Monday, January 28, 2008

Car Accident Followed by Thieves

My son was in a car accident recently. It wasn't his fault but that didn't make him feel any better about the fact that his car was totaled. It also meant that now we were down to 2 cars in a family of 4 adults so I had to start getting up at 4:00 am to take him to work (he opens at Starbucks). He was bummed that he didn't have a car anymore and was apologetic that now I had to drive him to work in the middle of the night. I told him that I'm much happier driving him to work at 4 am than having to visit him in the hospital - better the car than him! He saw the wisdom in that and it made him feel better. He found out today that despite the fact that the police office who came to the scene said that my son was not at fault and the other person was, that both my son's insurance company and the other person's (the skunky driver who would not admit fault) insurance company said neither was at fault and so neither would pay. Of course - this way they save money!

But here was the salt in the wound. My son's car was towed by Henry's Towing Service, a local chain of tow shops in Northern Virginia. I told him to be sure not to leave the car there longer than necessary because they would end up charging him a daily rate to keep the car on their lot. Sure enough, he didn't pay attention and left the car there for 12 days while waiting on the insurance companies. So he called and was told that to retrieve his car would now cost $880, which would come out of his pocket unless the insurance company were willing to reimburse him later (and you know how that went!). He had to show his registration card which he could not find. Believing it was in his glove compartment, as it should have been, we went to the tow shop. I was very surprised once there as to how dirty the place was. The customer "lobby" was filthy, the people behind the window were talking amongst themselves, cussing up a storm and laughing, and I saw on the wall behind the window notices to the workers that they were not allowed on certain parking lot properties because the property owners refused them access - a clear sign that they were abusive in their practices.

When my son asked access to his car, they refused, saying until he showed a registration card he couldn't. When he convinced them that the card was probably in the car, they finally let him through. Not finding the registration card, we went home and looked for it there. We found it, and the next morning I called and was told that the cost was now $1,092!! I asked for a breakdown of the cost from the woman on the phone and made a Word table showing the cost breakdown. I gave it to my son and told him to go get his car towed home. The cost included a $250 fee for leaving the car more than 10 days. I asked why and the lady told me it was an administrative fee. I asked what they did after 10 days that was different and she said it was just a policy, meaning it was for no good reason. After all, they were already adding a $50 a day charge for leaving it on their lot.

They also offered to take the title, in other words, to hand over the car permanently so they could sell it for parts. It would cost us $50 to give them the car or the same amount for them to tow it to our house. We told them that the insurance company said that before we could take that option (which we didn't think we would do anyway) we would need to take good pictures of the car so that the insurance company can have some proof of the damage. Well, wouldn't you know it, Henry's Towing said that it was against their rules to have any photos taken on their lot. Why, I have to wonder? Is it because they are scummy and doing possibly illegal things and don't want evidence?

Talk about insult to injury. Not only was my son's car hit while he was driving it, not only did the other person, a late-20s woman driving a minivan with eight other passengers, including one in the front passenger seat holding a baby on her lap in direct violation of the law, not only did she lie so as to not be found at fault, not only did my son lose the use of his car, but then the towing company, HENRY'S, turned out to at least APPEAR to be a den of thieves. You have to wonder!

1 comment:

Joe said...

Again, unfair and unreasonable practices.
You did warn your son though, so you at least knew there would be some charges and conditions.
It seems to me that in an accident that severe (to judge by the pictures) the police should have done a proper investigation, charged the other driver as appropriate (the kid without a seatbelt really makes me mad) and held the car themselves as EVIDENCE.
I worked for a tow truck operator at one time, though in another business. He always was polite with the client, and guarded their property like it was his own. He was repaid by people TRYING to take their vehicles off of his lot without paying any of the fees at all. (Then he put his german shepard into one vehicle, and put another one up onto the wheel blocks of two tow trucks. That is resourceful.)
Of course, Gerry was a small one man operation running out of his home.