're allowed to park and a time range when you're not allowed to park. Sometimes the parking rules might not be laws, but instead rules of the property owner.
Each state has different parking regulations, but they all require a sign to be posted which offers details about the local parking laws. The sign should even include the name, address, and phone number of the local towing company that will tow your car if you violate the rules.
Parking signs are supposed to be readable. Unfortunately, older parking signs tend to fade away after several years of deterioration. This could make it more difficult for people to read the sign. The owner is required to fix the sign and make it legible, but they often never do. This leaves you to figure out what happened on your own.
What happens if you don't see a posted towing sign or the posted sign is ineligible? The first thing you should do is take out your smartphone and start taking pictures of the area where your car was towed. Take pictures of all the pavement and the grassy areas around the pavement. Make sure it is clear from the photographs that no posted signs are around. You'll be able to use these pictures as evidence if you ever need to make a legal case against the towing company at some point.
Calling the Police
The law requires towing companies to notify the local police department whenever they tow a vehicle. That way, if the owner contacts the police to report their car stolen or missing, the police will be able to tell them it was towed.
When your car is missing, and there are no towing signs around, you should immediately call your local police department. If your car was correctly towed, the towing company should have told the police about it. Some jurisdictions even require the tow truck operator to snap photos of the supposed illegally parked vehicle after they arrive. These photos can serve as proof that the owner parked illegally.
You have the right to request these pictures to verify what happened. The pictures could prevent you from suing the towing company if they prove you were wrong in the incident. That is why more towing companies are starting to take pictures now.
Retrieving Your Car
Examine the photographs carefully. Contact the local law enforcement in case you're unclear of the towing rules of the area. If all the evidence indicates that your car was towed unlawfully, then you can sue the towing company in small claims court. Just bring your photographs and other supporting evidence to the hearing.
Of course, that won't happen for a while. The first thing you must do is get your car back from the towing yard. Otherwise, the towing company will charge you excessively high storage fees for each day you don't retrieve your car. If you still don't recover your vehicle after a specific time period, they will auction your car for sale to the highest bidder.
Even if you think your car was towed illegally, you cannot let it get sold at an auction. You'll have no choice but to pay the towing fees and fines upfront in order to retrieve your car. You can always request reimbursement of these fees in your lawsuit against the towing company.