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'It's being held for ransom.' Driver stuck in I-696 pileup hit with $9,000 towing bill

696 pileup
Posted at 5:46 PM, Feb 18, 2022
and last updated 2022-02-18 18:22:15-05

REDFORD, Mich. (WXYZ) — A driver caught in Sunday’s snow squall on I-696 that led to a massive vehicle pileup was hit with a $9,000 towing bill from a Redford tow company.

Kellie Rockwell was heading east on I-696 when she and about 50 other drivers collided during whiteout conditions.

“You just heard one thump after another after another,” she said, “and you just see vehicles going every which way.”

Michigan State Police arrived first, she said, along with fire and EMS units. Then came towing companies, including a Redford-based company called 10G Towing and Recovery.

“The tow driver just walked up to our car, asked if we wanted him to get us out and we said yes because we assumed they were with the police,” Rockwell said.

She would later learn that police did not call the company.

While she was relieved to be pulled out of the chaotic scene, Rockwell was quickly seeing red once she learned how much the tow had cost.

The bill included a $2,195 towing charge, a $200 mileage charge, a $250 “extra person” fee, a $650 charge for special equipment, $800 for labor, $525 for storage, a $395 COVID fee, $50 for fuel, a $1,900 “gate/admin” fee, a $300 flatbed charge and $275 winch fee.

10G added a 20% “processing fee” on top, bringing to total tow cost to $9,048.

“My vehicle wasn’t that damaged. I wasn’t in a ditch. It wasn’t wrapped around a pole,” Rockwell said. “I was on the freeway. I was simply rear-ended.”

Rockwell has insurance through Progressive, but the company said they weren’t paying $9,000 for one tow. Her car has been stuck ever since.

“It’s being held for ransom,” she said.

Tom Berry is a retired Detroit Police lieutenant and longtime insurance investigator familiar with the rules of towing in Michigan.

“This is a great reason why we pay high insurance rates,” Berry said.

He says even though Rockwell’s towing bill is astronomical, the fees being charged are not against the law. What’s not allowed, he says, is for towers to solicit business along an accident scene.

It is not clear exactly how 10G Towing made its way to Kellie Rockwell, but she says she didn’t call them and a Michigan State Police spokesman says troopers didn't either.

“They need to create some laws in Lansing that protect the public from this,” Berry said. “Because it’s the public that’s paying and they’re gonna pay (and) pay (and) pay and that’s why you pay such high insurance rates.”

7 Action News went to 10G Towing’s office on Grand River in Redford but were told the owner was not there. Employees who answered the door said they worked for a different company that shares space with 10G.

A message left with 10G’s owner was not returned.

It’s not known today how many other cars 10G or its affiliates towed, but after 7 Action News interviewed Kellie Rockwell, she says she was told by her insurer that the company had decided to cut Rockwell's bill down from $9,000 to $2,500.

Progressive is now paying the claim.

“They’re taking advantage of people that are already in a horrible situation," Rockwell said, "and, by doing this, they’re making all the guys in the tow industry look bad."

If you believe you’ve been the victim of predatory towing, send us an email at tips@wxyz.com