What Happens When Your Car Is Towed After an Accident?

Accidents are stressful for many reasons, but they’re especially stressful because there are often so many unknowns. For example, if you get into an accident, what happens to your car?

If your car is drivable, you’ll be able to drive away from the scene. If it’s too badly damaged, the police may call a tow truck for you or ask you to call one. If your car needs a tow, there are a few important things you should do before it arrives:

  • Photograph the scene of the accident from multiple angles. Take photos of your car’s exterior and interior, as well as photos of the other vehicles involved. These can be used later for evidence in your insurance claim or a lawsuit.
  • Exchange insurance information with the other driver(s) involved and collect statements from any eyewitnesses at the scene. The easiest way to do this is to ask if you can record them on your phone.
  • Once your car gets towed it may be several days before you have access to it again. Make sure to remove anything of importance or value from your vehicle.
  • If possible, see if your auto body shop can receive the car. This may not always be possible, but it will save time and money to have the vehicle towed to the place you plan on having it repaired.
  • If you have time, call your insurance company. You’ll need to report the accident to them eventually, but your policy may cover tows under certain situations. If tows are covered, you may be required to use a specific towing company. However, if the accident is blocking the road or creates unsafe conditions in any way, there may not be time; the police will contact a towing service as quickly as possible to get the accident cleared.
  • Get the following information from the tow truck driver:
    • Where they’re towing your car
    • How much you’ll be charged for the tow
    • If there are any additional fees you’ll be responsible for paying
    • The cost of storage at their tow yard versus having your car towed to a body shop
    • Documentation, such as a receipt or invoice, before you hand your car over to them

You should only release your car to a tow truck driver who’s been called to the scene. Although it’s unlikely, there is a possibility of a different tow truck company showing up and trying to charge you more. Also, be aware that tow truck scams exist. Contact a reputable company and watch out for red flags like asking for your credit card information over the phone.

Where will the car get towed?

Tow truck with crane solid icon, heavy equipment concept, tow car sign on white background, Car towing truck icon in glyph style for mobile concept and web design. Vector graphics

Once the tow truck arrives, the driver will ask where you’d like to have your car towed. It’s best to specify an auto body shop that you’d like your car to go to, but if it’s after hours or you aren’t sure, the driver will be able to provide some options. If you were incapacitated when the tow truck arrives, the police will request to have the car towed to the nearest salvage yard. If this happens, you’ll likely be responsible for storage fees.

Depending on your policy, your auto insurance may cover towing and storage after an accident. Some plans will only cover these fees if you also have roadside assistance coverage. California is an “at fault” state, so the motorist (and their insurance company) who caused the accident is responsible for paying the damages to the other party, including towing and storage fees.

Even if you’re not responsible for the fees, you should try to retrieve your vehicle as soon as you’re able because insurance companies will only pay for the fees for as long as they seem reasonable. After that time, you’ll be responsible for the bill.

It’s also important to make sure you don’t let your car get towed away before the police arrive at the scene of the accident because they’ll need to write up a report about what happened and the extent of the damage.

Immediate transportation from the accident

After your car is towed, you’ll need to find transportation away from the scene of the accident. If the accident happened close to home, you may be able to get a ride with the tow truck driver – but keep in mind that they’re not obligated to take you. Tow trucks also have limited cab space, so if you have several people with you, this may not be an option.

Some other options are to call a friend or family member, a taxi, or a ride-sharing service to pick you up. If you’re unsure of whom to call, the police can offer some suggestions. If you pay for transportation of any kind, be sure to save receipts, especially if the other driver was at fault – you may be able to get reimbursement.

Rental cars

Likewise, if you need a rental car after the accident, you may be able to receive reimbursement from your insurance company. If you have rental reimbursement coverage, the insurer will typically pay for a rental car until your damaged car is repaired, declared a total loss, or you hit the maximum number of days covered by your policy. Generally, there are both daily and total maximums.

What if you were blameless in the accident? If you don’t have rental reimbursement coverage, you’ll need to open a claim against the at-fault driver’s insurance, and an adjuster will work with you to arrange for the coverage. Keep in mind that this process can take several days – sometimes longer. If fault is in dispute, the insurance company may deny your claim, and you’ll need to pay out of pocket and get reimbursed later. If coverage is denied, it may be worth talking to an attorney.

Once you have a rental car, it should be comparable to your vehicle. If you’d like a rental that’s bigger or somehow fancier than your car, you’ll be expected to pay out of pocket for the upgrade. How long you’ll be able to keep the rental car depends on how long it takes for your car to be repaired or declared a total loss. After that, you’ll be expected to pay for the rental.

Need help after an accident? Call Cline Collision Center!

Dealing with every aspect of an accident is stressful – especially navigating the ins and outs of insurance. That’s why we do everything we can to help make your repair process as hassle-free as possible. We’ll coordinate with your insurance on your behalf and are happy to arrange for a rental car for you if needed. As an OEM (original equipment manufacturer) shop, we use only OEM parts and repair methods, so you can have peace of mind that your car is completely restored to its perfect pre-accident condition. We also make it easy for you to track the repair process through our online system, so you won’t be left wondering when your car will be ready to pick up.

We hope you’ll never need a body shop, but if you do, you can rely on Cline Collision Center – your auto body advocates! Contact us today at 707-591-9909 or schedule your appointment online.