Someone towed my BMW i3, it wasn't towed on a flatbed, EDME module failed

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New member
Jun 7, 2020
Summary: Someone towed my BMW i3, it wasn't towed on a flatbed, drivetrain malfunction, BMW service centre let me know EDME module failed. I have no warranty. The towing company did NOT use a flatbed, they used trucks and dollies. That is all the information that they will provide about how I was towed, and there was no security footage, only a picture that proves it was not a flatbed but a truck with a T-bar.

I am living in California. Someone called a towing company, my BMW i3 was towed and when I picked up the car at the towing company the steering wheel was stiff and messages like "collision detection malfunction" etc were all lit up. When I tried to drive the car to my surprise there was a "drive train malfunction" ie it will drive for 2 seconds before stopping abruptly. They of course said "Just drive it around a while and it'll be fine!" Of course without the drivetrain functioning that isn't possible...

So I inquired as to how they towed the car because it clearly says in the owners manual (page 195 or 197) that you cannot tow the car as you would a normal car and the same goes for most EVs. Needs to use a flatbed or another specialized method. Anyways, they used truck and dollies, so I believe that is technically one of the "wrong ways" to tow the BMW i3, however they said "trucks and dollies" so although flatbeds are the only approved ways, still, they may have used dollies to keep the wheels from dragging on the road although I wonder if they are lying to me because they sounded nervous over the phone and not sure of what they did.

Anyways, I thought it would be an easy insurance claim and that it would be without question that perfectly driving car one moment, someone towed me the wrong way, then car does not work, therefore Geico would accept my claim... boy was I wrong. They have fought me tooth and nail on very flimsy premises since day one. I will never look at that friendly Gecko mascot the same way again..

At BMW dealership, they immediately charged me 250$ for the system diagnostic, then they let me know that the EDME module had malfunctioned and my warranty had also just expired and that unlike the EME module is was not covered by a recall. Then they said fixing the EDME module would cost 2500-3000. So the adjuster from Geico calls them, I'm thinking this will be a streamlined, efficient and worry free experience and I'll get a loaner car as well... lo and behold, I got an automated email saying my claim was denied and that it was a final decision.

The BMW service technician told the adjuster that there had been 23 error messages since January 6, 2020. None of which I have ever seen, no warning message, and there was no issue ever with the car. The adjuster said "no, too bad, error in January means it was the cause in June, the towing did not cause it." This is shocking because of course there was no drive train malfunction or EDME malfunction in January, if so how was I able to drive it until now and drive to different cities etc since then, all easily proved by looking in the trip logs etc.

So I tried to explain to both BMW and the adjuster that:

They towed it the wrong way, and that somehow has now caused the EDME module to no longer work. Either by violently shaking the car, towing it at any angle, dragging the wheels at some point, etc. It was working fine before, (For example, I was able to park in front of my building in a no parking spot to bring up the groceries) and now the car cannot be driven.

Even if there were "Error messages" the service technician assured me that the error messages themselves are sometimes "erroneous" ie there is serious reason to doubt whether these error messages were indicative of any existing issue with the EDME module. Also, he mentioned that the drive train malfunction issue would always occur after 3 of these error messages. So I asked "So, why did it take 23 of these error messages to finally cause a drive train malfunction error?" It was very easy to show that their assessments have serious logical flaws in them and that Geico was grasping for straws in this case that the 1 in 10000 chance that my EDME decided to randomly fail while being towed the wrong way and it wasn't the towing companies fault is quite irritating.

So, Geico said "The system diagnostic concluded that there was an error message that appeared in January and therefore your claim was not accepted." They also said "there is a 1 in 1000000 chance that the towing could damage a component within the car." Excuse me? So, towing a car the wrong way, dropping it abruptly, dragging wheels at some point, etc, with all the fragile parts in an EV, even though the car was perfect before and dirty and a bit banged up and NOT DRIVABLE when I went to pick it up, there's a 1 in 1000000 chance that the towing may have been a factor? Is Geico joking?

Again, I have never seen any error or warning alert or notification in the vehicle, and the car has been fine, absolutely fine until the day I went to pick up at the towing company parking lot. There have been absolutely no issues and the car which is always serviced as scheduled. So I am supposed to believe that some random errors (none of which was visible to the driver...) mean that somehow the claim is not acceptable. I mean, really?

Any ideas what to do? BMW has offered to cover 70% of the costs now that I argued my case. Geico still says "too bad, show me unequivocal proof." Should I just take the 70% off and pay the remaining 30 out of pocket, or should I continue to pursue Geico, get a loaner car while they repair the i3, etc? I head on Reddit that the towing company insurance is bonded, should try to sue on my own, etc. What do you guys and gals think?

