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Deduction for damage claims ~ Very Old Post ~


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Topic Originally Created by Michael McGovern in May of 2005:


Do any motor clubs deduct for property damage without first giving the tow operator a chance to fix/pay/deny the claim of the auto club member? If so, which ones?

If the club gives you an opportunity to protest damages claims, what has been your experience? Positive? Negative?


Corby said:

Don can explain all your questions on this.



MNPOOL said:

Mike good to see you here.



Don 29 Years aka THTDON said:

Oh boy, here comes Pandora's Box. Being a lawyer, Mike, you would probably think that when we are accused of wrongdoing, we would be presumed to be innocent, until proven guilty. That is not how it works with motor clubs and vehicle damage claims. And all of the motor clubs handle this issue the same way. If a customer complains to the motor club that the tower damaged his car, the tower is told to pay up. A couple of years ago, a customer complained to USAC that I put a chip in the paint on the edge of his door. I had performed the call myself, so I went out to inspect the car. There was a chip about the size of an eraser on the top of a pencil on the edge of the door. When USAC called, I was told that the claim had to be settled within 48 hours. That doesn't give you much time to notify the insurance company, if that is appropriate. In the end, the customer never followed up, so nothing came of the claim. Another time, I was accused of damaging the back of a BMW. When I went to pick up the car, I noticed prior damage before I touched the car. So I had the guy at the filling station sign off on the damage before I towed it. The next day, CCMC notified me that the customer complained that I damaged the rear bumper and trunk lid. They went on to say that they had two witnesses that watched me back the car into a lightpole, then park it elsewhere. I had to provide CCMC with a copy of the signed invoice, noting the prior damage, and they also talked to the guy who signed the slip. That is what saved me. If I hadn't had the guy sign off on the damage, I would have ended up paying for it, no question. I went back to the dealership the next night, and discovered that there was no lightpole anywhere around. No question that the customer attempted to set me up, to get someone else to pay for damage that he obviously had done himself. We tow a lot of cars every year. And cars do get damaged from time to time. Thankfully, for me, very seldom. When we do damage a vehicle, we stand behind our work, and always do the right thing. Unfortunately, the motor clubs always act as an advocate for the customer, and never for the tower. I have had my check debited several times over the years. So I have altered how I conduct myself, to avoid situations where I can be blamed for damage that I didn't do. Lately, I have been declining to tow unattended cars from private homes, because there is no one at home to do the walk around inspection with the driver and sign off on the invoice. And I seldom tow a car to a closed dealership at night for the same reason. When we are put in a position where we must tow an unattended car, we should be held harmless because the customer was not present to sign off on it. If the motor clubs would simply let us handle claims ourselves, we would have an opportunity to contest the damage, and let the insurance company represent us. Let the chips fall where they may. But the motor clubs always declare us to be guilty, and demand that we pay for any damage that the customer claims, whether we did it or not. Personally, I don't think that any motor club has the right to debit our check, but they do it, and there is not much we can do about it. If my check was wrongfully debited, and I decided to sue them to get the money back, there is probably a 50/50 chance that I would win the case. But in the long run, I would lose, as I am sure that I would lose my contract with them. When you look at how much business you do with a club in the course of a year, it is cheaper to let them do what they want. I can't afford to be right, sometimes. And they know this, which is why they crap all over this industry



Ted said:

Thanks for spelling this out. Not towing anymore, I want to get some better type of coverage for towing. The options being an insurance policy ( a company with the initials SF was pretty good dealing with the company I used to work for) or a motor club. After seeing some of the postings regarding the way the MC's rip off the towers, they will never get a dime of my money.

While not driving anymore, a towers friend I'll always be!


unknown Member said:

Well, I had a damage claim with CCAS several months ago (there's a long thread about it in this forum). Basically the claims rep ignored me until the claim was old enough to be automatically paid. I finally got ahold of the claims manager, and I was told the claim decision was reversed, but to date they have not returned the money to me...

But it's like they say, if you want the MC's money, you have to play their game... Sometimes that involves taking your licks. You just have to stay vigilant...


ncoast said:

The only damage claim I have had in almost 5 years (knock on wood) was small, and taken care of between me and the customer.

If I had one that I thought was wrong, or the customer was trying to get over, the first thing I would do is call my agent, and start a claim. That should stop the MC from deducting any money. Then your insurance company's adjuster decide's weather to pay or not.

If the adjuster thinks its a legitimate claim, you can still pay out of your pocket, and it wont affect your insurance rates.

I have never read on here, where some one has contacted their ins. co. Then called the MC and told them it was being investigated.

You cant stick your head in the sand and hope the claim goes away. You calling the MC and saying We didn't do that isn't going to work. A adjuster saying you didn't will.

This isn't directed at any one, Just my opinion.


