A Lac du Bonnet man says he was angry and frustrated when Dr. Hook Towing Services denied damaging his vehicle after towing it from a Winnipeg street.
But that anger turned to vindication when security camera video proved the towing company was responsible for $1,500 in damage.
“It seemed like they wouldn't even consider the idea of them being at fault for something until they were confronted with the proof,” J.D. McIntosh told CBC News in an interview.
It happened on a cold day in December when McIntosh was having trouble with his GMC Suburban sport-utility vehicle, a 1995 model with more than 200,000 km on the odometer.
When the vehicle wouldn’t start, he called Dr. Hook to get it off the Winnipeg street where it was parked because the City of Winnipeg would be sending snow plows around.
McIntosh paid by credit card over the phone and wasn’t present when the tow truck operator hauled it to a parking lot across town.
“I actually went there two days later to look at the vehicle and I noticed my front end was smashed up a little bit,” he said, referring to damage on the bumper and the front grill.
McIntosh filed a claim with Manitoba Public Insurance (MPI) and an adjuster estimated the damage at $1,500.
Was told 'everything went well'
McIntosh said he phoned Dr. Hook and talked to a manager about the damage.
“He said the truck was loaded fine, everything went well and the driver said there were no hiccups, no problems, and there was no way my truck could've been damaged,” McIntosh explained.
The vehicle was towed from a street on the south side of the city and dropped at a parking lot operated by McIntosh's friend.
“So that's when I asked my friend for the security footage,” McIntosh said, referring to his friend at the business where the vehicle was delivered.
The video shows the tow truck's flatbed backing into the Suburban, followed by the tow truck driver getting out and briefly looking at the other vehicle before getting back into the truck and driving away.
“I don’t know what to think,” said McIntosh. “He [the driver] could’ve called me, he could've told Dr. Hook something. But instead he just chose to drive away, and I guess he didn't know there were cameras pointed at him.”
“I feel satisfied I guess because I found out how my truck was damaged,” McIntosh added.
“You never know where there's security cameras. And I’m really lucky in my case because they would've kept denying it and I would've had no proof.”
Tow truck driver put on probation
The owner of Dr. Hook Towing Services, Nick Roscoe, told CBC News it was a case of driver error on the part of his employee.
“These things happen,” said Roscoe.
“The driver’s accepted responsibility for the damages and a note’s been put in his file, and he’s been put on probation relative to driving with due care and caution. And that’s all we can do about it.”
“Accidents happen,” Roscoe added. “It’s not something that happens all the time, but it does happen.”
Roscoe acknowledged that there was “involvement with one of our employees that hit his vehicle and asked him to forward his claim to MPI.”
"We’re responsible for the deductible and the owner should not have any charges against them on their license or their insurance premiums," he said.
McIntosh's deductible was $300.
Roscoe said he did not personally watch the security camera video, nor did he speak to the employee. That was left to a manager at Dr. Hook.
When asked whether he thought the driver would have acknowledged the accident without the existence of security camera video, Roscoe said he had no opinion.
“He wasn’t aware that he had caused damage,” Roscoe said of the driver.
"We don’t know that this was intentional or neglectful or on purpose. It appears to be an accident.
“There was a collision, the driver was asked about it. He said he wasn’t aware of it. There was information that came forward and he was made aware of it,” Roscoe added.
No refund on towing fee
The towing company stopped short of granting McIntosh a refund on his towing fee.
“I asked for my towing fee back and they refused,” McIntosh said.
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“They never even apologized for any inconveniences. All they said was, 'You're really lucky you've got the tape.'"
Said Roscoe, “If we refunded that, that basically means that we didn’t have any kind of service agreement with the customer. And if the tow is paid for, we did the job.”
He added, “Unfortunately he might not be totally satisfied, but sometimes that’s not entirely possible to satisfy every human being, but I believe we’ve done our due diligence here."
Dr. Hook is contracted by Winnipeg Police Service and the City of Winnipeg's snow-clearing operations to provide towing services.
MPI says it receives about 80 claims a year in which tow truck operators are at fault — whether it involves Dr. Hook or other companies.