When you’ve been in an accident, a tow truck can be a lifesaver. They seem to pop up out of nowhere, ready to assist you at all hours of the day and night. However, law enforcement officials in Los Angeles, and other large metropolitan areas, have been dealing with a new problem concerning these usually innocuous vehicles. Allegedly, a group of tow truck ‘bandits’ has been taking advantage of unsuspecting citizens at the scenes of various accidents. They arrive suddenly, claiming that they have been alerted to your plight by various ‘official’ sources, such as an insurance company or devices like OnStar and convince you to allow them to tow your vehicle. Here’s the catch, they drive off with your car or truck and take it to specific body shops that are in cahoots with the tow truck company. You receive a ridiculously high repair bill and are told that you must pay it or incur high fees for the original tow. What you should be aware of is that, in the state of California, it is illegal for tow trucks to simply show up at the scene of an accident. They must be requested (even if they are waved down) and, thus, cannot solicit business themselves.
If the driver of a tow truck arrives unsolicited, they may be guilty of a misdemeanor pursuant to California Vehicle Code 22513 (“Tow Trucks”). It is also a misdemeanor, according to the same section of the law, for a vehicle to be towed without the permission of the driver or a law enforcement agent. Tow truck drivers who violate this law may be subject to up to 3 months in county jail and a $2,500 fine.