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Here's how you can protect yourself from predatory towing & high bills

Vehicle being towed
Posted at 5:15 AM, Mar 08, 2022
and last updated 2022-03-08 07:55:01-05

(WXYZ) — The sky-high towing bill one woman got after a massive pileup on I-696 made national headlines. Now, we're out to find out how you can protect yourself from predatory towing and what you should ask your insurance agent if it happens.

Kellie Rockwell said whiteout conditions made it impossible to see, and said cars were just running into each other.

“The tow driver just walked up to our car, asked if we wanted him to get us out. And we said yes because we assumed that he was with the police," Rockwell said.

Related: $9,000 towing bill prompts calls for stronger predatory towing laws in Michigan

But, Michigan State Police say that was not the case. After Rockwell talked with 7 Investigator Ross Jones, her insurance told her that the company cut the bill down to $2,500.

But, when it comes to towing, whether you're in an accident or not, don't assume it's covered in your car insurance.

"Do most regular coverage insurance plans cover the cost of towing after an accident?" I asked Dan Schrock, who is with AAA - The Auto Club Group – in Dearborn.

Related: 'It's being held for ransom.' Driver stuck in I-696 pileup hit with $9,000 towing bill

"Only if you have full coverage, COMP, and Collision. Generally speaking, towing is not going to be something on the insurance policy unless you pay extra for it," Schrock said.

Some people opt to pay for roadside assistance on top of their insurance. AAA offers it for $56 per year.

"If you pay for that membership annually, and you’re in a pileup like this, and you have to be towed, do you get a bill?" I asked.

"No, no. You could go, you can call us. You can go to your Triple-A app, and we will call you with a verified, certified somebody that we approved to come to take care of it," he said.

If the police have already called a towing company, then it's your choice.

Complaints about outrageous towing charges aren't new. Remember the flooding last June? Some drivers who had to abandon their cars were hit with $500-$700 towing charges.

Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel even issued a consumer alert about unlawful towing and unreasonable fees.

If you want to challenge if your vehicle was properly towed or your bill, including storage fees, you have to file a petition for a court hearing in an appropriate district court, one that has jurisdiction over the location of the tow.

Don't drag your feet. You have to file within 20 days from the date on the notice your vehicle was towed as abandoned. If the court finds the vehicle was improperly towed, the AG's office said you'll be reimbursed for the towing and storage fees, and your abandoned vehicle will be returned.

After an accident, if the police directed the tow you later want to challenge, you can complain to the local police agency which could take action against that towing company if it violated a contract with the police.

You can also file a complaint with the AG's Consumer Protection Division.

To file a complaint with the Attorney General, or get additional information, contact:

Consumer Protection Division
P.O. Box 30213
Lansing, MI 48909
517-335-7599
Fax: 517-241-3771
Online Complaint Form:

https://secure.ag.state.mi.us/complaints/consumer.aspx