UPDATE: Tow company called for hearing after $48,000 bill

by: Kerry Kavanaugh Updated:

Mobile app users, click here to view the photo gallery. 

WALPOLE, Mass. (MyFoxBoston.com) -- A local man says when he got his Jeep stuck in the mud, a Walpole tow company charged him nearly $50,000 to tow it out.

Joel Ramer said he and his girlfriend took the Jeep off-roading in Walpole last week, and they landed in a mud pit.

Walpole police responded, along with Assured Collision towing company to tow it out.

It took 12 hours to pull the SUV out of the mud pit, but now Ramer doesn’t know if he will be able to afford to get his vehicle back.

"When I went to pick up the vehicle from Assured Collision, he'd informed me there was some damage done to the vehicle, but didn't get into details. He also informed me the bill was $48,000," Ramer said. “I thought they made a mistake."

In addition to getting the vehicle stuck, he also got arrested and cited for trespassing and disturbing the peace. Ramer says he was unknowingly off-roading on private property that belongs to a utility company.

Ramer also claims that his Jeep is now totaled after the mud pit and the tow.

"Frame is broken, leaf spring is broken, drive shaft is broken," Ramer said.

Ramer obtained the itemized bill submitted to his insurance. Assured Collision billed him $16,000 for an on-scene supervisor at $1,250 an hour. He is being charged more than $10,000 for an off-road recovery incident response unit. There is also a $5,000 fee for dangerous condition liability insurance. All the equipment and manpower totaled $48,835 for the 12 hour job.

The owner of Assured Collision told FOX25 that his seven man team was in dangerous conditions due to the proximity to power lines. He said it was a hazmat situation and all the fees reflect the industry standard.

He also told FOX25 that Assured Collision is negotiating with Ramer’s insurance company. In regards to the damage, he cited several issues with the Jeep he believes existed prior to the tow.

Ramer claims his insurance company is not paying anything towards the tow, so the Jeep remains at Assured Collision.

One day after our story aired, the Statewide Towing Association sent FOX25 a statement saying, "Although Statewide Towing Association has not had a chance to review the actual invoice, the rates quoted in the news article appear to be significantly in excess of the industry standard."

While Assured Collision charged $1,250 an hour for an on-site supervisor, the association says the industry average is between $175-$325 an hour. 

The association says they have never heard of dangerous condition liability insurance, which Ramer was billed $5,000 for. 

They also said line by line equipment should have been included with trucks, but it was billed separately. 

Assured Collision told FOX25 the photos provided by the owner do not accurately reflect the dangerous conditions their crew endured. The owner said the Jeep was in a swamp. They said the proximity to power lines only increased the risk to the workers. Assured Collision's owner told FOX25 that he has placed a lien on the Jeep. 

The Massachusetts Department of Public Utilities has called Assured Collision for an informal hearing regarding failure to adhere to maximum rates and charges, failure to file proof of insurance and failure to file an annual financial form.

That hearing is scheduled to take place in November.

Next Up: