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  1. #1
    VincentJ is offline Junior Member
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    Excessive wrecking/towing charges? - Virginia

    What is the name of your state? Virginia

    So I'm in an accident this previous Wednesday morning. There was no visibility due to glare from driving into the rising sun, driver in front of me comes to a stop in the road because he can't see and I don't get enough time to react. So I rear ended his truck in my car. Due to the circumstances, no blame was assigned.

    The car was relatively low value, perhaps $700ish at most. Thus, I only had liability insurance on the vehicle and no collision. So now after talking to the establishment that has my car, I'm being told that I'm obligated to pay at least $520 in processing/driver costs and hazmat fees to dispose of the vehicle.

    I'm not at all familiar with these processes, and I just want to know if this is about what I should have been expecting, or if I'm getting the shaft from this place. At this point I just want to get away from this situation while incurring as few fees as possible. I'm not even interested in reacquiring the vehicle as the damage far exceeds its value.
    Last edited by VincentJ; 09-14-2007 at 02:26 PM.
  2. #2
    ecmst12 is offline Senior Member
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    I would suggest contacting a salvage company such Copart about selling your vehicle for the salvage value. You will probably still end up owing the storage lot something, but it will probably offset the cost somewhat.

    Glare or no glare, the accident is still your fault and your insurance will still have to pay for the other car.
  3. #3
    VincentJ is offline Junior Member
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    Quote Originally Posted by ecmst12 View Post
    I would suggest contacting a salvage company such Copart about selling your vehicle for the salvage value. You will probably still end up owing the storage lot something, but it will probably offset the cost somewhat.

    Glare or no glare, the accident is still your fault and your insurance will still have to pay for the other car.
    I'm not claiming anything in terms of fault, I'm letting the police report sort that one out. I'm not at all concerned about the insurance or anything like that at the moment, I just wanted to see if the ballpark figure the storage company gave me was about right.
  4. #4
    ecmst12 is offline Senior Member
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    It really varies a lot, honestly. Some of the storage places are totally shady; I had one that's charging over $1000 for 11 days....$42 per day, but on top of that there's about $5-600 in "administrative fees" and other charges. That was in Manassas. It sounds like they're not trying to gouge you TOO much.

    You can still go the salvage route to help with the cost though. They'll pick up the car from where it is and handle the sale for you. If you get more then the storage costs (and the salvage company's fee), you'll get some back. If less, you'll pay the salvage company the difference. But you'll still end up better off overall.
  5. #5
    outonbail is offline Senior Member
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    Quote Originally Posted by VincentJ View Post
    I'm not claiming anything in terms of fault, I'm letting the police report sort that one out. I'm not at all concerned about the insurance or anything like that at the moment, I just wanted to see if the ballpark figure the storage company gave me was about right.
    Although I'm not familiar with the requirements which vehicle tow/storage companies must adhere to in Virginia, I can tell you how it's done here in California and in several other states I know of. I would imagine Virginia has similar requirements in place.
    In order for towing companies to do towing and provide vehicle storage to the police, sheriff and highway patrol, they must meet specific qualifications. This includes properly trained drivers who must pass a background check and drug screen, they are then issued ID cards which they must carry on all tows, the company must have modern tow trucks, equipped with the latest towing and safety devices, the trucks and equipment are subject to bi-annual inspections, there are specific requirements in insurance coverage, specific location requirements for their storage yard, yard size as well as security requirements being in place, specific hours of operation etc. etc.
    Once a towing company has met all requirements and been entered into the "rotation" or line up which includes all the qualified tow businesses in a specific service area, they are called out to an accident scene in their order of rotation. If they do not show up within the time alloted per the contract, they are canceled and the next company in the rotation is called.
    They are also required to charge a predetermined amount for all the services they provide. They should all be charging the same hook-up fee, mileage, daily storage, gate fee for after hour recoveries and so on. The company may even charge a lesser rate when they are called directly by a citizen for their services, but when they are called by a law enforcement agency, they must charge the rates and fees as they are spelled out in the contract they have with each agency. If they charge more or less than the amount specified in the contract, they risk being suspended, or kicked off the rotation permanently.
    Since towing companies rely on the money generated through these contracts with law enforcement agencies in order to survive, it would be foolish of them to not abide by the contractual terms. They pay higher insurance premiums and have to jump through a lot of hoops to qualify for police towing. All these added expenses would be a big waste of money if they lost their contract for overcharging customers for their services.

