How JustAnswer Works:

  • Ask an Expert
    Experts are full of valuable knowledge and are ready to help with any question. Credentials confirmed by a Fortune 500 verification firm.
  • Get a Professional Answer
    Via email, text message, or notification as you wait on our site.
    Ask follow up questions if you need to.
  • 100% Satisfaction Guarantee
    Rate the answer you receive.

Ask socrateaser Your Own Question

socrateaser
socrateaser, Lawyer
Category: Legal
Satisfied Customers: 33896
Experience:  Retired (mostly)
10097515
Type Your Legal Question Here...
socrateaser is online now
A new question is answered every 9 seconds

My car was towed by a company in hamptons bay new york after

Customer Question

My car was towed by a company in hamptons bay new york after a car accident. The company is registered with the direct accident response program being that they were summoned by the police to the scene. I called the next day for enquiries and they told me i cant even get my personal belongings untill I pay $800 as my charge for the tow. Is this charge legal?. Can I refuse to pay an illegal charge and is there any New York law regulating tows and rates?
Submitted: 1 year ago.
Category: Legal
Expert:  socrateaser replied 1 year ago.
Hello,

This was a very difficult research project. Hampton Bays has no local ordinance covering tow services. State law (NY Lien law 184) only requires that the tow service provide notice to the owner that the service is holding the vehicle -- no particular charges are specified -- however, the charges must be "reasonable," which implies that charges which do not represent a reasonable approximation of the actual cost of towing and storage will be deemed "unreasonable" by a court.

Suffolk County has a default procedure for areas of the county where no local ordinance is in place. SCCO A-13(D)(3)(a) requires:

  • The County may require that, prior to the release of any motor vehicle, the person claiming such vehicle pay a fee to cover the costs of removal and storage thereof. Such a fee shall be set by the Commissioner of the Suffolk County Police Department, without the approval of the County Legislature, and shall be based upon the average storage charge of private vendors under contract to the County. Such a fee shall not be less than the actual costs to the County of any towing and related services and of any costs for storage.

 

So, your recourse is to contact the Suffolk County Police and find out what if any fee is set for towing charges. If the fee is less than what the tow service is charging, ask the police to investigate. Assuming that they do, then this issue may be resolved without further legal action. Otherwise, the only way you can recover the vehicle, and any belongings inside the vehicle, is to pay the tow service's fee and the sue the service in small claims court to recover damages for the unreasonable fees.

 

Messy, but this appears to be the law -- and it's probably why the tow service acts with such impunity -- no one ever fights back.

 

Hope this helps.

socrateaser, Lawyer
Category: Legal
Satisfied Customers: 33896
Experience: Retired (mostly)
socrateaser and 5 other Legal Specialists are ready to help you
Customer: replied 1 year ago.

what repercussions will occur if i refuse to foot the bill other than them selling off?


*At this point it make no sense to pay $1200 as of today for release then a couple of hundreds for tow to my mechanic then thousands more to fix. if they could sell it off for their expenses.

Customer: replied 1 year ago.

what repercussions will occur if i refuse to foot the bill other than them selling off?


*At this point it make no sense to pay $1200 as of today for release then a couple of hundreds for tow to my mechanic then thousands more to fix. if they could sell it off for their expenses.

Expert:  socrateaser replied 1 year ago.
Theoretically, the tow service could send your debt to collections, i.e., the difference between the auction value of the vehicle and the amount of your bill. Then, you would have to dispute the debt, and force the debt collector to sue you -- which it probably won't. It will just ding your credit report. You can offer the debt collector perhaps 10% of the original bill, and settle the matter, or you can tell them to "stick it," and see if they sue.

Debt collectors rarely sue to collect a judgment, unless they know that the debtor has the ability to pay and is not likely to file for bankruptcy protection -- which will discharge the debt entirely.

Anyway, I understand the gamesmanship here. Each day the storage charges increase by an absurd amount. There's no way that it costs the tow yard $200-$300 to park a car in its lot, and no court would find such charges "reasonable."

Anyway, that's how it all is likely to shake out.

Hope this helps.
Customer: replied 1 year ago.

Thank you very much you've been tremendously helpful. They refuse to give back my personal belongings from the car, is that legal? How else would I be able to claim my personal property and that of the passenger with me at the time?

Expert:  socrateaser replied 1 year ago.
You would have to sue the tow company for the personal property. As a matter of law, holding the property could be deemed extortion, but you would have to show a court first that the real extortion is the fees to recover the vehicle -- and that the tow service is using the fees as a means of converting your property into the service's property.

You could make a settlement offer (pick a number) and see if the tow service "bites." If it does, then don't pay anything until you have the agreement in writing, signed by the tow service's manager, owner or an officer of the corporation, if the business is incorporation. But, if the tow service says "no," then you have the choice of paying the unreasonable fees, and then suing to get your money and property back -- or, just walking away.

Neither is a good choice, but sometimes the law doesn't give us any good choices, and this is one of those times.

Hope this helps.
Customer: replied 1 year ago.

Thank you very much

Expert:  socrateaser replied 1 year ago.
You're welcome and good luck!
Customer: replied 1 year ago.

They refuse to let me anywhere close to the car or make a reasonable offer. Do they have the right to keep the license plates registered to my name even after they put a lien on it and how long? Aren't they legally obliged to return my belongings and the plate after the car has become an asset to the company?

