By Julie Watts

SAN FRANCISCO (CBS SF) — If your vehicle is totaled while in AAA’s care, the auto club may not take responsibility.

Ginger Clark, her husband, and her young children were towing their $40,000 boat when the trailer got a flat.

Clark says she specifically asked for a flatbed tow truck, but AAA twice sent the wrong type of truck.

After several calls, a AAA dispatcher and CHP advised them to leave the boat behind on the dangerous freeway off ramp for their safety.

Around 11pm, the Clarks reluctantly agreed after AAA assured them a flatbed was finally on the way.

A short time later, Clark got a call from the tow driver telling her that the boat had been in an accident, and was totaled.

The female tow truck driver said AAA dispatch told her that she was only responding to a flat tire.  Instead of taking the appropriate flatbed for the tow, she showed up in a personal vehicle, and felt obligated to change the flat and hitch the stranded boat and trailer to that.

The Clarks soon learned that because the AAA driver was using a personal vehicle for commercial use at the time of the accident, the tow company’s insurance policy would not cover the damage to the truck or the boat.

Nancy Kinkade of the Department of Insurance says that virtually every private auto insurance policy has an exclusion if the vehicle is used to transport something for someone for money.

The Clarks then turned to AAA for help in hopes that the auto club would cover the damage caused while their boat was in the care of AAA’s uninsured driver.

Instead, AAA denied that its driver was uninsured and stated that “Mrs. Clark would need to further pursue her claim with her own insurance company.”

AAA said in a statement that after a thorough investigation, “it was determined by the member’s insurance company  that the AAA towing contractor was not at fault and that the other vehicle was responsible for the accident.”

Unfortunately for the Clarks, the accident was deemed a hit-and-run so they could not seek damages from the at-fault driver and the Clark’s insurance company only paid $10,000 of the boat’s $40,000 value.

If the tow driver had been properly insured, the tow company’s insurance policy would have covered the difference. Instead, the tow company offered to pay just $10,000 of the $30,000 balance in small increments over time.

ConsumerWatch reached out to the Department of Insurance which subsequently launched an investigation into the incident. Contrary to AAA’s claims, the DOI confirmed that the AAA tow truck driver was uninsured at the time of the crash because she was using a personal vehicle for commercial use.

AAA continues to deny responsibility for the damage stating that the tow truck driver was not at fault. It declined to comment on it’s policy for covering damage to a vehicle while it is in AAA’s care.

AAA also declined to confirm that it has a policy prohibiting driver from using personal vehicles for commercial use or that verifies drivers are using properly insured vehicles and responding in equipment appropriate for the type of tow requested.

Nearly two months after ConsumerWatch first reached out to AAA about the case, and six months after the accident, the auto club has now agreed to “review (further documentation) and provide the member with an updated assessment of this case.”

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