    So if the law enforcement agencies in Virginia have a similar arrangement with the towing companies they use to pick up and store vehicles, then the charges you incurred are probably preset and what you would have paid to any other reputable towing company who is contracted with the same law enforcement agency, who requested the towing of your vehicle. Their hands are pretty much tied as far as the rates they charge for tows initiated by the police are concerned.
  6. #6
    ecmst12 is offline Senior Member
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    Quote Originally Posted by outonbail View Post
    They are also required to charge a predetermined amount for all the services they provide. They should all be charging the same hook-up fee, mileage, daily storage, gate fee for after hour recoveries and so on. The company may even charge a lesser rate when they are called directly by a citizen for their services, but when they are called by a law enforcement agency, they must charge the rates and fees as they are spelled out in the contract they have with each agency. If they charge more or less than the amount specified in the contract, they risk being suspended, or kicked off the rotation permanently.
    I'm pretty sure that's not the case in VA. California tends to have a lot more stringent consumer protection laws in place then other states.
  7. #7
    outonbail is offline Senior Member
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    Quote Originally Posted by ecmst12 View Post
    I'm pretty sure that's not the case in VA. California tends to have a lot more stringent consumer protection laws in place then other states.
    According to Virginia senate Bill 134, they in fact do regulate their towing industry with many of the same requirements that are in place in California.


