'Wreck Chasers' Are Charging Crash Victims Thousands To Tow Their Cars

'Wreck Chasers' Are Charging Crash Victims Thousands To Tow Their Cars

The Pennsylvania Insurance Fraud Prevention Authority is warning drivers in Pittsburgh to be careful when ceding their car to tow truck drivers after a crash. The city has been dealing with unscrupulous towing companies that overcharge drivers after accidents, when people are most vulnerable and least likely to pay close attention to fees on an invoice. In some cases, crash victims have paid over $10,000 to get their cars back, according to CBS News Pittsburgh.

Portal Axle Kit Turns Your Ford Bronco Into a Monster Truck

The city is calling these tow trucks drivers “wreck chasers” because they listen in to police scanners and rush to crash scenes. Once at the scene, they offer to tow crash victims’ cars reportedly without disclosing fees or briefly doing so amidst the chaos of the crash. When owners try to retrieve their vehicles from the towing companies, they’re told they (or their insurance companies) must pay thousands of dollars to get them back.

Insurance fraud agency warns of “wreck chasers” charging thousands after towing cars

One Pittsburgh driver, Emily Burton, had a bill totaling over $11,000 after wrecking company Vince’s Towing transported her car less than three quarters of a mile. Per CBS News:

She says owner Vince Fannick told her he’d keep the car unless the bill of $11,780 was paid.

“You’re taking advantage of someone when they’re vulnerable,” Burton said. “I was confused. I didn’t know what I was doing, and then you’re charging me $11,000 to go less than a mile.”

While never providing Burton an invoice, Fannick gave her insurance company a breakdown over the phone: $4,380 for the tow, a $4,250 recovery fee, a $1,200 gate fee, a $1,200 administrative fee and $195 a day in storage fees.

See also  Likely Fiat 500X replacement caught in new spy photos

This is not an isolated case. A dozen invoices obtained by KDKA Investigates show these fees are standard operating procedure with Vince’s Towing. KDKA-TV found the same fees charged in tow after tow amounting to total charges of $7,000, $8,000, $9,000, $10,000 and $11,000 for towing and related fees. But Vince’s Towing is not alone.

The owner of the towing company insists he did nothing illegal, and added that the high fees are justified by increased costs of doing business. Emily Burton likely signed the invoice for the tow on-scene at the crash, but it’s unlikely she reviewed it beforehand. CBS News cites Fannick saying that he doesn’t charge owners, and instead bills their insurance directly.

Screenshot: YouTube

But those fees inevitably trickle down to car owners. After CBS News reached out, Fannick agreed to reduce the fee from $11,780 to $10,280, which Burton’s insurance company ended up paying to get her car back. And while these wreck chasers’ practices are not strictly illegal, they’re clearly unethical.

Pittsburgh city officials say they are drafting legislation to prevent tow truck companies from overcharging crash victims. They are trying to put in a rotation system to prevent opportunistic tow truck drivers from rushing to scenes in the first place. And they are also trying to prevent exorbitant fees.

In the meantime, the Insurance Fraud Prevention Authority says crash victims should never sign blank tow invoices. And Pittsburgh police claims that drivers can request their own tow via AAA, or request that the city’s contracted carrier, McGann & Chester, be called. That towing company charges a flat rate of $180 for a flatbed and storage fees are $25 per day. That’d likely total to a few hundred dollars, which is a hell of a lot better than a few thousand.

See also  What impact climate change may have on the digital claims process

Image for article titled 'Wreck Chasers' Are Charging Crash Victims Thousands To Tow Their Cars

Screenshot: YouTube