Motorists Beware: Your Car Could be Held Hostage After Being Towed From an Accident

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After an accident, many people are vulnerable and may be ignorant that some tow truck drivers get kickbacks for referrals to auto body shops.

Joey Gagne, president of the Provincial Towing Association of Ontario, finds people naive if they don’t think tow truck drivers are paid something for referring them somewhere. He adds that they’re not doing it out of the goodness of their heart.

People involved in accidents often don’t pay attention when a tow truck driver gives them something to sign. The tow truck driver knows the person was in an accident and in a state of stress, so they are often nice. Be careful that they are not nicely tricking you into signing things. It is good to be informed and read up on car towing tips long before you are involved in an accident. That way you’ll know what to watch out for, and not sign anything that may cost you dearly down the road.

A common technique used by shady tow truck drivers is to recommend a specific body shop and assure you that the shop wouldn’t touch your car until you ironed out details with your insurance company. The reality is however that if you’re not careful, you might have signed a work order that gives the body shop permission to fix your car. If that is the case, the body shop could charge exorbitant storage fees and refuse to release your car until this has been paid. It could take months of negotiation to get the car fixed and returned, especially if the body shop is not approved by your insurance company.

A recent CBC Marketplace investigation revealed that Canadians are at risk of being ripped off by some tow truck drivers and auto body shops.

Several people interviewed have had auto body shops hold their cars hostage until they paid for services they did not approve, including rental cars, storage fees, admin fees and repairs. The bills often added up to thousands of dollars and although insurance might cover these costs, consumers can end up paying higher premiums. One tow truck driver explained that it was common practice for body shops to pay the drivers to bring them accidents. The payments varied between $200 and $500.

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