Tow truck encounter? Va., Md. offer some protections to drivers

If you’ve ever parked improperly, the thought of getting towed may have caused some anxiety.

The likelihood of such anxiety is increasing, too: Towing across the nation is expected to increase by 11% this year.

And if it does happen, there are some legal safeguards in place that can help.

Protections for consumers vary among the 50 states, according to a recent report released by the U.S. Public Interest Research Group Education Fund, and some offer more safeguards than others.

In Virginia, clear tow-away signs are required in private parking areas, but towers aren’t required to allow you access to personal items inside a towed vehicle. While companies are not required to take a photo of the parked vehicle before it is towed, they must provide you with an itemized bill. And if you return to your vehicle while it’s being towed, Virginia requires the tower to release the vehicle for a fee of no more than $25.

In Maryland, a photo of the vehicle is required prior to towing, and if your vehicle is damaged during the process, the tow company is required to reimburse you. If the tow proves to be illegal, the owner is entitled to triple the cost of recovering the vehicle.

The report calls for more protections, like unlimited access to items inside towed vehicles and for more towing companies to accept credit card payments.

If you’re towed and are unsure about what to do, it’s suggested that you contact law enforcement and be sure to review all charges.

Melissa Howell

Melissa Howell joined WTOP Radio in March 2018 and is excited to cover stories that matter across D.C., as well as in Maryland and Virginia. 

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