Car accidents usually bring a load of stress, leaving motorists in need of immediate help. Therefore, Better Business Bureau | Greater Maryland, the National Insurance Crime Bureau and Maryland Attorney General are providing tips to help drivers make informed decisions after a traffic collision.
“Without the proper knowledge, consumers may fall prey to tow truck operators, mechanics and alliances looking to make a quick buck,” said Angie Barnett, president and CEO, BBB | Greater Maryland. “Review your auto coverage each time your policy renews or when you make a policy change and know what your policy provides.”
In complaints filed with BBB, accident victims allegedly received towing and repair referrals from law enforcers. The motorists reported high up-front fees, improper repairs and extended lengths of time in which their vehicles were out of service while waiting for repairs.
One victim complained that the recommended body shop failed to correct her car’s alignment and damaged key hole, left a broken panel under the steering column and grease on the car’s seats. The victim alleged she left the mechanic numerous voicemails and received no response. Unfortunately, her insurance paid the full cost of the repairs, which totaled $5,200 before any work was “completed.”
Another victim complained that a towing company needlessly transported his son’s car to a storage lot after a minor accident. The victim later learned that it would cost him $495 for 2.5 miles of towing and nearly two days of storage. Unable to afford the charges, his son could not retrieve his vehicle.
“It’s difficult to think clearly after a collision, but it’s vital to get all the facts before saying ‘Yes.’ When you allow a tow operator to carry your vehicle, you become responsible for the costs. Be mindful that the costs could exceed your coverage,” added Barnett.
Here are tips from BBB, NICB and the Maryland Attorney General’s Office to help you make sound decisions on towing and repairs following an accident:
Never give permission to a tow operator who arrives unsolicited to take your vehicle.
Do not provide a tow truck operator with personal lien holder information.
Ensure that the tow truck signage matches the name that you called and is identical to any documentation the tow truck operator provides.
If the truck is not marked, ask for identification.
If in doubt, call the company back to insure the operator is.
- Call your insurance agent from the accident scene.
- Get recommendations. Talk to friends and family for recommendations. Ask your auto insurance agent, auto parts salesperson, or other business people you know.
- Check the repair shop's complaint records with the Better Business Bureau . The shop you select should have a good track record of resolving any complaints.
- Look for a mechanic with experience working on the same automobile model and make as yours.
Seek out a mechanic with good credentials, updated knowledge and skill. Some shops display ASE (Automotive Service Excellence) certification, which indicates the mechanic has met basic standards in a specific technical area. You can also check for shops that participate in the AAA auto service program. But be careful. An ASE test or other certification is not an indication of ethics and integrity.
- Interview mechanics. Are they willing to answer your questions? Do they convey a positive, professional image? Ask if the technician or shop has experience working on the same model vehicle as yours.
Ask the shop for the names of customer references. Then call those references.
- Look for a shop with a clean and well maintained repair area.
- Do not pay in full until the repairs are complete.