Legal Question in Civil Litigation in Maryland

Damage inflicted by towing company

My car was towed from my apartment neighborhood without warning for having tags that were expired for 3 days. When my husband and I went to pick the car up, we found my car had a rapidly spreading star crack in the windshield that was not there prior to towing. We argued with a few employees including someone who appeared to be the manager/owner (although he would not admit to this) about the damage and that all we wanted was a signed letter stating that we had a complaint prior to removing the car from their lot. We were threatened with more storage fees if we didn't move the car that instant and had to leave, with no witnesses. The crack is bad and the windshield needs to be replaced at a cost of $355. We have photos of the crack but that's it. If we get the windshield replaced, do we have a chance of winning a case in local small claims court (Prince George's County) for the cost of damages? Can the cost of associated court fees, servicing fees, and lost time from work be included, or only damage? We feel extremely violated - there is no recourse because we are not direct customers. Thanks for your assistance.

Asked on 10/08/04, 7:33 am

1 Answer from Attorneys

Alan Albin Alan S. Albin, Attorney at Law

Re: Damage inflicted by towing company

Here's the problem: while it is clear that the crack was not there prior to when you saw the car in the impound lot, you need to have an ability to prove that the windshield was cracked by some conduct of the tow truck operator or while it was at the impound lot.

You don't provide any indication that you have evidence that the windshield was cracked by the tow truck operator or at the impound lot.

If the tow truck driver is called as a witness, and testifies that the windshield was cracked before he first towed the vehicle, you have no way to rebut this.

Very simply, you have no way of knowing of whether or not someone vandalized your vehicle at some point between the last time that you saw the car, and the time when it was towed.

The longer the time period between when you saw your car and when it was towed, the harder your case is. Even if it was only overnight, it is still possible that the windshield was cracked in the interim by an unknown third person.

As plaintiff in a lawsuit, you have the "burden of proof". That means you must convince the judge, by a preponderance of evidence, that the tow truck driver or impound lot was responsible for cracking your windshield. Yet, you have indicated you have no solid evidence that they are responsible. If you cannot develop more evidence, or unless the tow truck driver or an employee of the impound lot admits to causing the damage, you need to maintain realistic expectations about the possible outcome of your small claims case.

I strongly recommend that you consult with an attorney immediately so that you can explore your legal rights, obligations, and options. If you wish to discuss retaining my services, contact me at:

[email protected]


(*Licensed in New Jersey, Maryland, and Dist. of Columbia)

[Disclaimer: The above comments are not intended as nor should they be relied upon as "legal advice", which can only be obtained by personal consultation with a retained attorney; at which time the specific facts and circumstances of your case can be thoroughly evaluated. This reply is provided for general informational and educational purposes only, and does not create an attorney-client relationship with the responding attorney.]

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Answered on 10/08/04, 8:58 am

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