When a tractor-trailer transporting cargo is involved in an accident, the claim handling process can become very complicated and time-consuming. If the trailer tips over, we’re dealing with damaged cargo, cleanup of the spill (it makes matters worse if the cargo is hazardous waste), and towing of the tractor and the trailer.
When these accidents do occur, the most important part of the claim handling process is getting the tractor repaired, and the driver back on the road quickly and cost efficiently. The challenge with successfully accomplishing this is navigating the roadblocks that can arise, some of which are easy to negotiate, while others can be very difficult to maneuver around.
The Moving Company
A moving company’s truck was transporting household items when it was involved in an accident. The trailer tipped over, causing damage to the tractor, the trailer and some of the contents. The items that spilled out of the trailer required cleanup and removal.
The towing company removed the tractor and trailer and cleaned up the items that spilled out. The invoice total seemed a bit on the high side upon initial review. There were charges for several questionable line times and labor costs. Negotiating the towing, clean up and storage costs took a considerable amount of time and effort before repairs could begin on the company’s moving truck.
Like any other company, insurers excel in many areas of the claim handling process but could use assistance with certain aspects, such as negotiating towing charges and keeping them under control. An adjuster experienced in towing and negotiating will be able to review the company’s charges and identify any red flag items.
Ways to control inflated costs when reviewing the bill
This seems fairly straightforward, but the bill needs to be carefully reviewed. It takes a keen eye to determine if the charges are inflated, and an experienced adjuster to negotiate these costs down. Always review the bill to determine if the charges are fair.
#1 Is every line item detailed?
The invoice from the towing company seemed excessive. Upon reviewing the bill, every little charge was a line-item. This is a red flag. They detailed every charge, including $200 charge for the orange cones placed around the accident site. When the company starts detailing every line item, it’s a tip-off that they’re trying to get the bill as high as possible.
#2 What kind of tow truck was used?
If a 50-ton rotator tow truck was used to tow a small city truck, that should be questioned. Did they really need that kind of tow truck? There may not have been any other truck available, but should we be responsible for that higher fee when a smaller tow truck would have been sufficient?
#3 How many workers were needed for the towing and cleanup?
If it seems like there were a lot of workers involved in the cleanup, question it. Sometimes it’s a safety issue. We had a claim where the tractor-trailer jackknifed, and the trailer was hanging over a bridge. This was definitely a safety issue – the trailer needed to be removed ASAP. There are other scenarios where there is little to no cleanup, but 20 workers were onsite. Question if that was necessary and negotiate if you feel it was over-kill.
Whenever possible, it is to the driver’s advantage to take photos of the accident site. This will help when clarification is needed, especially if the charges seem excessive.
#4 Negotiate the bill
As stated above, the main goal is to get the driver back to work in his truck. If the driver is independent, he doesn’t go back to work until his truck is released from the tow yard and repaired. The truck, trailer, and contents will most likely be covered separately. Most tow companies won’t release the tractor until all bills are paid – which may include towing the trailer and clean up and/or removal of the cargo. Even though the driver’s insurance covers only his tractor, it won’t be released to him until all charges are paid. A TPA can assist in the negotiations, as well as other areas.
#5 Get the driver back on the road
Speed is the key when finalizing the costs for towing, and getting the tractor, trailer, and cargo released. This gets the driver back on the road earning a wage. An independent driver cannot work without his tractor. If the driver works for a transportation company, they will most likely give him another tractor to drive, but it still means there is one less truck hauling cargo for the company. Some transportation companies repair their trucks and send the bill to the carrier. This puts the adjuster at a disadvantage because you don’t have very much information on the repair details. A TPA can work with the transportation company to understand the details of the charges and possibly negotiate a lower charge.
#6 Validate the charges
An adjuster has experience in dealing with tow companies. He can review the bill and determine if the charges are fair or inflated.
There are many pieces in the process of getting the truck, driver, and trailer back on the road. It’s important to have an adjuster experienced in dealing with towing and able to spot the red flags when reviewing the bill. If towing is required after an accident, the driver has little to no control over who does the towing, especially if it is non-consent and the police call the tow company. Every state has their own set of rules and regulations on maximum towing charges when the tow is non-consent. The adjuster needs to be aware of these rules and how they apply to each claim.
It’s not enough for the adjuster to be able to identify the red flags. They also need to be able to act on these red flags and have the negotiating skills required to deal with the tow company.
Some insurers don’t have the time to deal with the details of towing. Outsourcing towing results in one less headache. Some insurers need help with certain aspects of the claim handling process. They may be very good at negotiating repair shop estimates for the tractor but require help in other areas – like negotiating towing costs. Outsourcing towing gives the insurer more time to deal with and focus on tractor repairs.
Click below to learn more about our Full-Service Tractor-Trailer Property and Liability Handling Packages:
(No form Required)