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When you need a tow, make sure the tow operator explains each step of the towing sequence and ensures you are in a place of safety

December 15, 2009

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David M. Paris represented an over-the-road truck driver who was making a delivery to the Cincinnati area when he felt his trailer dragging, as if it wasn't getting  enough air to the rear tandems. He pulled over onto the right berm, approximately 3-1/2 feet from the edge of the highway. He reported the problem to his dispatch and one hour later, a tow truck arrived at the scene. Experts on towing had been retained on both sides of the case who expressed opinions as to the applicable standard of care and customs and practices within that industry. They all agreed that:
  1. When a tow truck operator arrives at the location of a disabled vehicle, he must take control of the tow and recovery scene.
  2. The tow truck operator must conduct a hazard analysis and determine the safe place to position customers during the hook up, tow and recovery process.
  3. When the customer is out of his vehicle, he should move them to that safe place. Moreover, if work is to be performed on a narrow shoulder (as was the case here), he should have the customer wait in the tow truck.
  4. The customer’s safety is the responsibility of the tow truck operator.
  5. A disabled vehicle should never be hooked up, lifted or towed when the customer is still inside.
  6. Clear and unequivocal communication between the tow truck driver and the customer is critical to ensure that each understands the events that are going to occur and the sequence in which they are to occur.
A factual dispute existed as to the nature of the conversation that took place between the tower and our client at the beginning of the towing and recovery process. Unfortunately, our client was in the cab talking with his dispatcher when, unbeknownst to him, the tower lifted the cab 12" into the air. As he went to get out of his cab, he lost his balance, fell into the road, was hit by a truck and lost his leg. For more details, go to Cincinnati Jury Returns Verdict For $2 Million

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