    Senate Bill 134 made a number of amendments to existing Virginia statutes governing
    towing and recovery operators. They are reviewed here in the order in which they
    appeared in the bill.
    Mechanic’s Lien Expansion: The law expanded the definition of a mechanic’s lien to
    include “towing, storage, and recovery” in addition to the present “keeping, supporting,
    and care” provision. It increased from three to seven days the time limit for garage
    keepers to obtain vehicle data from the Department of Motor Vehicles and to provide a
    written notice to the owner of a stored vehicle. The law also raised the so called “junk car”
    threshold from $5,000 to $7,500; and increased from $25 to $50 per day the amount owed
    to an owner if the seller fails to pay to the owner within 30 days any surplus gained from
    the sale of the vehicle and satisfaction of the lien.
    Unattended or Immobile Vehicles: SB 134 creates procedures by which towing and
    storage companies can seek to recover their fees and charges for towing and storing
    immobilized and abandoned vehicles. For example, where a vehicle is stolen or illegally
    used by an individual other than the vehicle’s owner, the owner is relieved of any storage,
    towing and recovery fees if the owner removes the vehicle from the recovery lot within
    five business days of being notified by the recovery operator. If the vehicle’s owner fails
    to meet this deadline, that individual will be responsible for the fees, but can recover
    them from the state treasury from the appropriation for criminal charges. Similarly, where
    an insurance company has become the successor in interest of a stolen vehicle, the insurer
    is also able to be reimbursed by the state treasury.
    Local Government Ordinances: The law allows a local governing body to create an
    ordinance dealing with local regulations, but specifies that it cannot be less restrictive
    than the regulations established by the Board of Towing and Recovery Operators. SB 134
    also expands a localities’ ability to regulate “trespass tows” and provides that, in the event
    a vehicle is towed from one locality and stored in another, the ordinances of the locality
    from which the vehicle was towed shall apply.
    The law also provides for the so-called “secondary tow.” When a vehicle is towed as the
    result of a police towing request, the towing and recovery operator, upon receipt of a
    written request from the vehicle’s owner and payment in full for all towing, recovery, and
    storage charges, shall release the vehicle to another location for repair, storage, or
    disposal. The definition of “owner” has been expanded to include insurance companies
    representing the owner. As for payment, all towing and recovery businesses are required
    to accept cash, insurance company checks, certified checks, money orders, at least one of
    two commonly used, nationally recognized credit cards, or any additional methods of
    payment approved by the Board.
    SB 134 also requires that signs used to provide notice that a trespassing vehicle will be
    towed include at least the non-emergency telephone number of the local law-enforcement
    agency or the telephone number of the towing and recovery business authorized to
    perform the tows.
    The bill also prohibits local requirements that towing and recovery businesses provide
    service as repair facilities, body shops, or gas stations. Under this measure, localities
    would be authorized by ordinance to require photographic evidence to justify “trespass
    tows,” posting of signs providing notice of where towed vehicles may be reclaimed and
    the name and telephone number of the local consumer affairs office, and obtaining the
    so-called “second signature” from the property owner/agent prior to tows.
    Additionally, the bill prohibits certain relationships between towing and recovery
    businesses and the individuals who sign an authorization of a trespass tow.
    The maximum allowable hookup and initial towing fee for trespass tows of passenger
    cars is increased from $85 to $125, unless a local ordinance sets a different limit, and the
    amount of additional fees for late night, weekend, and holiday tows is raised from $10 to
    $25, but is not to exceed $50.
    The bill allows local governments, by ordinance, to prohibit storage charges for times
    when owners cannot reclaim their vehicles because the towing and recovery business is
    closed. It also places caps on the charges these businesses may impose and requires any
    such limits be subject to “periodic and timely” adjustments. Local towing and advisory
    boards are required to have an equal number of local law-enforcement agency and towing
    and recovery operator representatives, plus one “civilian.” They must meet at least once a
    year at the call of the chairman, who is to be chosen annually by a majority vote of the
    board. Board for Towing and Recovery Operators Senate Bill 134 creates a new chapter
    (46.2-2800 through 46.2-2828) that establishes the Board for Towing and Recovery
    Operators to license and regulate the towing and recovery industry and tow truck drivers.
    The Board will consist of 15 members, two of whom are appointed by the Governor, four
    by the Speaker of the House of Delegates, three by the Senate Committee on Rules and
    three citizens appointed at large. As well, the commissioners of the Department of Motor
    Vehicles and Agriculture and Consumer Services and the Superintendent of the State
    Police or their designees are members. The Board is allowed to hire an executive director
    to oversee day-to-day operations.
    One of the Board’s primary responsibilities is setting the licensing standards for all Class
    A or Class B operators,who will be required on and after July 1, 2008 to hold a license.
    Among its charges, the Board can establish the qualifications of applicants for licensure,
    create an examination process, determine fees for licensure and renewal, develop a
    complaint process and draft regulations to revoke, suspend, or deny the renewal of a
    license for violations of the chapter. Applicants who successfully complete the
    licensing process will be issued a one-year tow driver qualification document. The
    applicants also will be required to have a valid driver’s license or commercial driver’s
    license, show written proof of being employed by a licensed recovery operator, not be a
    registered sex offender and have their fingerprints cleared by the FBI’s Central Criminal
    Records Exchange. As well, the Board may, by regulation, create temporary tow truck
    driver authorization documents, valid for less than five years, for non-Virginia residents.
    The chapter requires the Board to create by regulation public safety towing and recovery services and allows the Board to establish continuing education requirements. The Virginia Department of Treasury is required to provide loans of $350,000 for each of the first two fiscal years to assist the Board with its start-up costs until self-funding mechanisms are established and implemented
  8. #8
    ecmst12 is offline Senior Member
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    Doesn't seem to talk much about accident tows, mostly about trespassing tows. I didn't see a regulation of storage fees either. It regulates towing charges but specifies only for trespass tows.
  9. #9
    outonbail is offline Senior Member
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    Well, the following law states that the local city or county government can regulate the towing services. Which of course tells us they can chose not to as well. The reason I believe they generally would, is because it brings them money. The towing company I have a connection with has to pay a fee to the city for every vehicle we tow at their request. In addition, with almost every vehicle the police impound, the owner must also pay the police a "release fee" before they can recover their vehicle by paying the tow company all of it's fees.
    The cost of this release varies from city to city but it is usually between one to two hundred dollars. Plus the vehicle owner has to show the vehicle is currently registered and insured and pay any outstanding parking tickets showing against it. So the cost to recover a vehicle that was impounded by the police can go through the roof rather quickly depending on the circumstances.
    The OP states that there is a charge for processing, which I would imagine is the cost of running the lien paperwork and whatever administration duties they perform in keeping track of the vehicle. The driver charge is a new one on me, unless it's the actual charge for towing the vehicle, which would include a hookup fee and and mileage. The hazardous waste fee is a popular scam with almost everyone in the automotive field these days. Even the uniform companies that provide shop rags, carpet runners and uniforms for the employees charge a hazard waste fee these days. I guess if you handle or have to dispose of any grease, oil, batteries or old tires, you can legally rape your customers for this fee.

    But if the OP feels the towing charges are extremely out of line, I would suggest that they contact the agency that requested the towing and speak with them on the matter. If they have no control over what the tow company charges, then it will at least be another nail in the companies coffin. Because no police agency wants to field complaint calls for a towing company on a regular basis. So sooner or later they will stop using them for police towing just so they don't have to deal with another pissed off Joe Public every day.
    Of course in Virginia, I suppose the chief of police's brother could be running the tow company, who's to say...



    § 46.2-1217. Local governing body may regulate certain towing.

