You may think you don’t have any options if the garage or a valet service damages your car. However, according to many state laws, that damage is their fault, which means they should fix it for you.
Image via Flickr by Jonathan Rolande
The Garage Will Say You’re Liable
Many garages put up signs or make statements that they’re not liable if damage happens to your car while it is in their shop. Those signs are great, but they’re not legally binding contracts. Just by taking your car to their shop, you’re not agreeing to some unspoken contract. You’d have to sign something saying you waive their liability if something did happen to your car.
The same thing may happen with a valet service. Just remember that it’s the valet company, not the hotel or restaurant contracting them, liable for the damage. The valet service may try to claim they’re not liable, but again, if they damaged your car, you have options. The signs denying liability are just to prevent people with valid claims of negligence from pursuing any action.
It’s Actually Negligence on Their Part
You have to check with your specific state’s law, but most states have some sort of statute discussing this kind of thing. If you put your car in the care of someone else for a service and they were negligent, then they’re the ones who have to pay for the damage. If the case went in front of a judge, they would have to prove they weren’t negligent.
Although most car owners don’t want to threaten to go to court, you also don’t want to pay for damage you didn’t incur. So let the shop know you’re willing to go to a lawyer or to small claims court if they refuse to pay for the damage. Most businesses don’t want to incur legal fees.
You Can Ask Your Insurance Company
Your insurance company can help you figure out who is liable in these circumstances. Get all the information you can about the garage or valet company, and tell your insurance company what happened. You can also file a claim, but that means paying your deductible, which might cause your rates to go up.
Garages, Especially Larger Ones, Have Insurance
The big garages that you see all over the place have insurance policies covering this kind of thing. Of course they aren’t going to want to make a claim, but they have more resources at their disposal than they’re going to tell you about. They are capable of repairing the damage to your car, so if the first person you talk to says there’s nothing you can do, don’t take that for an answer.
Once you’re armed with the right knowledge, you have more power than you think. You may feel helpless when you get your car back from the shop and it has a scratch down one side, but you’re not. Check your state law and let the garage know where the liability truly stands, as it’s usually with them.