Don 29 Years aka THTDON said:

I don't think that you get it. I believe that the motor clubs are obligated to their clients to act as an advocate for the motorist. The way the game is played is, they declare you guilty, and either you, or your insurance company pays. They don't care which. But there is no denying the claim. They do not want to hear that. I had a claim that was made last year that I am positive we did not do. After me arguing with him that we did not do the damage, the motor club damage claim person told me in no uncertain terms that I had 24 hours to provide him with a claim number. And if my insurance company didn't pay the claim, I would pay it by them debiting my next check. If you think that by you establishing a claim, that it will hold off the motor club damage claim person, you have another thing coming. They want these claims settled quickly. They do not care whether or not you really did the damage or not. If a customer complains about damage, they want you to pay, whether you are guilty or not. It is not fair to us how they handle complaints of damage. But they have us all over a barrel.


unknown Member said:

If you have a claim you REALLY need to fight, you can inform the MC and the customer that if the MC debits the claim from you, you will file a lawsuit against the customer to recover the funds.. I know that's playing hardball, but sometimes that's what is necessary, especially if someone is trying to rip you off!


Don 29 Years aka THTDON said:

A few years ago, we had a car owner complain about a little underside damage, after her jack broke. This incident did happen, so there was no disputing it. The motor club told me to go to the dealership and look at the damage. I called the dealership, and the woman in service told me to pound sand, and she hung up on me. I only wanted a little information, and I was nice to her. She surprised me with her nasty attitude. Come to find out, the motor club had already paid the customer, and had already debited my check BEFORE they notified me of the problem. So I was dead at the starting line. Not knowing this at the time, I went ahead and also cut the woman a check. So she collected twice. When I got my next check, I was confused that all of the calls that they listed added up to much more than the amount that was on the check. That is when I realized that I had been screwed. I sent the woman a certified letter, threatening to sue her for my money back. Later, I talked to her on the phone, and asked her why she had cashed my check, knowing that she had already collected. Naturally, she played dumb. (Maybe she was not playing?) She did return the money.http://tow411.net/images/banners/sigdon29yrs.gif

unknown Member said:

That's why I stay away from those factory jacks. You have to have the parking brake set, the wheels chocked, and the vehicle on a level surface for them to work properly. Otherwise, they just fold right up.

I use hydraulic scissors jacks from Harbor Freight for pinchweld jacking, they are much stronger than the factory jacks, although I DO have to replace them about every 5 - 6 months because the pins get loose from side loading. However, that 5 - 6 months is hundreds of uses..... The problem is just that the pins are pressed in, a few minutes with the welder and I should be able to double the life of the jacks...


dnh Towing said:

mike,you know my response on this issue.this week we had a geico cust claim damage.we investigated and it looks like dealer damage from pushing it into the service bay.a geico rep also checked the the vehicle.geico rep said they would probably cover it and not to worry.all our experiences with geico have been handled to our mutual agreement.we can always get someone on the phone at geico.

now cc good luck trying to reach someone.i still think its border line ins fraud on behalf of the motor club for just paying out money and expecting results in an unrealistic time frame. dave


Michael McGovern said:

Thanks for the great responses. dnh and I spoke about this issue at length at the Florida Tow Show.

Now, the question that really counts: what, if anything, do your various motor club contracts say about damage claims and how will they be handled?


courtesy towing said:

Hi Mike, good to see you here . A club has never deducted from my insurance or my check for a claim. They have always given me the opportunity to investigate to an extent. They seem to want us to work through them, but I always bypass them and go through my computer to get the customer's info. I then talk the driver accused, develop pictures, and set an appointment with the customer. I have usually been able to resolve with some mediation. I don't always fight every fight , I pick my battles and always try to make the best business move. Sometimes I pay for BS , but it keeps me out of court and my insurance rates low. We take pictures and note damages prior to towing. That is not the final word if the is a claim . The customer can always state that you took the pictures and noted the damage after it occurred . We also call the club and report any pre-existing damage that appears to be towing related prior to servicing, (like scraped bumpers and torn tow hooks).

Our main problem is servicing motor clubs that are insurance based, (ex. Geico, Allstate, ect). These types of clubs do not honor your damage waivers period. Even if a "supervisor" authorizes the waiver, it is useless. Read your contract as their damage claims department will tell you. They will say "Were you so naive to think that a lowly shift supervisor could supersede your written, binding contract that obligates you to all damages that our investigation find you liable for." I could be wrong but if the investigation finds you are not responsible for the damage; then guess who has to pay? The insurance company. DUH??!!!! Do you think there just might be a little bias in that investigation. One of our main problems down here in Florida is the little low riders with one inch of ground clearance. We have been told off the record to GOA these calls and move on. Our damage waivers will not hold water period. If the customer calls you back out there as a cash call then there is no superseding contract obligating you to those damages. It is between you and the customer, and only then you waiver will work . This is obviously not in the best interest of the customer, but we are only playing by the rules they provided. If there is a low rider, pre-existing damage the customer will not acknowledge, or winching, we do the only thing they will let us do based on their rules; Leave that poor guy sitting on the side of the road with no assistance while we drive away with a low pay GOA . Then you wonder if you are going to get sued for that as well. It has already been established that is a tow company leaves a customer stranded they may be held at least partially responsible for additional damages to the car or injury to the customer as a result of you failure to least tow the car or drop the customer off in a safe area. In some states there is a law that states that you cannot refuse to to a customer to a least the next exit on a highway simply because they can't pay for it.

What a paradox?????


