Towing company liable for damage to your car

Oct. 22, 2010 at 5:22 a.m.

I was in a hurry and parked my car in a lot where I shouldn't have parked. My car was towed. When I went to pick it up, I noticed it had some bad scratches, and a dent. The car was almost new and had no damage before it was towed. The towing company says it has no liability; it was my fault for parking where I shouldn't. What are my legal rights?

First, I assume that the parking lot had adequate signs informing you who could park in the lot, and a phone number you could call 24 hours a day to retrieve your car. Without proper signage the towing would be unlawful.

Even assuming it had the right to tow, however, the towing company still is liable for any damage caused to your car its negligence. The fact that you parked where you shouldn't, does not give the company the right to damage your car. Negligence is not exercising ordinary care. In my opinion, a car that is properly towed should not have scratches and definitely should not have any dents. Causing such damage would be considered negligence, and the towing company would be liable for whatever it costs you to have the damage repaired. I suggest you send the company a certified letter with pictures of the damage and let it know you expect it will arrange for repairs, or pay you the cost of the repairs. If you do not work something out, consider small claims court.

. I was married three years ago. I just learned that at the time of our wedding my husband's divorce was not final. The divorce did not become final until several months after our wedding. Am I married?

Based on what you say, you are now married, but you were not married the day of your wedding. A person can have only one spouse, and the person you married already had a spouse. Once the divorce became final, however, he had the legal right to marry - and did. As soon as he was divorced, you had a common law marriage. The act of agreeing to be married, living together as married and holding yourselves out as married was sufficient to establish a common law marriage

Do I have a legal right to see my grandchild? Can I go to court to get visitation?

As a general rule, a grandparent has very limited rights to visit his or her grandchild. The law presumes that parents act in the best interest of the child, and they make the decision regarding grandparent visitation. If the parents are living together and want to deny visitation to a grandparent they generally may do so. A court may grant grandparent visitation rights only in very limited circumstances, for example, if one of the parents is in jail or has died.

I took out an SBA loan about four years ago. I just received noticed my wages will be garnished if I do not work out a payment plan. I thought there was no wage garnishment in Texas?

As a general rule, you are correct - Texas prohibits wage garnishment. There are, however, some exceptions to this rule. Wage garnishment is permitted for child support, student loans, certain taxes, and SBA loans. I suggest you work with them and come up with a payment plan you can afford.

I recently stopped paying on a credit card. I can no longer afford the payments and had to default. I am now concerned that the company will sue me and take my home. Can a credit card company do that?

In Texas, there are "exemption" laws that protect some of your property from your creditors. Even if a credit card company successfully sues you, the company cannot take "exempt" property. Exempt property in Texas includes your wages, retirement accounts, such as an IRA, most personal property, and your home. For more details about Texas exemption law, take a look at the debt collection section of my website below.

Want to know more about your legal rights? Check out my website,

Richard Alderman, a consumer advocate popularly known as "the People's Lawyer," is a professor at the University of Houston Law School in Houston. His column appears weekly in the Victoria Advocate. Write to him at UH Law Center, Houston, Texas 77204-6391. He also maintains a Web page at



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