Being involved in a car accident is a fear all drivers share. 

Imagine yourself behind the wheel after a long day at work, excited to be away from the office, heading home for a relaxing evening. You’re driving just as you should, paying attention to the vehicles around you, observing the rules of the road … and then another driver collides with you. 

Your car takes serious damage, and you can’t simply drive the rest of the way safely. You need help – but how can you be sure you only receive the assistance of an ethical, professional tow truck driver and not a scammer?

Only Trust a Firm You Have Contacted

Let’s say you’re involved in a collision with another car. The perpetrator speeds away, and moments later, a tow truck miraculously turns a corner, ready to help. 

If you or the police weren’t responsible for calling them in, there’s a high chance it’s all a scam. Beware of tow trucks lacking any signage or drivers asking for personal information they don’t need. 

If in doubt, ask for the name of their firm and call their office to ask if they employ anyone by the driver’s name. Alternatively, you can Google the firm and see how reputable they are.

If you don’t trust a tow truck driver who comes to your aid without solicitation, ask them to leave. If they refuse or start actually preparing your car for removal, call the police. Try to attract the attention of other drivers and make it riskier for the scammer to stay present. 

Contact your Insurer

Police attending the scene of an accident will generally call a local towing firm to deal with the vehicles involved. However, you should contact your insurance provider as soon as you can after the accident, and ask them to suggest a reputable towing business in the area. 

This is far safer than simply taking the word of a passing tow truck driver. 

Know Your Rights

There are certain laws in place to protect you from unethical towing firms, and legitimate businesses will adhere to these at all times. 

In California, a towing business has to have their own DMV Motor Carrier Permit, and you can check to see if they have one on the DMV’s California website. 

If your vehicle is towed away after a small accident, the driver doesn’t actually have the right to take it away immediately. They have to release your car upon request before they hit a public road, but they are still legally able to ask that you pay up to half of their usual towing charge. 

If you think that your car has been taken away without your proper authorization or is not complying by the rules, you should contact the local police and file a complaint with the Better Business Bureau in your area. 

It’s vital to only work with towing firms which have only valid certification to deliver their services, and have a solid reputation. You can check all of this information online within a couple of minutes, and though this may seem difficult after being involved in an accident, it can mean the difference between paying a fair rate and having your car held to ransom – if not losing it altogether. 

“The best towing firms are committed to providing the best, most fair, most helpful service possible,” says an executive for Toro Road Runners, a provider of towing services in San Jose. “The risk of being scammed is low, but only accept help from towing businesses you have contacted and which stick to the rules. Trust your instincts and ask for the driver’s information if in doubt.”