Don 29 Years aka THTDON said:

As far as low-riders are concerned, we have a ton of them around here. We have to tow them for the police. So we do the best we can not to damage them. It isn't easy, though. Some **** took a car that was perfectly towable, and turned it into a problem. Now it's my problem. A low rider should not have a valid inspection sticker on in in this state because it is illegal to alter a vehicle from it's factory original height. So when we damage one, that's always my defense. And I have good luck with that. When we did inspection stickers, a low-rider would not make it into the garage because the cement apron is too steep, and the ant-eater spoiler would scrape. When someone calls up to have a low-rider towed for cash, I charge $100 plus mileage. When the customer asks why so much, I point out to him that it is a lot more work to tow a low-rider safely than an unaltered car. Usually, they decline. And I flatly refuse to tow a low-rider for any motor club, for obvious reasons.


dnh towing said:

i have reviewed all my contracts and the majority have nothing to say about debiting payments for damage claims.some motor clubs ask that they be listed as additional insured on our policy to indemnify them from loss.but that clause means that our ins is to handle any claims.

i know this is a problem that has or will effect every towing company now or in the future.

some towing companies may be reluctant do discuss damage claim issues they have had,because of the implied threat of sanctions from various motor clubs,i.e loss of income,loss of calls and my company is no exception.some motor club executives could interpret this as an attack aganist them or their company.if thats the case they all have legal departments,maybe its time they start doing their job by coming up with a contract that spells out everything and in layman terms so there's no more misunderstandings.

over the years we have had damage claims,some that were clearly our fault and we payed for,others that were down right fraud and we have been successful in having them denied.we have never had any payments debited to date,but i know sooner or later there's going to be an issue that can't be resolved to our mutual agreement.

my parents are old school and i was raised that way as well,it may be a bad business decision,but right now if any of our payments were debited and we were clearly not to blame i would fight it,on principal or a matter of right and wrong,or what ever you want to call it,i would fight over a few hundred dollars while risk losing thousands in motor club work.i'll also add bad business decision or not i am open minded enough to get professional advice and do whats best for my company and the people that work for me or as i like to say the people that work with me.so there are alot of things to consider when handling damage claims,alot of hard choices. dave


Don 29 Years aka THTDON said:

I found the same thing as dnh did. My contracts say that I must name the motor club as the additional insured. No where can I find anything that specifically addresses the motor club having the right to debit our revenue. Kind of defeats the purpose of having insurance, doesn't it?http://tow411.net/images/banners/sigdon29yrs.gif

Dennis Richards said:


Its great to see your a neutral party on topics like this, typical lawyer.

Let me start by saying my wonderful motor club career started as a Damage vehicle Coordinator at CCAS. I will say my towing back ground really helped in most cases but I will also say I did not blame a Service Provider for one damage when a walk around the vehicle was done by a driver and any and all noted damage was noted on the invoice. If you have this I believe (maybe Mike will put in his two cents in) this will take care you of if the customer takes you to court. When I was at CCAS my team acted as a mediator with damage complaints, I'm not sure if things have changed over the last year they may have. At G/E if the damage team can not come to a conclusion the Regional Manager will get involved and try and mediate the damage also.

I will also say this, I know there are a lot of professional companies out there but not all will admit something when there wrong or damage is done especially on a driver level. Drivers do not want to be the one doing damage. i will say I denied a lot of damages, filed Insurance Fraud claims against customers, dealerships, repair shops etc.

See ya in the ditch Mike....



Don 29 Years aka THTDON said:

Dennis, my question to you is, what do we do when we are asked to pick up a car that is unattended? That seldom happens with the club that you are currently employed by. But it happens every day at the club that you were employed by previously. We are frequently called upon to pick up a car at a person's home. And the person has gone off to work, and there is no one at home to do the walk around, and sign off on existing damage. When I indicate that I want someone to be present to sign off on the tow, I frequently get told that they will call another tower that isn't concerned about liability. So in the course of me covering my butt, and doing the job correctly, I lose the job. So much for the professional tow company.


Dennis Richards said:


I can't speak of current procedures today at CCAS but what I use to recommend to providers was if your driver arrives on scene and there is damage, contact the customer make he/ she aware of the damage, see how they respond. If its a "yes I know its there", I then would recommend contacting the MC and have them comment the call, I would also get the name and rep ID, you got it, cover your butt. If the owner responds " I don't know what your talking about", I'd recommend telling them to call back there road side company and arrange for service when they can be with the vehicle. This way you don't refuse the call (still keeping good call acceptance) and worst case scenario you get paid a GOA. I will say that a walk around and legible signature at the dealership/ repair facility also will exclude you from any damage done by a Repair Facility. We've been using digital camera's in Worcester along with contacting the customer and we've had 0 damage claims. What you see is the condition of the vehicle at the breakdown location. We do not take pictures of every tow, just the ones when there is no one with it. It also helped on the "I'm missing two CD cases when you towed my car because I got arrested last night" statements. What we say now is, see this picture with officer Smith next to your vehicle, this is a picture of the interior of your car, can you point to those cases that aren't there so I can start looking for them! You should see there faces!


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