Indiana Towing Laws

Jan 31

Tow trucks are necessary in our car-reliant world. While no one wants to see their vehicle on a tow truck, towing allows you to move inoperable vehicles to be repaired. It also lets the city or other entities tow vehicles that violate the law. 

While towing is a helpful service, it can also be dangerous – both to vehicles and motorists. This is why Indiana has specific laws regulating towing practices. 

If you have concerns about towing accidents, seek help from an Indiana truck accident lawyer today. 


Overview of Towing Laws in Indiana

Indiana towing laws are designed to regulate the towing industry and protect the rights of vehicle owners. Understanding these laws is crucial for both tow operators and motorists to ensure fair and legal towing practices. Here is an overview of Indiana towing laws.

Towing Licensing and Regulation

Towing companies and operators must be licensed by the Indiana Secretary of State. This license demonstrates that the company meets certain standards and has proper insurance coverage.

Tow operators must undergo background checks and meet specific training requirements to obtain and maintain their licenses.

Towing Fees

Indiana law regulates towing fees to prevent excessive charges. Towing companies are required to provide a schedule of fees, which should be conspicuously posted.

The Indiana Administrative Code establishes maximum rates for non-consensual towing. These rates vary depending on the size and type of vehicle.

Tow Signs and Notices

Tow companies must post clear and visible signs in designated parking areas to notify vehicle owners of towing policies. The signs must specify the name and contact information of the towing company, as well as the towing fee schedule.

Towing Contracts

Towing companies must have a written agreement with the property owner or law enforcement agency authorizing them to tow vehicles from a specific location. This agreement must be readily available for inspection.

Towing of Abandoned Vehicles

Abandoned vehicles can be towed without the owner’s consent if certain conditions are met. These conditions typically include factors like expired registration, missing or expired license plates, or obvious signs of abandonment.

Notification Requirements

After towing a vehicle, the towing company must promptly notify the local law enforcement agency with jurisdiction over the location from which the vehicle was towed. This notification should include information about the towed vehicle.

Releasing Towed Vehicles

Once a vehicle is towed, the owner or operator must pay the towing and storage fees to retrieve it. The towing company must release the vehicle to the rightful owner or their authorized representative upon payment of these fees.

Inventory and Storage of Towed Vehicles

Towing companies are required to maintain a detailed inventory of items found in the towed vehicle. This inventory must be documented and kept for a specified period.

Towed vehicles must be stored in a secure and safe location. The storage area should be fenced and well-lit, and access should be controlled to prevent theft or damage.

Release of Personal Property

Towing companies must allow the owner or their authorized representative to retrieve personal property from the towed vehicle without unreasonable delay. This includes items like wallets, documents, or personal belongings.

Complaints and Dispute Resolution

If a vehicle owner believes they were wrongfully towed or charged excessive fees, they have the right to file a complaint with the Indiana Attorney General’s Consumer Protection Division.

Liability of Towing Companies

Towing companies can be held liable for damages if they fail to comply with Indiana towing laws. This can include penalties, fines, or even suspension or revocation of their towing license.

Private Property Towing

Towing from private property, such as shopping centers or apartment complexes, is regulated by specific laws. Towing companies must follow strict procedures, including proper signage and notification to law enforcement.

Both tow operators and vehicle owners need to be familiar with Indiana’s towing laws to ensure fair and legal practices. If there are disputes or concerns, seeking legal advice or contacting the Indiana Attorney General’s Consumer Protection Division can help resolve issues and protect the rights of all parties involved.


Costly Damage Can Happen to Vehicles During Towing

Towing is a critical service for stranded or immobilized vehicles, but if not executed properly, it can lead to costly damage. Some potential sources of damage include:

