Originally Posted by paralegalusaf
So let me get this straight...what you are saying is the Sheriff’s Dept towed your car w/out giving you proper notice (i.e. by either doing nothing or placing stickers on the windshields and side windows, antennas, etc., sometimes I’ve seen one, two, or three stickers...heck there was a car on 210 for at least 4 days before it was either towed by PG county or the owner got it...it looked my daughter got a hold of it w/her sticker book. I love how the stickers are strategically placed in the driver’s field of view).
Secondly, you say your vehicle was clearly on the shoulder of the road, past the white solid line, and it was clearly out of the way of moving traffic and was not causing an obstruction by either blocking a pathway, road, etc., or creating a visual obstruction, such as creating a safety hazard by impairing drivers being able to safely turning due to an obstructed view, or endangering bicyclists or pedestrians....Hmmm...Let’s see if I can give you some none-legal, but yet, friendly and hopeful helpful advice...Keep in mind if you want anything to come out of this, you are going to have to put forth the effort...or hire an attorney to get the ball rolling...
The following information are some suggestions you may want to consider....basically it is the format for writing a legal brief and how to substantiate your issues....Seeing how I am not sure how much experience you have, I certainly tried to explain things; I apologize if you already know some of this or if I stated something that doesn’t make sense...please let me know if you have any questions. But for now...
Here are a few fact finder questions you’ll want to ask/answer:
- Where was your vehicle parked; street name and nearby intersecting street; were there any traffic lights/stop signs at/or near the vehicle and/or a marked bike zone or sidewalk? How close was the vehicle to the intersecting street? Was there a fire station on the same street?
- Was the vehicle considered unsafe because it had the potential to effect other drivers due to an obstructive field of view while obeying the traffic light, using turn lanes, or trying to cross or turn on to a main road from a secondary roadway and vice versa or impeding traffic in any other way? How about a bike lane or sidewalk; were those even a factor?
- What time/date did your vehicle break down?
- What were the weather conditions at the time the incident occurred?
- How long did AAA state someone would arrive on scene to assist?
- At what point, if any, did you leave your vehicle and why?
- Did you leave a note on the dashboard explaining AAA was on the way to tow vehicle due to car trouble, including your name and phone number and the date/time?
- Was the vehicle completely on a hard surface or fully or partially on the grass after the paved shoulder of the road, past the white paint line marked on the pavement?
- What type of damages are you seeking (i.e. towing fees, impound fees, lost wages due to time off to get car out of the impound, rental car, if applicable, and any other damages to your property either by theft/loss of the contents inside the car or damage to your car, and any court and/or attorney fees...that’s about all I can think of... not saying you should run out and rent a car and you will be reimbursed, but wanted to include all of the common demands)?
Collect and Write your case:
Start with the facts by writing down everything as you can recall it while it is still fresh in your mind and in its purest form; then go back and put it in order starting with what caused you to pull your car over to the shoulder, what steps you took to attempt to fix the vehicle at the location, if any, what was the time and date this occurred, what was your intention when you left your vehicle, and finishing with the vehicle being towed and any conversations about the vehicle up and to present time.
I. “Did the Sheriff’s Dept err by wrongfully and prematurely towing a vehicle and placing in impound without following proper protocol by not allowing X number of hours to expire before identifying and acting upon an abandoned vehicle?”
II. “Did the Sheriff’s Dept err by wrongfully considering a disable vehicle temporarily parked on the paved shoulder of said NAME OF STREET and NEARBY SIDE STEET OR INTERSECTION a safety violation without stating any reason for cause?”
First, in order to find substantiation to your claim, you must start with the foundational or statutory laws. These laws are created by lawmakers and may be governed by the state and/or local jurisdiction.
Second, further your research by locating relevant case law to substantiate your issues. Case law is law created from the rulings at trial and appellate levels. Please keep in mind not all case law may be in favor of your side on a particular issue. However, it is better to have all the facts, good, bad, or indifferent, than to have a one-sided argument only setting yourself up for someone to poke holes in your theory. Knowing both sides will strengthen your case if statutory and case laws are in your favor. If you cannot find anything to help, then chances are there isn’t much of a case...but when it comes to a matter of the law, it all depends...
In addition statutes, there is also case law. To find relevant case law, try goggling (unless you use the local court house’s law library or subscribe to an online legal research site like Lexis or West Law) certain key phases and words to find information similar to your case, for example: abandoned vehicles and/or disabled vehicles + towing + time limits + Maryland, etc. The more search terms used, the wider the result and vice versa. I found Google cuts out most of the junk...where Yahoo comes up with more unsubstantiated information...like Wikipedia and Blogs w/ppl venting. I would only use those sites as a road map to official sites with reliable sources.
Third, I recommend locating the sheriff’s Dept rules/regulations/policies regarding abandoned vehicles; in addition any memorandum of agreements between the towing company for hire, the sheriff’s dept, and which ever political position runs your community, whether it is a county commissioner, mayor, etc, who was the final approval. Moreover, request a copy of the report, in addition to locating the names of acting officer, the towing company/driver’s name, impound recipient, etc....basically track down as much documentation as possible.
- Take pictures of the location where and how your car was parked from several different angles and distances. Recommend staging a similar sized vehicle in the same parked position and take pictures with and without the staged car.
- Draw a diagram of the roadway; nothing fancy, it can be a rudimentary handdrawing or by PowerPoint, just so long as it is understandable. Recommend including a compass rose to show the heading (i.e. north, south, east, west, sorry...not sure if I was making sense) and/or latitude/longitude degrees.
- Witness statements; was anyone with you of a legal age or a minor who can explain thoughts cleary and differentiate between the truth and a lie. If so, provide a notarized and sworn witness statement and ensure that person is available if an interview or testimony is required, either through alternative dispute resolution or by trial?
State how the facts of the case correlate with the statutory and case laws; list out each law or related laws as separate or grouped from each other and state how it is applicable in your case. Same goes for rules/policies/memoranda, etc.
Bring it home with the skinny on what you just talked about, issues/rules/analysis/and your demands (ex. towing fees, impound fees, lost wages due to time off to get car out of the impound, rental car, if applicable, and any other damages to your property either by theft of the contents inside the car or damage to your car, and any court and/or attorney fees).
Recommend polling the community to see if anything like your situation has occurred to other people. Get all the facts...skip the emotions...then become passionate about making a change to the way the Sheriff's dept handles abandoned cars and try to recoupe your fees. It sounds like a lot of work, but it really isn’t...Best of luck!