While San Diego doesn’t have as much traffic congestion as other parts of southern California, such as Los Angeles, it is still the eighth-largest city in the U.S., with well over a million people, and regularly ranks in the top 50 areas most impacted by traffic. Currently, San Diego residents can expect to lose about 56 hours a year sitting in traffic. Where there’s traffic, there are tow trucks. Unfortunately, with tow trucks comes an additional risk of accidents.
Tow trucks aren’t just scary when they pull away your car for parking in the wrong place; they can end up in collisions, causing serious and even fatal injuries due to their size and proportions. Tow truck drivers themselves are at risk of fatal incidents, from vehicle collisions to other inherently dangerous conditions of their profession. If you’ve been injured or have lost someone close to you in a San Diego tow truck incident, call an attorney to find out what options for legal recourse you may have.
The Dangers of Tow Trucks in San Diego
A tow truck driver in San Diego faces many dangers and poses them to other roadway users.
Several types and sizes of tow trucks have different purposes, including:
Light-duty tow trucks. These are Class A vehicles, capable of towing between 7,000 to 11,000 pounds. Commonly used in congested areas and smaller spaces such as garages, they are easier to maneuver and capable of hauling smaller trailers, pickup trucks, passenger cars, and motorcycles.
Medium-duty tow trucks. These Class B vehicles include various flatbeds and lowboys that are capable of hauling up to 17,000 pounds. If drivers have plenty of space to maneuver, they often prefer a medium-duty truck, as it can haul all of the vehicle types that a light-duty truck can carry, plus cargo containers, commercial truck tractors, multiple vehicles, machinery, and farm equipment.
Heavy-duty tow trucks. These Class A vehicles are the largest towing and recovery vehicles on the roadway and the only tow trucks capable of towing loads weighing more than 17,000 pounds. They can haul multiple vehicles, multiple containers, and heavy-duty industrial equipment. They are often used to recover disabled commercial trucks and heavy equipment that has gone down an embankment.
San Diego Tow Truck Driver Risks
One recent study found that workers in the towing industry face a risk of on-the-job fatalities 15 times greater than that faced by workers in all other private industries. Motor vehicle accidents were the leading cause of death for tow truck drivers. The leading cause of non-fatal injuries among tow truck drivers is contact with objects or equipment.
Some of the hazards tow truck drivers face include:
Assisting Disabled Vehicles. Tow truck drivers who remove disabled vehicles from the city’s busy freeway system often find themselves dangerously close to fast-moving vehicles. The number of emergency workers and tow truck drivers killed or seriously injured by distracted drivers in fast-moving vehicles has prompted most states in the nation—including California in 2009—to institute Move Over Laws, which require drivers to slow down and vacate the lane closest to an emergency vehicle, Caltrans vehicle with its amber lights flashing, or a tow truck. Unfortunately, many drivers are distracted or unaware of the law and fail to take this important precaution, jeopardizing tow truck drivers’ safety.
Heavy equipment. Tow truck drivers work with heavy vehicles and many moving mechanisms. Sometimes these mechanisms can fail. This can result in injuries caused by being crushed or struck with heavy objects.
Risks to Other Roadway Users
Like all types of large trucks, tow trucks present many hazards to other roadway users, related mainly to the massive size of the vehicle, including:
Significant blind spots.All vehicles have a blind spot, an area near the vehicle—such as the rear sides of a passenger car—that the driver cannot see by using rear- or side-view mirrors. The larger the vehicle, the larger the blind spots. Tow trucks have blind spots on all four sides and an especially large blind spot along the passenger side of the vehicle.
Wide turns. Large trucks can only manage the tighter turns on San Diego’s roadways by making wide turns that require the driver to swing the vehicle into other travel lanes. Lack of awareness and inattention can lead to collisions when tow trucks attempt turns.
Increased distance needed to stop. Stopping a vehicle to avoid a collision is a process involving the driver perceiving a hazard in the roadway, responding by depressing their brakes, and the brake system pulling the weight of a vehicle to a safe stop. The heavier the vehicle is, the longer the distance needed to make a complete stop.
Improperly secured cargo. Tow truck drivers attach their cargo through a series of cables and connections. They must properly secure them to ensure that the cargo does not roll off the vehicle while in transit, a major risk of injury or death to other road users. Tow truck companies must properly train their employees to use the connecting mechanisms on the vehicle and inspect, maintain, and service all parts of the truck.
The Types of Injuries Associated with San Diego Tow Truck Accidents
Whether a tow truck driver strikes another motorist or an individual collides with a tow truck, San Diego tow truck accidents are capable of producing some of the most catastrophic injuries imaginable, including:
Traumatic brain injuries: A traumatic brain injury involves damage to the brain from a sudden blow to the head or body. The brain, which is responsible for controlling the body’s functions and involuntary responses, has only a limited ability to heal after injury. This means that those suffering traumatic brain injuries will often acquire permanent neurological deficits, such as memory loss, an inability to move in a balanced or coordinated manner, difficulty speaking or understanding spoken language, and inability to control behavior or impulses.
