WSVN — For many South Floridians, it’s all too real. They park in the wrong spot, and their cars are towed. One South Florida woman watched as it started and would end up with a car damaged by the tow truck driver. But getting the driver to pay for the repairs was impossible, so she turned to the guys who make things happen. Time now for Help Me Howard with Patrick Fraser.

When you or your parents grow older, you hope to have a neighbor like Marlene Wellington.

Marlene Wellington: “We have a group of people that I’m very fond of, we help each other. It’s really very nice.”

For example, one of her friends in the condo complex has been sick.

Marlene Wellington: “I make lunch or we go out to lunch or I shop for her or something.”

Another neighbor can’t drive, and when he needed to go to this Social Security office in Miami, Marlene took him.

Marlene Wellington: “And there wasn’t a place to drop him off, so I pulled across the street in a lot, not to park my car, but just to let him out and watch and see that he got there safely across the street.”

He made it across the street safely. Back in the parking lot, Marlene was the one with the problem.

Marlene Wellington: “And all of a sudden, I heard this huge noise, and I looked up and there was this tow truck. So I went running over, ‘No, no!’ Banging on the window and so on, and then he looked at me and then pulled.”

As the driver tried to quickly pull away with Marlene’s car, he realized he had not hooked up the vehicle the right way.

Marlene Wellington: “By that time, he had done the damage.”

Marlene’s bumper had been pulled from the car. A witness saw what happened and called police. The tow truck driver was not happy.

Marlene Wellington: “Told me to go [expletive] myself, he told the witness to go and [expletive] himself as well, and then he told the policeman that he can do it also. He was very angry and very upset, very wild.”

The police ticketed the tow truck driver for careless driving. Marlene then contacted the tow company’s insurance representative, but he said they were not paying for the damage to her car.

Marlene Wellington: “He said that the man who hit you that was driving the tow truck was not registered as one of the drivers for this tow truck company.”

That meant either Marlene had to pay the deductible for her insurance to fix the bumper or pay the entire $670 herself to get it repaired.

Marlene Wellington: “And frankly, I really don’t have that money that I can use for that purpose.”

But the tow truck company’s insurance says they won’t pay.

Marlene Wellington: “I’m riding around with a bumper that is half off.”

So, Howard, tow company’s insurance claims the driver was not registered to drive the truck, and they don’t have to pay. True or false?

Howard Finkelstein: “It’s true the insurance company probably doesn’t have to pay, but the tow truck company is responsible for the negligent acts of its drivers. And since the driver damaged Marlene’s car, the company has to pay to repair the bumper.”

We spoke to the driver. He denied cussing out Marlene and the police, said he didn’t even hook up to her car, that she ran over a rock and she and the police blamed him for it.

Since that sounded unlikely, we then contacted Angel Torres, the owner of the towing company. When we told him what had happened, he asked to see the police report, thanked us and told Marlene to take her car to her dealer and he would pay the bill to repair the vehicle.

And while we are on the subject of towing, Howard says you need to know a couple of things.

Howard Finkelstein: “A driver cannot do what is called trolling, in other words, sitting and waiting for someone to park illegally. The driver has to be asked by the owner of the property or their representative to come tow a vehicle. And if you get there before they pull away, they have to release your car as long as you pay 50 percent of the charge had it been towed away.”

Marlene likes to help her neighbors. Fortunately, we were able to pay her back for them and help her.

Marlene Wellington: “I’m enormously grateful and thankful to you folks at Channel 7, because I could not have accomplished this without you.”

Patrick Fraser: “Thanks, but the owner of Torres Towing was the one who was really nice. His driver? Well, anyway. Now, if you get towed, to make sure it’s legal, ask to see the signature of the person who called the towing company. If its not signed, it’s illegal. The towing company will probably force you to pay to release your car, but later the law is on your side, and you are entitled to get your money back.

Towing around a problem that’s dragging you down? Ready to unhook from the headache? Sign up with us. We will go toe to toe with them and hopefully release you from your problem. With this Help Me Howard, I’m Patrick Fraser, 7News.

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