Owners Of Wrecked Boat Out $20K Because AAA Tow Driver Used Personal Vehicle

Common sense would tell you that if your vehicle is wrecked while in the care of a AAA tow truck driver, either that driver’s insurance or AAA would be responsible for making you whole again. But if the tow driver is using their own personal truck at the time of the collision, you could be stuck holding the bill.

That’s what happened to a San Francisco-area family who called AAA after the tire on their boat trailer went flat on the highway.

The family advised AAA that it would need to send someone out with a flatbed to safely move the boat, and AAA told them that one was on the way. The family could not stick around to confirm this, as state highway patrol officers had asked them to relocate for their own safety and leave the boat behind on the roadside for AAA to retrieve.

But here’s where things go wrong. The tow truck operator says that she was not told she needed to bring a flatbed truck and that she was only dealing with a flat tire, so she drove out to the boat in her own vehicle. Once there, rather than calling for a flatbed, the driver repaired the tire and hitched the boat trailer to her truck.

At some point afterward, the driver was involved in a collision with another vehicle and the boat was totaled, as you can see in the video here.

So the tow driver’s insurance should cover the damage to the boat, right? Nope. The driver’s insurance, like many personal policies, has a clause saying the vehicle is not covered if used for commercial purposes. Because the driver was using her own truck, her insurance would not pay.

What about the car that caused the collision? Unfortunately, that vehicle fled the scene and you can’t make an insurance claim against a driver you can’t identify.

What about AAA? Even when the family pointed out that the tow driver was effectively uninsured because she was using a personal vehicle, AAA insisted that the driver did have insurance, and because the tow driver was not at fault, the family would have to seek payment from their own insurer.

Their insurance company did pay $10,000, but replacing the boat would cost $40,000. The tow company where the driver works offered to pay another $10,000, but in installments over several years.

That leaves the family out at least $20,000 on a boat that someone else is responsible for wrecking.

After CBS San Francisco’s ConsumerWatch got involved, a state Dept. of Insurance investigation confirmed that the driver, contrary to AAA’s assertion, was indeed uninsured at the time of the accident because she was using her a personal vehicle for commercial purposes.

AAA would not tell ConsumerWatch whether it has rules prohibiting drivers from using personal vehicles or if the service verifies that third party tow companies are sending out the proper trucks to tow sites.

However, AAA now says it will “review (further documentation) and provide the member with an updated assessment of this case.”

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