Thank you so much in advance,

Kind regards,

I'd take the deal from BMW, and pay the 30% and get your car back running. While that is happening, then talk with the towing company about damaged caused by improper towing, and you want them to reimburse you the amount of the 30% charge you have to pay. If they balk, file a claim with the Better Business Bureau. Years ago, had a towing company improperly hook up my Jeep Cherokee with a failed water pump, putting the tie-down hook on a front axle, and breaking it. They claimed the didn't cause the damage and the car was hooked up properly, then finally agreed to pay half the bill, which was better than nothing.
I agree with MKH but I'm curious -- if your warranty just expired, but BMW is telling you that there were "hidden" error messages present in January (presumably the warranty was in effect at that point?) then why aren't they covering the repair.

If BMW can unequivocally state that the January error message has nothing to do with the current problem, then that knocks the legs out from Geico's stance. If they can't, then they ought to cover the repair.

But ultimately, it sounds as if the towing company bears responsibility.

Reminds me of the time the smog place put my Subaru on a dyno. Thankfully I caught it quickly and came out unscathed. But Subaru automatically = AWD. How are we supposed to trust any rando tow operator to know how to handle an i3?
If the module alone is $3000, then 30% of just that is $900. Plus whatever labor and shop fees are charged to install it. If you can't get the towing company reimburse you by just asking them and going through BBB, then it might be worth the $300 or so retainer a lawyer might charge you to write a letter on your behalf -- you'll want to run the actual numbers yourself to make that call.

And don't forget to return the neighbor's favor. Not that I'm suggesting anything illegal, but just make sure that the guy who had you towed lives up to the letter of the law at all times. ;)
And don't forget to return the neighbor's favor. Not that I'm suggesting anything illegal, but just make sure that the guy who had you towed lives up to the letter of the law at all times.

May not have been a neighbor. The owner stated that they 'parked in a no parking zone' in front of their building to bring in groceries. Likely the Apartment Management called for the tow because of the illegal parking (possible in a fire lane). Many apartments have zero tolerance for illegally parked cars, because if they let a few do it, suddenly they have cars parked all over blocking fire lanes, trash pickup access, exits, tenant park, etc, even cars parked that don't belong to tenets.

Or the tow company spotted the car and towed it. Many businesses with no parking areas have contracts with specific towing companies, and some of the more aggressive companies don't wait for calls, they have 'rovers' who drive around looking for illegally parked cars in the lots they service.
MKH said:
Or the tow company spotted the car and towed it. Many businesses with no parking areas have contracts with specific towing companies, and some of the more aggressive companies don't wait for calls, they have 'rovers' who drive around looking for illegally parked cars in the lots they service.

This would be my guess. Businesses, apartments, etc. can work with a towing company, basically giving them the ok to enforce towing rules however they see fit. This lets the towing company make $$ and the business/apartment doesn't have to worry about it. Learned this the hard way - fresh out of college, moved to CA (apartment complex of course). A couple months later my girlfriend moved down so I bought her a cheap car. Parked it in the middle of the night, first thing in the morning I went to get a parking permit but the car was already gone. Of course the apt manager didn't care, as they explained they give authority to tow to a single towing company and then they don't have to deal with it. As you would guess, the towing company charges the maximum hookup, mileage and storage fees the law allows. Only one way to avoid this that I know of - park head in and crank your wheels all the way to one side. These guys are after a quick easy buck, they don't really care about enforcing parking rules, and wheels cranked in a full parking lot makes towing a PITA.
I felt your frustration as I read that post. I'm in CA too. The unfortunate situation is that the American way is to pay even though it's not your fault just to get out of having to pay more. There's no logic or fairness in any of this. Granted you parked illegally, it still doesn't mean that you have to be responsible for the damage that others caused.

It just sucks. Life's a @#$@34 and there's nothing you can do about it. You can be on your high horse trying to fight it but even if you win, you lose. My car's wheels aren't even. One side sticks out more than the other. Manager at BMW was stupid enough to tell me he didn't see it. His coworker totally saw it but hesitated to say anything. "uh, uh, ummm" so as to not look bad in front of his boss. I later saw footage from my dash cam of the guys who "checked" the car during the inspection and it was a joke. It was on the lift for no more than 5 minutes, most of the time they were just poking fun at the car. Pathetic. It doesn't get better. BMW has too many resources that can waste your time meanwhile you're just you - one single person.

I guess the way to look at it is that it's still a 1st world problem. You get to own a BMW i3 which most people don't (yes, those that are saying that most don't even want you can laugh here). Enjoy the time you had with it and take your 70% and be done with it. I'm surprised they gave you even that. A bit stupid on their part for not fighting for you because this will probably make you not buy another BMW ever again.