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Are Mechanics Liable if They Damage Your Car?

What is mechanic's liability if he damages your car?

When people think of automobile accidents, they usually think of incidents that happen on the freeway or in a parking lot, but rarely do they think about damage resulting from negligent car repairs.

Mechanic Liability

When you take your car in for service, you have what is known as a bailment relationship with your mechanic. That means that a temporary transfer of property (your car) has been made for a limited time and for a specific purpose (repairs). Because of the nature of this relationship, the mechanic has some legal duties, including:

  • To treat your car with a reasonable standard of care until you come to pick it up
  • Make the repairs in a careful manner, employing the ordinary skills that other mechanics possess
  • Inspect the car and perform the repairs so it will be safe to drive
  • Refrain from fraud, concealment, lowballing, or bait-and-switch tactics
  • To make only authorized or necessary repairs

Although mechanics may try to deny their liability by posting signs or including disclaimers on their contracts, these efforts are typically ineffective if customers don’t agree to the terms or were not made aware of them.

Colorado Motor Vehicle Repair Act

According to Colorado law, no repairs can be made to a vehicle without the written consent of the owner. The consent is required to include an estimate of repairs, which must state:

  • The total cost of the repairs, not including sales tax and towing charges
  • Estimated completion date
  • Whether or not the customer requests that the replaced parts be returned to him
  • Cost of replacing parts destroyed in disassembly
  • Cost of reassembly if the customer decides not to have the work done

MVRA Exceptions

There are circumstances when the consent for repair doesn’t have to be in writing, including:

  • When the customer signs a waiver stating in bold type, “I do not wish to receive any estimate, either written or oral, to which I am entitled by law, before repairs are authorized.”
  • The estimate comes after the disassembly necessary to determine the problem
  • Estimate is for additional charges
  • Vehicle is towed in or left before or after the mechanic’s business hours, in which case no more than $100 worth of parts and labor combined is allowed without consent of the vehicle’s owner

Damages

A mechanic may be liable for damages that you suffer as a result of negligent repairs, such as if he uses the wrong parts or misplaces a part, even if you have already paid the bill and find out about the problem after the fact.

However, if he offers to correct his mistake free of charge and you choose not to have him do so, he will likely be released from liability because it was you who failed to have the problem fixed. In other words, you cannot blame your mechanic for damages incurred because of your own negligence or assumption of risk.

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