How to fight excessive towing bills

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The towing bill.

Even if an accident involves just a single vehicle, the towing bill can be hefty. Often, the pain is compounded when your truck is held hostage and, with it, your customer’s cargo.

So, what can you do about it?  Plenty, if you act quickly.

You need to have a plan in place now so that when an accident happens, it is a matter of a couple calls rather than scrambling to come up with a response and find qualified assistance. You are then prepared to exercise your options and assert your rights.

What needs to be done now?

If you operate in a fairly limited area, make prior arrangements with towing companies to be your service providers. Take the uncertainty, and your vulnerability, out of the equation.

In some jurisdictions, you can designate a company to tow your vehicle.  If that is an option, make sure your drivers know their right and who to call.

If you run across country, it is crucial to find a qualified towing expert, someone familiar with the industry, the rates, and the jurisdictions in which you operate. Doing so now gives you time to check references and be comfortable that the individual can do the job.

The next key is to act immediately. If your unit is held pending an “excessive” payment, the clock begins ticking on your freight and your bill.  Having prepared today, you can move into action.

First, have your towing expert give you a fair estimate of what is the reasonable amount for the services rendered.  Don’t try to lowball.  This estimate is going to be the basis of your fight to get back your unit, access your freight, and fight storage charges. It will be the amount you will assert in any litigation and, potentially, to a jury. Establish yourself as the “fair” party from the start.

Second, offer to pay the towing company that reasonable amount in full as soon as possible.

This gives you the opportunity to resolve the matter without further costs.  More importantly, if the matter is ultimately litigated, you can show that you immediately made a reasonable offer, supported by a towing expert, and should not be responsible for any storage charges after that offer.

Third, be prepared to go to court to get back your unit.  Again, if you run in a finite area, have an attorney lined up to file an action for you in short order.  If you run cross-country, the towing expert should be able to connect you with an attorney in the jurisdiction of the tower to file for releasing your unit and freight.

In most states, this is action is called “replevin”. It is a proceeding to get back property you own or which you are lawfully entitled to possess.

Often, you will need to post a bond with the court based on the amount of your vehicle to secure its release pending a full hearing. Again, be prepared now.  Talk with your insurance broker as what you will have to do to secure a bond from them and what they will require if the need arises. Again, this is all time sensitive.

Finally, be prepared to litigate the bill.  I have had a multi-day jury trial in which we successfully defended against an excessive towing bill. We would have been even more successful had the insurer made an immediate, reasonable offer. Not doing so resulted in storage being assessed for the period of their delay.

Towing bills seem like a hopeless deal.  You can do something. You can fight.  However, you have to be ready to do so and that starts now!


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Doug Marcello, a shareholder with the law firm of Saxton & Stump and chief legal officer of Bluewire, is a trucking defense attorney with a CDL. He had represented trucking clients across the country, having been specially admitted for cases in 35 states. Doug received the 2018 Leadership Award of the ATA Safety Council.

He has served on the advisory board of the American Trucking Research Institute. Doug is a member of numerous trucking organizations, including a board member of the Pennsylvania Motor Truck Association and member of the American Trucking Associations Safety Council as well as trucking law organizations including TIDA and Transportation Lawyers. He has written numerous articles concerning trucking safety and defense which can be found at You can also find his interviews and presentation on his YouTube channel and podcast, “TransportCenter”, on iTunes.

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  • What one company charges for non emergency towing has no bearing on what one does for emergency towing…

    The cost for Impounds and accident towing is more than it is for consent towing. Impound and accident towing is more of an EMERGENCY RESPONSE and demands more equipment and training to be able to handle a wider variety of problems than you would encounter with consent (consumer originated) towing. Emergency response towing imposes restrictions as to when the tow can be completed usually causing us to place other tows on hold until that scene is cleared. In addition Emergency response allows for only a 20 minute ETA to the scene.
    The paperwork requirements for release of Impounded vehicles is also quite extensive as we must maintain paperwork for several years to verify the disposition of the vehicle.

    So getting a quote from a company on non rotation tow pricing is not comparing like items