    The governing body of any county, city, or town by ordinance may regulate services rendered pursuant to police towing requests by any business engaged in the towing or storage of unattended, abandoned, or immobile vehicles. The ordinance may include delineation of service areas for towing services, the limitation of the number of persons engaged in towing services in any area, including the creation of one or more exclusive service areas, and the specification of equipment to be used for providing towing service. The governing body of any county, city, or town may contract for services rendered pursuant to a police towing request with one or more businesses engaged in the towing or storage of unattended, abandoned, or immobile vehicles. The contract may specify the fees or charges to be paid by the owner or operator of a towed vehicle to the person undertaking its towing or storage and may prescribe the geographical area to be served by each person providing towing services. The county, city, or town may establish criteria for eligibility of persons to enter into towing services contracts and, in its discretion, may itself provide exclusive towing and storage service for police-requested towing of unattended, abandoned, or immobile vehicles. Such criteria shall, for drivers of tow trucks and towing and recovery operators, be no less restrictive than those established pursuant to Chapter 28 (§ 46.2-2800 et seq.) of this title and regulations adopted pursuant thereto.

    Prior to adopting an ordinance or entering into a contract pursuant to this section, the local governing body shall appoint an advisory board to advise the governing body with regard to the appropriate provisions of the ordinance or terms of the contract. The advisory board shall include representatives of local law-enforcement agencies, towing and recovery operators, and the general public.

    "Police-requested towing" or "police towing request," as used in this section, includes all requests made by a law-enforcement officer of the county, city, or town or by a State Police officer within the county, city, or town pursuant to this article or Article 2 (§ 46.2-1209 et seq.) of this chapter and towing requests made by a law-enforcement officer at the request of the owner or operator of an unattended, abandoned, or immobile vehicle, when no specific service provider is requested by such owner or operator.

    If an unattended, abandoned, or immobile vehicle is located so as to impede the free flow of traffic on a highway declared by resolution of the Commonwealth Transportation Board to be a portion of the interstate highway system and a law-enforcement officer determines, in his discretion, that the business or businesses authorized to undertake the towing or storage of the vehicle pursuant to an ordinance or contract adopted pursuant to this section cannot respond in a timely manner, the law-enforcement officer may request towing or storage service from a towing or storage business other than those authorized by such ordinance or contract.

    If an unattended, abandoned, or immobile vehicle is towed as the result of a police-towing request, the owner or person having control of the business or property to which the vehicle is towed shall allow the owner of the vehicle or any other towing and recovery business, upon presentation of a written request therefor from the owner of the vehicle, to have access to the vehicle for the purpose of inspecting or towing the vehicle to another location for the purpose of repair, storage, or disposal. For the purpose of this section, "owner of the vehicle" means a person who (i) has vested ownership, dominion, or title to the vehicle; (ii) is the authorized agent of the owner as defined in clause (i); (iii) is an employee, agent, or representative of an insurance company representing any party involved in a collision that resulted in a police-requested tow; or (iv) is a person subject to a security interest in another person, is entitled to the use and possession of the vehicle, including a lessee under a lease intended as security, but not including a lessee under a lease not intended as security. It shall be unlawful for any towing and recovery business to refuse to release a vehicle to the owner as defined in this section upon tender of full payment for all lawful charges by cash, insurance company check, certified check, money order, at least one of two commonly used, nationally recognized credit cards, or additional methods of payment approved by the Board.

    The vehicle owner who has vested ownership, dominion, or title to the vehicle shall indemnify and hold harmless the towing and recovery operator from any and all liability for releasing the vehicle to any vehicle owner as defined in this section for inspecting or towing the vehicle to another location for the purpose of repair, storage, or disposal.

    (Code 1950, § 46-5.1; 1956, c. 114; 1958, c. 541, §§ 46.1-3, 46.1-3.02; 1960, cc. 75, 204; 1966, c. 297; 1972, c. 267; 1974, c. 142; 1977, c. 666; 1980, c. 551; 1978, c. 282; 1984, cc. 64, 190, 381; 1985, c. 91; 1988, c. 520; 1989, c. 727; 1993, c. 405; 1999, c. 78; 2006, cc. 874, 891.)
  10. #10
    You Are Guilty is offline Senior Member
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    Just a general point of procedure here - someone up above cited a bill as "proof". Given that it was a Senate Bill (not even joint), we might want to check out this site to learn why that was a no-no: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mEJL2Uuv-oQ

    In the meantime, it does appear that the bill was passed, albeit with some changes:
    http://leg1.state.va.us/cgi-bin/legp504.exe?ses=061&typ=bil&val=sb134

    The final statute wording appears here:
    http://leg1.state.va.us/cgi-bin/legp504.exe?061+ful+CHAP0891
    (glancing at it, it does look like there are caps on certain storage charges)
    Quote Originally Posted by Tranquility
    Once you get to crazy land, it is only a guess on how to get out.

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