Is it legal for an unauthorizedtow companyto hold a vehicleuntil the towing bill is paid?

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Is it legal for an unauthorizedtow companyto hold a vehicleuntil the towing bill is paid?

Our car stalled out in what looked like 6 or 8 inches of water on the road under a bridge. The water had risen to about 2 1/2 feet. The fire department advised us to abandon our vehicle. The city hired a independent towing company to tow it and they won’t let us get the car back without 1st paying the $200 towing bill. Is this legal for the towing company to hold the car hostage? I never signed or agreed to anything. I could understand the city billing me for their towing bill but this seems highly unethical for an unauthorized 3rd party to have to be paid so that we can retrieve what we own.

Asked on July 3, 2011 under General Practice, Virginia

Answers:

MD, Member, California Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 10 years ago | Contributor

This is perfectly reasonable for the tow company (an authorized independent tow company as hired by the city) to require you to pay the tow bill. Here is the issue. It sounds like you were probably not supposed to be under the bridge and judging by the amount of water, it seems like it may have been a weather advisory. Further, even if it was not a weather advisory, the car had to be abandoned for your safety and the vehicle had to be towed for the safety of others. It is absolutely not illegal for a tow company to require your payment before you get the vehicle. Switch the situation to a car that is towed or booted due to parking tickets; you must pay all fines and fees before the car can be released to you.


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