Should you make a claim on your auto insurance policy if your car is damaged when it's being towed?
Having your vehicle towed can throw your day into confusion, but what happens if you discover damage to your car after it's been towed? Should you make a claim on your auto insurance policy? Here are some things to consider if you find yourself in this situation.
What Type of Damage Does Your Vehicle Have?
If you discover damage when you pick up your vehicle, take an inventory of the type and extent of damage. Where are the scratches? Are there any dents? Is your alignment off? Be as detailed as possible in your documentation and take photos if you can. This can help any investigations that your insurance company or the tow people may conduct.
Can You Prove Who Caused the Damage?
Did you witness the damage to your vehicle, or did you discover it after it happened? Before they touch your vehicle, tow drivers may take pictures or write down prior damage on your vehicle to properly document it. Talk to the tow yard if you think they caused damage while towing your vehicle and see what you can discover.
If you have indisputable evidence, such as video of damage being caused, you may be able to file a claim with the tow company directly.
Check Local Laws Pertaining to Towing
Some municipalities may have local laws that govern towing behavior. If a tow truck is required to follow certain procedures before towing your vehicle, find out what they are to determine if the proper action was taken by the towing company.
Is the Towing Company Willing to Pay?
If the tow company acknowledges that it caused the damage and is willing to pay, you may be able to file a claim with them for the damage to your car. Keep in mind that your auto insurance policy contract may still require you to notify your insurance company of damage to your car, even if the towing company is paying for the damage. Check your policy to see what your duties are in the event of a loss.
If you'd prefer to have someone else work through the details of the damage and repairs, consider filing a claim with your auto insurance company, provided you have the proper insurance coverage for this type of claim. It's best to file a claim as soon as possible after you're aware of damage to help expedite the resolution of your claim. Even if the towing company is willing to pay for damages, your insurance company may be able to work directly with the towers to settle the claim on your behalf.
Do You Have the Proper Insurance Coverage?
If you file a claim with your insurance company and the damage is covered by your policy, most likely it will fall under Collision coverage since the damage involves another vehicle or object colliding with your car. Check if you have Collision on your policy before you make a claim. If so, you may want to review what your Collision deductible is. For instance, if you have a $500 Collision deductible but the damage amounts to only $300, you still would be responsible for paying the full amount of repairs even if the damage is covered by your policy. If the damage exceeds your deductible, your auto insurance should cover any amount above your deductible.
If your insurance company pays for damage caused by towing, they may choose to subrogate against the towing company, which means they may try to recover any money paid — including your deductible — from the towing company.
In some cases, insurance companies may be able to successfully recover payments, but this isn't a guaranteed result. During subrogation, several steps are taken to recover payment, and these steps could include direct negotiations with the tow company or arbitration between the tow company's insurer and your insurance company.
The bottom line: If you discover damage to your car, your options to fix it may include direct payment from a tow company or from your auto insurance company. Making a claim on your auto insurance policy may or may not affect your rates, but you generally won't see a difference until your current policy term ends.
If you have questions about a situation similar to this, you can discuss them with your insurance company or your local department of insurance.
The information in this blog may vary based on your particular state or situation. Always refer to your insurance policy for your specific coverages.