When you drop your car off at a car dealership, you expect your vehicle to get the utmost in tender loving care. You are entrusting one of your greatest assets to a team expected to show respect to the vehicle and to you. Any dealership might employ between 50 and 200 people, some of whom are more experienced and responsible drivers than others.
Parking lots and interior lots tend to be busy during a typical day. Customers also drive onto the lots, making it even more chaotic of a space. With hundreds of vehicles being handled and moved by drivers of varying experience levels, a small mishap occasionally occurs. This isn’t an excuse, of course, but it’s why some drivers receive the dreaded phone call informing them that their dealer has wrecked their car. In this worst case scenario, what should you do? What are your legal rights? Most importantly, will your auto insurance cover the damages?
Whether your car is significantly damaged or you’re only dealing with a small dent, your first reaction is likely to be the same. You will, rightfully, be angry, and demand to find out who was driving your vehicle when the collision occurred so that said employee can be let go. However, the best thing to do in this situation is take a few moments to calm down before blowing off steam.
You don’t need to make it personal. The law is on your side in this case, and you can be assured that your state likely even has a law that allows you to pin the liability on the owner of the garage. Michigan is one such state with the Garage Keeper’s Liability Act, which protects drivers. According to this statute, when you hand your car over to another individual in certain exceptional circumstances, you also shift the burden of proof to them.
Even if your state doesn’t have a liability act, it is still legally presumed in most cases that the dealership is the one at fault should a vehicle become damaged while in their care. Negligence is often the reason for damage occurring at a dealership, and the law typically rules in favor of the driver. Not always, but most of the time. You have no guarantee you will win, but the liability act offers you a fair chance. Your best bet is to file a claim as soon as possible after you discover the damage.
Of course, you’ll need to hire a lawyer, but the type of legal assistance required will depend on the type of claim you need to file. Attorneys who specialize in “lemon law” are capable of walking you through the process. A reliable lawyer, such as those employed by Avrek Law, will help you establish a reasonable cause of action.
Two common causes of action include making a claim of a breach of contract and a claim of negligence. If your mechanic failed to provide services correctly or caused other issues to your vehicle during repairs, this would qualify as a breach of contract, because he or she failed to uphold their end of the bargain, causing you unnecessary expense. On the other hand, if a collision occurs on a dealership lot, it’s probably because of negligence.
Legal firms often advise their clients that the biggest obstacle to winning a case is the ability to prove causation. If you take your dealer to court, they are not likely to accept responsibility without a fight. Their lawyers will probably try to invalidate your claim that the vehicle’s damage was done by garage employees, perhaps even claiming that the damage existed before the car came onto their lot. If the burden of proof is on you, your lawyer will have to work to prove that an act of negligence or a breach of contract occurred.