Recent statistics show that a typical American spends 101 minutes per day driving—that’s an impressive average of 37,935 hours per year if you begin driving at 17 and stop at 78 years old.
When you consider how much time we spend in our cars annually, it makes sense that drivers would want to go to reasonable lengths to keep their cars are clean, comfortable, and as safe as possible. For many Florida residents, routine car repairs are inevitable necessities. But what happens when your car repairs go wrong?
When you leave your car with a mechanic for repairs or service, the two of you enter a bailment relationship. A bailment is a temporary transfer of property from an owner to another for a period of time for a specific purpose. As part of the bailment relationship, your mechanic has the following legal responsibilities.
Provide a reasonable standard of care. Your auto mechanic has a responsibility to provide your motor vehicle with a reasonable standard of care while it is in his or her possession, from the time you drop it off until the time you pick it up.
Be able to offer fundamental mechanic skills. Your mechanic should at the very least demonstrate basic and fundamental skills, including a knowledge of auto mechanics, computerized auto systems, and specifications for a variety of makes, models, and years. A car mechanic should make repairs in a careful, skilled, and professional manner.
Inspect your car for safety. When charged with repairing your car, mechanics may hold the safety of you and your family in their hands. Before returning your car to you, your mechanic has a responsibility to ensure it is not a danger to you or your passengers.
Obtain approval for a written estimate. Before a mechanic can begin repairs or other service on your vehicle, he or she should give a written estimate and receive permission. You have a right to a written estimate under the Florida Motor Vehicle Repair Act. The estimate must include:
- The name, address, and telephone number of the shop.
- Your name, address, and telephone number.
- The date and time of estimate.
- The year, make, model, odometer reading and license tag number of the vehicle.
- The expected completion date of repairs or service.
- A description of your concern or request.
- Labor charges based on a flat rate or hourly rate.
- Estimated cost for services.
- Charges for repair company’s supplies and waste removal.
- Charges for making an estimate and the basis for the charge.
- Your desired payment method.
- The name and telephone number of any alternate person you would allow to authorize repairs.
- Terms of the parts and service guarantee.
- Notation if the parts are to be returned.
- Charge for daily storage.
- A disclosure statement.
Obtain approval before exceeding estimate. If the mechanic wants to exceed the initial estimate by more than $10 or 10 percent, he or she must get your approval before proceeding. If you decide to cancel repairs, the mechanic must reassemble your vehicle, unless it is dangerous to drive.
Return parts upon request. You have a right to have replaced parts returned to you for a fee if you make this request beforehand, unless the parts are under warranty with the manufacturer.
Treat you honestly and fairly. Your mechanic shouldn’t engage in fraud, concealment, lowballing, or bait-and-switch. In addition, he or she shouldn’t knowingly make unnecessary repairs.
Provide a reasonably secure environment for your car. Though generally not responsible for the theft of your car or its contents, your mechanic should take reasonable measures to maintain the security of your car. If your mechanic does or forgets to do something that results in the theft of your car, he or she may be liable.
After You Leave the Auto Shop
Unfortunately, most of the damages you and your car may suffer as a result of negligent repairs or faulty service will occur after you’ve left the auto shop. If your mechanic has failed to make proper repairs, neglected to notice dangers, used shoddy parts, or damaged your vehicle during the repair process, this can result in mechanical failures and lead to serious auto accidents.
Carelessly repaired steering, breaking, or suspension systems may make it impossible for you to operate the car safely. You may find yourself unable to steer or stop your vehicle, and the resulting accident could cause serious injury for you, your passengers, and other drivers.
If your vehicle or family has suffered harm because of negligent repairs or damage caused by a mechanic, contact a skilled Florida auto accident attorney. Your attorney can help you understand your rights, and hold the repair shop accountable for the negligence that caused you harm. You may be able to obtain compensation for damages, which will be invaluable for supporting your medical care and long-term recovery.
About the Author:
John K. Lawlor, a South Florida personal injury attorney who focuses his practice on complex personal injury, wrongful death, and professional malpractice, founded the law firm of Lawlor, White & Murphey in 1998. Since 1995, Mr. Lawlor’s trial advocacy and litigation skills, as well as his wide-ranging legal expertise, have provided plaintiffs and their families with a distinct advantage when seeking financial compensation and justice for injuries caused by the negligence of others. Mr. Lawlor is an EAGLE member of the Florida Bar Association and an active member of the American Association for Justice, the Broward County Justice Association, the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), and several professional associations.