Spinal cord injuries:The spinal cord is a bundle of nerves that extends down the back from the base of the skull. The discs and vertebrae of the spine protect it. The spinal cord and the brain make up the body’s central nervous system. The cord’s primary function is to relay messages to and from the brain to other parts of the body. Like the brain, the spinal cord is limited in its ability to recover from damage. This can result in permanent injury such as paralysis, which is a loss of function and sensation below the site of the injury.
Broken bones: Nearly any bone in the body can be broken in either a tow truck accident in which the driver has been struck by a car or an accident where a passenger car has collided with the tow truck or its cargo.
Damage to the spinal vertebrae or discs in the back or neck: Short of spinal cord injuries, back and neck injuries to vertebrae or discs can seriously impact an individual’s mobility and can lead to chronic pain. Such damage often requires surgical treatment to repair.
Internal injuries: While the rib cage protects many of the body’s internal organs, ribs are no match for a tow truck accident. Internal organs that can sustain damage in the impact of a tow truck accident include the liver, spleen, kidney, heart, and lungs. A common type of internal injury is a collapsed lung—known as a pneumothorax—which is generally caused by a broken rib that punctures the lung.
Limb amputations: Contact with sharp or heavy objects is often the culprit in traumatic limb amputation incidents. Body parts can become severed by sharp metal or crushed by the weight of a vehicle or equipment. Surgical amputations can also occur following a tow truck accident if it is necessary to remove a limb that is too severely damaged to repair.
Seeking Compensation After a San Diego Tow Truck Accident
If you were injured or have lost a loved one in a San Diego tow truck accident that someone else’s carelessness or recklessness caused, you can seek compensation for the financial, psychological, and other impacts you have experienced.
You may recover both economic and non-economic damages in a San Diego tow truck accident lawsuit. The term “damages” is used in the legal arena to refer to a payment made in compensation for harm. Economic damages are compensation for the tangible expenses of your injury, while non-economic damages compensate for more abstract, quality-of-life impacts your injury has caused.
Individuals injured in a San Diego tow truck accident can pursue compensation for expenses and impacts such as:
When an individual dies in a San Diego tow truck accident that someone else’s wrongdoing caused, their family can seek compensation for the expenses and impacts of the loss to them. The family members eligible to benefit from this type of action include the deceased’s spouse or domestic partner, children, grandchildren, and other family members who would be entitled to the decedent’s property through intestate succession.
Loss of the financial support provided by the deceased to their family members
Loss of benefits received by family members from the deceased
Funeral and burial expenses
The cost of household services that the deceased can no longer perform
Loss of love, companionship, comfort, care, assistance, protection, affection, society, and moral support
A spouse or domestic partner’s loss of intimacy
Loss of the decedent’s guidance to their children
To bring a successful tow truck accident claim, you must be able to prove that someone else was liable (legally responsible) for the harm or loss you sustained.
In a San Diego tow truck accident where a tow truck injures another road user, the tow truck driver is often liable. Still, liability may also rest with other parties who acted negligently, potentially including the tow truck driver’s employer, a manufacturer of a defective vehicle part that contributed to the accident, or a maintenance company that performed faulty maintenance work that led to the accident.
Where another road user injures a tow-truck driver, they are often the liable party, but others may be liable as well, including those previously mentioned.
You prove liability by showing:
The at-fault party owed you a duty of care, which refers to the actions a reasonable individual would take in similar circumstances to protect the safety and property of others.
There was a breach in the duty of care, which means the at-fault party’s actions violated the duty of care.
The breach resulted in your injury or your loved one’s death.
Were You In a San Diego Tow Truck Accident? An Attorney Can Help You
The population in and around San Diego has steadily increased through the years and is expected to continue to do so for many years to come. While growth to our city adds to the vibrancy and the uniqueness of San Diego, it also increases the number of travelers on the roadway. More travelers mean more accidents, and more accidents mean more tow trucks.
Clearly, tow trucks present risks, and their drivers and employers should not burden you with paying for the fallout of an accident that wasn’t your fault. An attorney can help make sure you do not. An attorney can help you recover from an injury or loss caused by a distracted or speeding driver, or by a defective part on a tow truck that led to injury or death.
An experienced San Diego tow truck attorney has the expertise and knowledge to investigate the accident, identify all potentially liable parties, and pursue maximum compensation on your behalf. Let an experienced San Diego tow truck attorney help.
John Gomez founded the firm alone in 2005. Today, John acts as President and Lead Trial Attorney. He has been voted by his peers as a top ten San Diego litigator in three separate fields: Personal Injury, Insurance and Corporate Litigation. Since 2000, he has recovered over $800 million in settlements and verdicts for his clients with more than 160 separate recoveries of one million dollars or more. A prolific trial lawyer, John has tried to jury verdict more than 60 separate cases.