Tow truck operators are often the first to respond to motor vehicle accidents – and many drivers who have been in an accident are only too happy to leave the accident scene and have their vehicles towed away. Unfortunately they are often coerced into signing documentation that they might regret later!
It important to keep in mind that Road Legislation stipulates that no vehicle may be towed away without the permission of the vehicle owner:
“(3) Subject to subsection (2), no person shall remove a vehicle involved in an accident from the scene of such accident, except for the purpose of sufficiently allowing the passage of traffic, without the permission of the owner, driver or operator of such vehicle or a person who may lawfully take possession of such vehicle.”
The following suggestions will assist the motorist:
- If you are an AA member, contact the AA to arrange the tow. The AA uses only certain towing companies that comply with a code of conduct and service levels. You also have recourse if something goes wrong.
- Only use the services of the first SATRA or UTASA member to arrive at the scene of an accident. You have the right to choose to use a SATRA or UTASA member, who is bound by a contractually enforceable code of conduct, and protects you, the consumer, from being charged above market related rates.
- If your vehicle is insured, contact your insurer or broker and ask for information on the procedure to follow – have this available in your vehicle at all times.
- If you have car insurance cover that includes towing charges, call the emergency towing assistance number (usually on a sticker provided by the insurance company).
- The roadside assistance services provided by motor manufacturers and cellular service providers inevitably come at an extra cost so if you buy a new car or cell phone contract and roadside assistance forms part of the deal, make sure you are not paying extra for it if you already have this service through someone else.
- If you make use of a roadside assistance product. Make sure you know your rights: in almost all cases you or your insurer will be liable to pay the costs of towing an accident-damaged vehicle.
- Make sure that the accident-damaged vehicle is delivered to a repairer approved by your insurer or, if you are not insured, make sure to collect your vehicle as soon as possible to prevent the accrual of storage charges.
- When dealing with recovery companies, always establish the amount to be charged for all aspects including towing, salvage and storage fees. Always agree on towing charges before your vehicle is towed or you might be in for an unpleasant surprise.
- Get as much information about the tow operator as possible before you agree to the recovery – name of company, driver, and registration of tow truck, physical address and phone number (preferably not a cell phone).
- Always agree on towing charges before your vehicle is towed or you might be in for an unpleasant surprise.
- Do not sign anything. If the tow operator insists, make sure that it is ONLY an authorization to tow the vehicle.
- Remove all valuables from the motor vehicle before it is towed away for repairs.