  • Improper attachment: Inadequate or incorrect attachment of the tow straps, chains, or hooks can lead to structural damage, especially in the front or rear end of the towed vehicle. Tow operators must be trained and experienced in secure attachment methods to prevent such damage.
  • Transmission damage: Towing a vehicle with its drive wheels on the ground (as opposed to on a dolly or flatbed) can lead to transmission damage. This is especially relevant for vehicles with front-wheel drive. The spinning of the drive wheels can cause unnecessary stress on the transmission.
  • Suspension damage: Towing a vehicle incorrectly, especially if it’s not in neutral gear, can result in undue pressure on the suspension system. This may lead to damage to shocks, struts, or other components.
  • Brake damage: If the brakes are not released properly, they can drag against the towed vehicle’s wheels, causing wear and potentially overheating. This is particularly relevant when towing non-running vehicles.
  • Electrical system issues: Improper electrical connections during towing can lead to damage to the towed vehicle’s electrical system. It’s important to ensure that any lights or brakes being used on the towed vehicle are properly connected.
  • Flat spots on tires: Prolonged towing of a vehicle with stationary wheels can cause flat spots to develop on the tires. This can lead to uneven wear and reduced tire lifespan.
  • Body damage: Inexperienced tow operators may fail to properly secure the vehicle during transport. This can result in swaying or movement during towing, potentially causing collisions with other objects or vehicles.
  • Fluid leaks: Towing a vehicle with damaged components can lead to fluid leaks. These can range from minor issues like oil drips to more severe problems like transmission or coolant leaks.
  • Ignition and steering locks: If the towed vehicle’s ignition or steering wheel is not properly locked or secured, it may move or shift during towing, potentially causing damage to the steering system or other components.
  • Inadequate equipment: Using the wrong type of towing equipment or failing to adjust it properly for the specific vehicle being towed can result in damage. For example, using a tow dolly that’s not suited for a particular vehicle can lead to issues.


Entities should always hire reputable and experienced towing companies, and these companies should properly train drivers to avoid accidents and damage. Moreover, comprehensive training and ongoing professional development for tow operators is essential to ensure they understand the intricacies of safely towing various types of vehicles. This includes learning about the specific towing capacities and methods for different vehicle makes and models.

While towing is a valuable service, it’s not without risks and can result in costly damage to your vehicle. If this happens and the damage was preventable, the towing company should be held liable for the repairs or replacement of your vehicle. Speak with a truck accident attorney about your options. 


Improper Towing Can Cause Injuries to Others

Improper towing practices can lead to serious injuries for both tow operators and other motorists on the road. Some ways serious injuries can occur include:

  • Inadequate securement: Failing to properly secure a vehicle to the tow truck can result in the towed vehicle becoming detached, potentially causing a collision with other vehicles on the road. This type of incident can lead to severe injuries or even fatalities.
  • Sudden stops and maneuvers: If a tow operator makes abrupt stops or sharp turns without considering the weight and balance of the towed vehicle, it can lead to loss of control and accidents involving other vehicles.
  • Incorrect tow truck for the job: Using a tow truck that is not suited for the size or type of the vehicle being towed can lead to instability and increased risk of accidents. For instance, attempting to tow a heavy vehicle with a truck not rated for such weight can be extremely dangerous.
  • Neglecting safety measures: Tow operators must adhere to strict safety protocols, such as properly marking off the towing area, using hazard lights, and providing ample warning to other drivers. Neglecting these precautions can lead to accidents and injuries.
  • Lack of proper training: Inexperienced or poorly trained tow operators may lack the skills needed to safely load, transport, and unload vehicles. This can lead to accidents that pose risks to both the operator and other road users.
  • Failure to properly maintain equipment: Worn or faulty equipment, such as winches, cables, or hooks, can lead to catastrophic failures during towing, endangering everyone in the vicinity.
  • Roadside emergencies: In the event of a breakdown or accident on a busy roadway, improper towing practices can lead to secondary accidents if the tow operators don’t take adequate precautions to protect themselves and other motorists.


Consult with an Indiana Truck Accident Attorney

While you do not hear about towing mishaps and accidents as much as other types of vehicle accidents, they do happen and can have costly results. If you suffered losses due to a tow truck, reach out to the legal team at Blackburn Romey today. Contact us for your free consultation.


Tom Blackburn

Blackburn Romey founding partner Tom Blackburn graduated with honors receiving a degree from Indiana University at the Robert H. McKinney School of Law. Initiating his legal career in 1977, he has been active in practicing law and currently serves as a member of the Indiana State Bar Association on the Ethics and Advertising Committees, the American Bar Association, the American Association for Justice, as a board member at the Indiana Trial Lawyers Association, and as an appointed member of the Executive Committee for the State of Indiana for the National Trial Lawyers Association.

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This page has been written, edited, and reviewed by a team of legal writers following our comprehensive editorial guidelines. This page was approved by Founding Partner, Tom Blackburn, who has more than 47 years of legal experience, including over 39 years specializing as a personal injury attorney.