When poor vehicle maintenance or repair causes you to get into an auto accident, the mechanic or auto repair shop may be liable. This means the repair shop’s insurance company could be responsible for compensating you for medical bills, vehicle damage, pain and suffering, lost wages and more.
These cases can be complex, so let’s explore the mechanics’ responsibilities, examples of negligent repair work, and how to prove the garage was liable for your accident.
The repair shop’s responsibility
When a driver takes their vehicle to a professional for repairs or scheduled maintenance, the mechanic and auto repair shop must perform work on the vehicle with a reasonable standard of care. This includes:
• Making repairs in a careful, skilled and professional manner
• Demonstrating the standard skills and knowledge expected of mechanics in the field of vehicle repair
• Inspecting and test driving your vehicle to make sure it is safe for use
• Refraining from performing unnecessary repairs
Negligent repair work
Though most licensed repair shops are honest and responsible, the car repair industry is also littered with people who attempt to profit by performing poor quality repairs. And even a reputable repair shop or mechanic can occasionally be negligent. In these cases, they may be liable if their negligence causes you to get into an accident. For example, if you take your car in for an oil change, and the mechanic does not remember to reattach a hose, causing you to lose power and get into an accident, the mechanic, and possibly the repair shop, may be liable for your damages.
Other examples of negligent mechanic work may include:
• Failing to fully repair vehicle parts that are broken or worn
• Failing to properly inspect the vehicle, thereby not noticing major, demonstrable problems that need to be repaired
• When replacing a damaged or defective part, installing the incorrect part
• Performing the wrong vehicle repair or maintenance procedure
• While completing work that has been agreed upon, causing damage to the engine or another part of the vehicle
• Modifying the vehicle in a way that would make it illegal to operate on a public roadway
• Failing to remove objects such as debris that got into the vehicle before or during the repair procedure
Note that if the mechanic advises you to get something repaired but you choose not to, the mechanic is no longer liable if that problem results in an accident.
Proving the mechanic or repair shop was liable
Like product liability cases, negligent vehicle repair accident cases may be very difficult to prove. The repair business may try to demonstrate that you caused the accident through negligent driving. Or perhaps they will attempt to prove that you did not properly maintain the vehicle after it was repaired.
You will need to provide substantial evidence to support your claim that the mechanic or auto repair shop was liable. After the accident, photograph the vehicle, the specific aspect you believe caused or worsened the accident, the road conditions, and your injuries. Call the police. The officer will investigate the scene and generate a report, which will be used as evidence. Seek out witnesses and get their names and contact information. For more detailed information about the steps to take following an auto accident, read our guide here.
Consult with an experienced attorney
Because these cases can be complex, it is smart to contact a Phoenix personal injury attorney who has experience with negligence and auto repair cases.
The Lamber-Goodnow Personal Injury Law Team offers free, no-obligation consultations to auto accident victims. We will explain your legal options and, if you choose to retain counsel, thoroughly investigate your case. This includes examining the police report, the accident scene, photographs, eyewitness testimony, medical costs, the contract with your mechanic, your employment history and earning power, and more.
In some cases, we consult with accident reconstruction experts and/or repair and technology experts. We may also secure vehicle data from the vehicle’s black box, which may tell us the condition of the vehicle before the accident. In addition, we may subpoena video surveillance footage of the accident scene.
Choosing a reputable repair shop
Numerous resources exist to help consumers find quality, honest auto mechanics. These include:
• The Automotive Maintenance Repair Association (AMRA), which exists to improve the relationship between drivers and the automotive service and repair industry. The website lists member organizations.
• The Automotive Service Association (ASA), which holds repair shops to a high code of ethics. The website has a searchable database of member shops.
• The Better Business Bureau, which has helped customers make decisions about which companies to use for more than 100 years. The BBB sets standards for ethical business behavior and monitors companies’ compliance. It helps customers find reputable, trustworthy businesses. Equally important, it alerts customers to dishonest or negligent businesses and allows customers to make complaints. Again, the BBB’s website allows consumers to search for BBB-accredited businesses.