If you have been in a car accident, your possessions in the car may be the last thing on your mind. However, once you realize that you are missing something (like a purse, wallet, or electronic device), you may wonder what happened to it after your car accident.
Typical Car Custody After a Florida Accident
In serious accidents, you may have to have your car towed. If your accident is serious enough to warrant an ambulance trip, then your car may be towed after you are taken to the hospital. Generally, the police will call the towing company and have them store the car for you.
Even if you have not been seriously injured, your car may have been. A towing company may still be necessary if you cannot safely drive your car after an accident. In this case, remember to take your valuable possessions out of the vehicle before it leaves your sight. This will save you from many potential headaches later.
Getting Your Possessions After a Tow
Emergency staff will generally not go through your car for valuable possessions. Your possessions are left in the car and they are towed away with the vehicle. Towing companies must keep these possessions with the vehicle or inventory them to give back to you. They are not permitted to permanently remove your possessions.
Once you are out of the hospital and able to reclaim your vehicle, you may face storage and towing fees (as detailed below). Often, those who were just involved in an accident cannot afford these fees right away, so they request to obtain their possessions from the vehicle while they get money together to pay the fees.
There are many horror stories of towing companies that steal items or simply refuse to give you access to your vehicle. This is not permitted under Florida law. You can:
- Have access to the vehicle (without removing it from the towing lot or yard)
- Inspect the vehicle
- Obtain your personal property that is not attached the vehicle
Towing Liens – Paying the Towing Fees
Florida law permits the towing company to have a lien on your vehicle after it has been towed. The lien covers both the towing fee and any associated storage fees. If they are claiming a lien, the company must notify both you and your insurance company.
The at-fault party will generally have to pay the towing and storage fees. In Florida, if you are at fault, then your own insurance company will likely address these fees.
The fee is called a lien because the towing company can keep your car until you pay this fee. You can, however, dispute the lien if you think the fee is unreasonable.
However, you must pay the fee within 35 days (if it is not disputed) or the vehicle can be sold if it is over 3 years old. If the vehicle is under 3 years old, then you have 50 days to pay the fee before it will be sold. It is obviously important to address these fees quickly if you do not want to lose your vehicle.
What If I Do Not Want the Vehicle Back?
For some people, however, the vehicle may be totaled and they do not want to reclaim it. If you chose to do this, the towing company will sell the vehicle to pay for the storage fees. If there is anything left over, then you will receive the excess money.
In many cases, however, selling the vehicle will not pay for all of the storage and towing fees owed if the vehicle was totaled. The towing company will still have a claim to the money that you owe them for storage of the vehicle.
This means that, in many situations, even though you did not want the towing company to store the vehicle in the first place, you (or your insurance company) may still end up paying storage fees, even if you do not get the vehicle back.
Getting a Orlando Car Accident Attorneys
If you are being denied access to your possessions in your vehicle following an accident, speak with an experienced car accident attorney. Call the experienced Orlando car accident attorneys at Scott J. Sternberg & Associates at (561)-687-5660. We deal with all of the legal aspects of car accidents, and we can help. Give us a call today or use our online form to get started.
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