The aftermath of a serious car accident is chaotic and confusing. If you’re dealing with injuries or injured family members at the scene of the accident, the last thing on your mind is worrying about what happens to your damaged vehicle. But once the dust settles on an accident, many car accident victims wonder what happened to their car after they left the accident scene, especially if they need to recover personal items from the vehicle or if they need to assess the damage for an insurance claim or lawsuit.
Many accident victims are stunned to learn that their towed vehicle accrues storage fees for every day that it’s unclaimed. So, what does a car accident victim do after an accident when their damaged vehicle was towed from the scene?
Consensual Towing Vs. Non-Consensual Towing
If you’re alert and conscious at the scene of the accident and you believe your car is drivable, you may wonder why you can’t drive your vehicle away from the scene once cleared by law enforcement officers to leave. Typically, police won’t allow you to drive a heavily damaged car that could present a danger to you or others on the road. For instance, a crumpled hood could spring open while you’re driving and cause another accident. A significant impact may also damage a car’s cooling system or other mechanical systems that present safety hazards.
If you’re alert and still at the scene of the accident, officers generally ask for your signed consent to tow away your vehicle. This is consensual towing which often happens quickly after an accident to clear traffic. Even when crashed vehicles are on the shoulder of the road they may impede traffic flow due to curious onlookers who slow down to observe.
If you were seriously injured in a car accident, an ambulance rushes you from the scene for treatment in a hospital. In this case, the police request a tow of your vehicle without requesting your consent or signature. This police-initiated action is a necessary non-consensual towing.
Where Does a Towed Vehicle Go After an Accident?
If the accident is minor and you remain at the scene instead of taking an ambulance to the hospital, you may request a tow to the repair shop or garage of your choice or to your home. Otherwise, the police may have it towed to a storage yard, impound lot, or salvage yard. You may face significant costs for storage or impound fees if you leave your car in an impound or a police storage yard for many days or weeks. You may also have to pay towing fees.
How Do I Access My Damaged Vehicle or Get It Back After an Accident?
If the police had your car towed after you left the accident scene, you may have to contact the law enforcement agency in the jurisdiction of the accident to determine where they towed your car. Once you locate your vehicle, call the impound lot or other facility to determine their storage costs, their business hours, and what documents you’ll need to bring with you to prove ownership and remove your car. What you do with your vehicle after you regain custody of it depends on the severity of the damage. You may be able to drive the vehicle home or to an auto body or repair shop if the damage is minor. Otherwise, you’ll have to pay additional towing costs to transport the vehicle to a repair shop or for a damage assessment and estimate for repairs or for insurance claim purposes. If the car was totaled and placed in an impound, you’ll need to arrange a tow to auto salvage.
Do I Have to Pay Towing and Storage Fees for My Car After an Accident?
After a car accident, it’s likely that you’ll have to pay the upfront fees for towing and vehicle storage; however, if someone else was at fault in your accident, part of your accident claim for damages may include compensation for these expenses. When another driver’s negligence causes injuries and expenses, you shouldn’t be left responsible for the related costs. Don’t hesitate to speak to a car accident lawyer in Austin today to discuss your legal options.