Who Pays for Towing and Storage After an Accident?

Accidents are always unexpected and can lead to a whirlwind of confusion and stress.

Among the many concerns that arise post-accident is the question: who pays for the towing and storage? This article sheds light on this subject, covering various scenarios and considerations.

1. Understanding the Basics

Insurance Coverage Types

When determining who foots the bill, the type of insurance coverage both parties possess plays a pivotal role. Broadly, there are two categories: comprehensive and collision. Different policies offer varying benefits, so it’s important to understand the specifics.

Comprehensive insurance typically covers damages not resulting from collisions, such as theft or natural disasters. Collision coverage, as the name suggests, pays for damages from collisions, regardless of fault.

At-Fault vs No-Fault States

Different states have varying laws about who is financially responsible after an accident. Some states are “at-fault” meaning the party responsible for causing the accident covers the expenses. This distinction directly impacts how claims are handled and processed.

Conversely, “no-fault” states require each party to utilize their own insurance, regardless of who caused the accident. This can influence towing and storage charges.

Towing Regulations

States and municipalities often have regulations about maximum allowable charges for towing and storage. Familiarizing oneself with these can prevent exorbitant fees. Awareness of local regulations ensures you are not taken advantage of during emergencies.

Some areas have mandatory fee schedules, while others only offer guidelines. Being well-informed can save you money and potential disputes.

Duration of Storage

Charges for vehicle storage can accumulate rapidly. The length of storage often depends on factors like investigations, insurance claim processing, and repairs. Prompt actions can sometimes reduce storage time and, consequently, costs.

Understanding how storage costs accrue and when they become the owner’s responsibility is critical to avoiding unexpected bills.

2. Scenarios and Responsibilities

Driver At-Fault

In “at-fault” states, if a driver is deemed responsible, their insurance should cover the other party’s towing and storage costs. The at-fault driver might also be liable if they lack sufficient insurance. Responsibility often correlates with the degree of fault established.

However, the non-faulty party might initially pay, later seeking reimbursement from the at-fault driver’s insurer.

Shared Fault

Accidents aren’t always black and white. Sometimes, both drivers share responsibility. In these cases, costs might be split based on the degree of fault assigned to each party. It’s a nuanced situation that can sometimes lead to complex claim settlements.

It’s essential to understand comparative and contributory negligence rules in your state, as they’ll influence financial responsibilities.

No Insurance Scenario

If the at-fault party lacks insurance, the other driver’s insurance might cover costs under uninsured motorist coverage, if available. Unfortunately, these situations can lead to prolonged disputes and possible legal actions.

Without this coverage, the non-faulty driver may need to pay out-of-pocket and later seek legal remedies to recoup costs from the at-fault party.

Hit and Run Accidents

In hit and run incidents, where the offending party is unidentified, the victim’s insurance might cover towing and storage under collision or uninsured motorist provisions. It’s a distressing situation, and immediate police reporting can aid in potential resolution.

However, coverage depends on the specific policy details. It’s essential to report hit and runs promptly to the police and your insurer.

3. Countering Common Misconceptions

“Insurance Always Covers Towing”

This is a prevalent misconception. Not all insurance policies automatically include towing and labor coverage. Some require additional purchase of a “rider” or “add-on” for this service. It’s a detail many overlook until the need arises.

It’s crucial to review your policy details or consult with your agent to ensure you’re covered for these expenses.

“Storage Charges are Capped”

While some states have regulations on maximum daily storage fees, others don’t. Assuming a cap can lead to financial surprises. It’s a myth that has led many to accrue large bills unknowingly.

When your vehicle is towed, inquire about storage fees immediately. Keeping a vehicle in storage without knowing the cost can lead to soaring charges.

“My Car, My Choice of Towing Company”

While drivers generally have a say in which towing company is used, in certain emergency situations or if a vehicle is causing a traffic hazard, authorities might order a tow without the owner’s input. It’s a misconception that stems from a desire for control in chaotic situations.

It’s always best to be proactive and request a preferred towing service if possible, but be prepared for exceptions in certain circumstances.

“The At-Fault Party Pays, Always”

While it might seem logical, this isn’t a universal truth. In “no-fault” states, each driver’s insurance covers their own costs. Also, if the at-fault driver is uninsured or underinsured, collecting funds might be challenging. Assumptions in such cases can lead to financial burdens.

Being well-versed in your state’s regulations and your insurance policy details is paramount.

4. Proactive Measures to Avoid Disputes

Document Everything

After an accident, always document the scene. Take photos, note the other driver’s details, and gather witness information. Thorough documentation can be a savior during claim settlements.

This documentation can be invaluable when determining fault and can prevent disputes over towing and storage fees.

Know Your Policy

Understand your insurance policy inside out. Know what’s covered, the deductibles, and any limits. If you’re unclear, seek clarification from your insurer. Periodic checks ensure you’re not caught off guard.

It’s better to ask questions in advance than face surprises after an accident.

Regularly Review and Update Coverage

As life changes, so do your coverage needs. Regularly review and update your insurance policy to ensure it aligns with your current situation. An outdated policy can sometimes be as bad as having no coverage.

Perhaps you moved to a different state or bought a new car. Make sure your policy reflects these changes.

Seek Legal Counsel When in Doubt

If you’re unsure about any aspect post-accident, especially concerning financial liabilities, consider consulting an attorney. They can provide guidance tailored to your specific situation. Legal insights often simplify and expedite resolutions.

5. The Role of External Factors in Towing and Storage Costs

Location of the Accident

The location where the accident occurs can greatly influence towing and storage fees. For instance, urban areas might have higher charges compared to rural regions. It’s a factor often overlooked but can significantly impact the overall cost.

Being aware of local rates and negotiating where possible can aid in reducing potential expenses.

Time of the Accident

Accidents that occur during odd hours or on holidays might attract higher towing charges due to the demand for services. Towing companies may charge extra for services rendered during “off-hours”.

Though one cannot predict accidents, understanding potential time-related costs is beneficial when dealing with towing companies post-accident.

Availability of Nearby Repair Services

If the accident site is near repair shops, it might reduce towing distances and consequently, the costs. On the other hand, remote locations might necessitate longer tows, increasing fees.

When possible, guiding the towing service to a nearby, trusted mechanic or repair shop can save on towing costs and reduce storage time.

Vehicle Type and Condition

The type of vehicle involved in the accident can influence towing charges. Larger vehicles like trucks or SUVs might require special equipment or larger tow trucks, leading to higher fees. Additionally, if a vehicle is severely damaged, extra precautions or tools may be needed, incurring extra charges.

Being upfront about the vehicle type and condition can aid in getting accurate cost estimates from towing companies.

External Economic Factors

Factors such as inflation, economic downturns, or spikes in fuel prices can indirectly influence towing and storage fees. These external influences can lead to price fluctuations in the towing industry.

Being aware of these factors can provide a broader perspective when assessing towing and storage fees, ensuring that charges are fair and justifiable. It’s always better to be well-informed than make potentially costly assumptions.


In conclusion, understanding the intricacies of who pays for towing and storage after an accident can save you significant stress and potential financial strain. Being well-informed, regularly reviewing your insurance coverage, and seeking professional advice when necessary are your best defense against unforeseen post-accident expenses.