Lima Towing and the Insurance Shuffle

As regular readers know, a few weeks ago, Peter’s VW Golf was caught in the middle of a multiple-car crash on 101. The CHP called Lima Towing, the towing company that has the local government contract to tow the cars to their lot, and told Peter the insurance companies would sort the whole thing out. Well, that’s a maybe, and I’ve learned a few things to keep in mind if (god forbid) you’re ever in a car accident that totals your car.

Yesterday, Peter got a call from the State Farm insurance adjuster which insured the car that had hit Peter from the back. Apparently, Lima Towing wasn’t letting him look at the car, but he needed to see it and take pictures for the claim. Since Peter did unquestionably have access to his car, the insurance agent swung by the office to pick up Peter.

At Lima Towing, Peter met one of the nastiest people he’s ever met: and in his wide-flung and varied life, he’s had a chance to meet many unpleasant people. She was, in short, a harpy who whenever someone said a word would commence screeching. Eventually Peter and the insurance agent were able to get in enough words to communicate that they needed to see the mushed VW Golf. Even then, they were only let in one at a time.

When Peter went to see his car, he saw his nearly-new (installed about 3 months ago) satellite radio stereo had been removed. When he told this out to the shrieking harpy, she said he had no proof that the stereo hadn’t been stolen before the car was towed. Peter somehow managed to point out, between her bouts of shrieking, that he had a picture of the dashboard with the exploded airbags around it at the accident scene showing the still-intact stereo, the car was towed immediately from the accident scene with himself and the CHP present, and by Lima Towing’s own assertion, towed directly into their secured, heavily padlocked lot. So what was the harpy’s response: “you can take that up with us in small claims court!”

OMG! They stole the stereo, and they knew, as well as we later realized, that they did it because they could, and collect $300 or so without any consequence. As the towing company with multiple government towing contracts, they have implied immunity. Thefts like this may also explain why they can afford to be the lowest bidder, thus winning such contracts. They also know full well that a professional isn’t going to spend 2 days in small claims court for a $300 radio. But, boy, isn’t that ever rotten? Anyway, my advice is that if you ever have to get your car towed off to a lot, besides removing everything of value inside it, take the faceplate off your stereo, and get to the tow lot as soon as possible with a witness and remove anything of salvageable value.

As you might expect, all the insurance companies are working as hard as they can to stick the other guys’ insurance companies with the bill of 4 damaged cars. Peter’s car is clearly the most innocent, but his insurance company (AAA) has to fight to prove it. Meanwhile, everyone has a different angle to get them excused from the mess. The latest news is that the car at the very back of the collision (a Lexus) somehow didn’t have insurance. OK, she did have insurance, because that’s required by California law, but this insurance apparently did not apply when driving to or from work, which is almost certainly what she was doing during rush hour on 101.

What the hell kind of insurance is that? Is that the special insurance only offered to luxury car drivers? Because I thought if you have a car, you’re supposed to be insured for all of your driving, and you really ought to be insured for the driving you probably do the most: going back and forth to work.

Anyway, so if Ms. I’m-So-Rich-I-Drive-a-Lexus’ insurance won’t pay, Peter will be stuck with the storage costs at Lima towing. They’re supposed to credit him with any profit they make from salvage, such as scrap metal, but given Peter’s experience with their harpy, it’s unlikely they would do that. His only source of recompense for anything would be suing the Lexus’ driver, but I suspect this person, even though unable to afford commuter car insurance, would be able to afford a better lawyer than we ever could.

So, all in all, it looked like Peter was going to be out another $1,000 on top of having to get a new car. This morning, he called the Lexus’ driver insurance (which still hadn’t taken a look at the car itself), to let them know they’d have to look at the car today because it was going to be pulped because he wasn’t going to pay anything more in storage fees. They asked him to get the car towed to his home, so they could still look at it, and Peter would get around the storage fees. Peter told them no, we weren’t going to store a dangerously damaged car in our driveway for their convenience. So the insurance company is supposedly towing it to their own proprietary lot today, so they can examine for themselves the accident they don’t believe happened, and for which they say they’re not liable for.

So, my other piece of advice is, besides stripping your own car, get the damage documented yourself, and make the insurance companies take that instead of leaving your car to be ripped off in a dodgy lot, at your expense. And I guess I should still be grateful that Peter came out physically uninjured.


  1. George Haberberger

    Wow. The towing company stealing Peter’s radio and then not even caring to deny it, absolutely infuriates me. I can only imagine how you guys feel. Could you call the local TV newstation and clue them in on this kind of corruption? It sounds like just the kind of story that news operations love to broadcast and you have hard documentation to support the facts. Tell Pete that Lois Lane wouldn’t stand for it.

  2. philip

    I just dealt with these people at Lima. Kitty is your harpy from the front desk. She just told me, basically, that it didn’t matter what she had told me the previous week (sending me on a document scavenger hunt while they collect their $40/day), that anything she had told me before was “hearsay” (implying she’d deny it if anyone asked). She does indeed start screeching immediately on any question. My first interaction with her last week as I tried to figure out what documents I’d need to get the release had her screeching within a minute. Today she put down the phone while I was talking to her (admittedly it was heated by that point, but still civil) and then 30 seconds later picked it up and said “Were you talking? I couldn’t hear anything you said, I had put the phone down”. The manager Dave might be more reasonable, but since the pot was already stirred, and Lupe (the owner, I think) wouldn’t intervene he wouldn’t help either. And if they try to shoo you out of the office at 5pm telling you if you stay that it will be a $70 fee, they are lying. That violates their contract with the SCPD. Only if there is no one at the office when you get there are they allowed to levy their “gate fee”.


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