Is a towing company liable for damage done to my vehicle following an DUI/OWI impounding?

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Is a towing company liable for damage done to my vehicle following an DUI/OWI impounding?

I was recently charged with and believe that the towing company damaged my power steering pump. It worked fine prior to the incident, but when I received it back from them it was leaking power steering fluid from the power steering pump. I just want to know if I have a case and if I do how to get the ball rolling.

Asked on June 26, 2012 under Criminal Law, Iowa

Answers:

S.L,. Member, California Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 9 years ago | Contributor

Prior to filing a lawsuit for negligence against the towing company, it may be possible to settle the case with the towing company's insurance carrier by filing your property damage claim with that insurance carrier.  Your damages (the amount of compensation you are seeking) would be the cost of repairs to the power steering.  If the case is settled with the towing company's insurance carrier, NO lawsuit is filed.

If the case is NOT settled with the towing company's insurance carrier, you can file a lawsuit for negligence against the towing company.  Negligence is the failure to exercise due care (that degree of care that a reasonable towing company would have exercised under the same or similar circumstances to prevent foreseeable harm). 

In order to prove negligence, you will need to prove duty (of due care mentioned above), breach of duty, actual cause, proximate cause and damages.

Actual cause means but for the towing company, would your power steering have been damaged?  If the answer is no, actual cause has been established.  Proximate cause means were there any unforseeable, intervening acts which would relieve the towing company of liabiliity?  If the answer is no, proximate cause has been established.  Damages means the amount of compensation you are seeking in your lawsuit.  Your damages would be the cost of repairs to the power steering.  You may be able to file your lawsuit for negligence against the towing company in Small Claims Court.  Your damages, in addition to the cost of repairs to the power steering, would include court costs such as the court filing fee and process server fee. If you need a rental car while your power steering is being repaired, your damages should also include the cost of the rental car.  You will need to mitigate (minimize) damages by selecting a mechanic to repair the power steering whose charges are comparable to other mechanics in the area and selecting a rental car with a reasonable rate.  If you were to select the most expensive mechanic you could find and/or the most expensive rental car you could find, you would have failed to mitigate damages and your damages would be reduced accordingly.


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