Home FleetWatch 2011 Looking for a precedent to prevent extortion

Looking for a precedent to prevent extortion

Job seekers should enter the truck towing or panel-beating industries as 2011 should spell continued good times for both these sectors.

I was witness to a truck accident a week ago. So what, you say? Accidents happen every day. Well yes, but ‘˜witness’ in that it was right outside where we were standing and the noise of a combination falling over is pretty, well’¦LOUD!

The actions of the emergency crew called in do the recovery was, as has often been said, an exercise to draw respect! Seeing an emergency crew in action “always’ reminds me of heaven! The driver had injured his back and it was no trouble for one of the recovery team members to climb inside the wrecked cab to be in the perfect position to ensure that there was no compromise in extracting the driver at the appropriate time. They subsequently did this with consummate experience and perfection.

You can see this day in day out and never fail to be impressed with the operation! I am not even including the brilliant attitude towards projecting a professional aura – correct clothing, gloves, preparation of work area and so on!

The one funny thing is that despite this operator being our panel operator, a “pirate’ tow truck had heard about the accident and cruised past the operation like a hyena waiting for the slightest opportunity!

This reminded me of the flip side of the coin. Most of our panel towing suppliers are just superb operators and the benchmark they set for others in the industry is equally impressive. As we always say, they are also a beacon of hope for all transport operators.

Recently, however, in a presentation, I used slides of one of our claims cases where a rigid truck had been towed all of – I think- six kilometers. The unit had NOT fallen over, NOT gone off the road but yet we were stung somewhere close to R25 000 for the total tow. Yes, you read it right , R25 000 for a six kay tow!

The compounding problem is that the repairer paid the “release fee’ in the sure knowledge that possession is 100% of the law. We, of course, were presented with the accident repair bill PLUS a R25 ‘˜k-er’ to reimburse the repairer. The outcome, as they say in the classics, was: “We were taken!’

Our reaction was that this had been an unnecessary distraction and wasted cost but the problem is that we’ve had quite a few of these recently. I know the largest tow operators are equally frustrated with this state of affairs. They provide a slick professional service and those that choose the dishonest route sully their reputation and good names!

We therefore decided that, although our client is long reunited with the repaired vehicle and all the costs paid, we are seeking legal opinion to remedy this extortion. The interesting part of the brief is that we will be including the repairer as being a party to the extortion.

Whatever the outcome, I am sure the professional tow operators and other Insurers will be interested in the ruling either way. Forgive me if there is Case law in this regard. If there is, I am certainly not aware of it.

Our wish is that we can get some Case law to lay down a ‘˜behaviour marker’ for us, the Insurers, the professional tow operators (for their own standards) and, of course, hopefully a reference point for the “pirates’ so that if they choose to behave like this, there is precedent either way! We will update you on proceedings as they develop!

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