California Motor Vehicle Code 22513 (Read the full code here)
It is unlawful for a towing company to stop at any accident scene, or stop at a disabled vehicle for purposes of solicitation unless they have been summoned to the scene by the vehicle owner/operator, your insurance company/auto club, or the police. This law was placed into effect to protect the public from predatory tow companies patrolling and looking to take advantage of stranded motorists. This is known in the industry as "Bird Dogging". Any tow truck operator that stops at a disabled vehicle or accident scene without being summoned to the scene is guilty of a misdemeanor!
If you summon a towing company, you have the right to: (This does not apply if summoned by a motor club or law enforcement)
1. Receive an estimate: Prior to towing your
vehicle, the towing company MUST provide you (if present) a written
estimate of all charges and services. The written estimate SHALL
a) Name, address, telephone number, and motor carrier permit number of the towing company.
b) The license plate number of the tow truck performing the tow.
c) The first and last name of the towing operator.
d) A description and cost for all services, including, labor, special equipment, mileage from dispatch to return, and storage fees.
The tow truck operator SHALL obtain the vehicle owner/operators signature on the itemized estimate and SHALL furnish a copy.
California Motor Vehicle Code 22651.07 (Read the full code here)
Under this section, a registered or legal owner
of a vehicle may sue a towing company (usually small claims), not exceed
$500, for failing to do the following:
1. Failure to post, in plain view of the public, the
2. Provide, upon request, a copy of the Towing Fees and Access Notice to any owner or operator of a towed or stored vehicle.
3. Failure to provide notice upon their invoice “Upon request, you are entitled to receive a copy of the Towing Fees and Access Notice.”
This notice shall be contained within a bordered text box, printed in no less than 10-point type.
4. Failure to provide an itemized invoice of actual charges prior to receiving payment for any towing, recovery, or storage-related fees.
5. Failure to allow a vehicle owner/agent to receive his or her personal property, at no charge, during normal business hours, prior to payment.
6. Failure to allow a vehicle owner/agent to retrieve his or her vehicle during the first 72 hours of storage and not pay a lien fee.
7. Failure to provide a copy of the Towing Fees and Access Notice upon request.
8. Failure to accept payment by cash or valid bank credit card.
9. Failure to provide a written itemized invoice that includes ALL of the following information:
1. The towing company name, address,
telephone number, and carrier identification number
2. If ascertainable, the registered owner or operator’s name, address, and telephone number.
3. The date service was initiated.
4. The location of the vehicle at the time service was initiated, including either the address or nearest intersecting roadways.
5. A vehicle description that includes, if ascertainable, the vehicle year, make, model, odometer reading, license plate number, or if a license plate number is unavailable, the vehicle identification number (VIN).
6. The service dispatch time, the service arrival time of the tow truck, and the service completion time.
7. A clear, itemized, and detailed explanation of any additional services that caused the total towing-related service time to exceed one hour between service dispatch time and service completion time.
8. The hourly rate or per item rate used to calculate the total towing and recovery-related fees. These fees shall be listed as separate line items.
9. If subject to storage fees, the daily storage rate and the total number of days stored. The storage fees shall be listed as a separate line item.
10. If subject to a gate fee, the date and time the vehicle was either accessed, for the purposes of returning personal property, or was released after normal business hours. Normal business hours are Monday through Friday from 8:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m., inclusive, except state holidays. A gate fee shall be listed as a separate line item.
11. A description of the method of towing.
12. If the tow was not requested by the vehicle’s owner or driver, the identity of the person or governmental agency that directed the tow. This paragraph shall not apply to information otherwise required to be redacted under Section 22658.
13. A clear, itemized, and detailed explanation of any additional services or fees.