Expert:  socrateaser replied 1 year ago.
Eventually, if you don't sue them for conversion and get a court to order a forced sale and a discharge of any of the tow and storage fees, then the tow service will auction the vehicle at a public sale, and the plates will go with the car to whomever purchases the vehicle.

As for your personal belongings, here again, you can sue for conversion, and get an order from the court to pay you for the value of the belongings (because a small claims court can only order money damages -- not "restitution" of your property). If you don't do this, then the tow service will claim that your belongings are part of the lien for its storage charges.

Note: I'm not suggesting that you must sue the tow service. If there's no money in your belongings and the car, then you can just let the whole thing go. That's what the tow service wants -- because that's how they win these little battles with vehicle owners.

The entire system is a legalized confidence scam.

Hope this helps.

JustAnswer in the News:

 
 
 
Ask-a-doc Web sites: If you've got a quick question, you can try to get an answer from sites that say they have various specialists on hand to give quick answers... Justanswer.com.
JustAnswer.com...has seen a spike since October in legal questions from readers about layoffs, unemployment and severance.
Web sites like justanswer.com/legal
...leave nothing to chance.
Traffic on JustAnswer rose 14 percent...and had nearly 400,000 page views in 30 days...inquiries related to stress, high blood pressure, drinking and heart pain jumped 33 percent.
Tory Johnson, GMA Workplace Contributor, discusses work-from-home jobs, such as JustAnswer in which verified Experts answer people’s questions.
I will tell you that...the things you have to go through to be an Expert are quite rigorous.
 
 
 

What Customers are Saying:

 
 
 
  • Mr. Kaplun clearly had an exceptional understanding of the issue and was able to explain it concisely. I would recommend JustAnswer to anyone. Great service that lives up to its promises! Gary B. Edmond, OK
< Last | Next >
  • Mr. Kaplun clearly had an exceptional understanding of the issue and was able to explain it concisely. I would recommend JustAnswer to anyone. Great service that lives up to its promises! Gary B. Edmond, OK
  • My Expert was fast and seemed to have the answer to my taser question at the tips of her fingers. Communication was excellent. I left feeling confident in her answer. Eric Redwood City, CA
  • I am very pleased with JustAnswer as a place to go for divorce or criminal law knowledge and insight. Michael Wichita, KS
  • PaulMJD helped me with questions I had regarding an urgent legal matter. His answers were excellent. Three H. Houston, TX
  • Anne was extremely helpful. Her information put me in the right direction for action that kept me legal, possible saving me a ton of money in the future. Thank you again, Anne!! Elaine Atlanta, GA
  • It worked great. I had the facts and I presented them to my ex-landlord and she folded and returned my deposit. The 50 bucks I spent with you solved my problem. Tony Apopka, FL
  • Not only did he answer my Michigan divorce question but was also able to help me out with it, too. I have since won my legal case on this matter and thank you so much for it. Lee Michigan
 
 
 

Meet The Experts:

 
 
 
  • Tina

    Lawyer

    Satisfied Customers:

    8436
    JD, BBA Over 25 years legal and business experience.
< Last | Next >
  • http://ww2.justanswer.com/uploads/MU/multistatelaw/2011-11-27_173951_Tinaglamourshotworkglow102011.64x64.jpg Tina's Avatar

    Tina

    Lawyer

    Satisfied Customers:

    8436
    JD, BBA Over 25 years legal and business experience.
  • http://ww2.justanswer.com/uploads/RA/ratioscripta/2012-6-13_2955_foto3.64x64.jpg Ely's Avatar

    Ely

    Counselor at Law

    Satisfied Customers:

    19941
    Private practice with focus on family, criminal, PI, consumer protection, and business consultation.
  • http://ww2.justanswer.com/uploads/FL/FLAandNYLawyer/2012-1-27_14349_3Fotolia25855429M.64x64.jpg FiveStarLaw's Avatar

    FiveStarLaw

    Attorney

    Satisfied Customers:

    8189
    25 years of experience helping people like you.
  • http://ww2.justanswer.com/uploads/jespoag/2008-12-17_222355_jessepic.jpg JPEsq's Avatar

    JPEsq

    Attorney

    Satisfied Customers:

    2132
    Experience as general attorney, in house counsel, SSDI, Family Law attorney, and law professor
  • http://ww2.justanswer.com/uploads/gsenmartin/2008-04-22_214950_me1.jpg Guillermo J. Senmartin, Esq.'s Avatar

    Guillermo J. Senmartin, Esq.

    Attorney

    Satisfied Customers:

    110
    7+ years of experience handling various legal matters.
  • http://ww2.justanswer.com/uploads/PA/PaulmoJD/2013-10-10_195858_JAImage.64x64.jpg Law Educator, Esq.'s Avatar

    Law Educator, Esq.

    Attorney

    Satisfied Customers:

    31621
    JA Mentor -Attorney Labor/employment, corporate, sports law, admiralty/maritime and civil rights law
  • http://ww2.justanswer.com/uploads/dkaplun/2009-05-17_173121_headshot_1_2.jpg Dimitry K., Esq.'s Avatar

    Dimitry K., Esq.

    Attorney

    Satisfied Customers:

    15975
    Multiple jurisdictions, specialize in business/contract disputes, estate creation and administration.