Car catching fire at mechanics shop

I recently got my car out of the shop that repaired a fuel line. The next day my
battery would not hold a charge so I took it back to look at this issue. The next day
he told me he got in the shop and found everything under the hood on fire. The fire
department did not detect arson but the mechanic has no idea what happened and
doesn’t feel at fault. I have basic liability and their insurance does not cover cars on
the lot. Should I pursue legal matters or what. Thanks

Asked on May 19, 2017 under Accident Law, Ohio


SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 3 years ago | Contributor

IF the fire was due to the shop's negligence or carelessness, such as in what the shop did to the fuel line or battery, the shop would be liable. If the fire was due to some factor beyond the shop's control, such as a basic defect in the electrical system or fuel line, or some damage which occured offsite and which they would not have been expected to have found (e.g. was not in one of the parts you asked them to look at), they would not be liable. So the issue is causation: to sue them and win, you'd have to be able to prove, at least by a "preponderance of the evidence" (that it was "more likely than not") that the shop was at fault. You will need expert testimony for that: e.g. have another mechanic or auto accident specialist or fire investigator examine the car and offer an expert opinion as to cause. If there is evidence of shop fault, then it may be worth suing, though you'll have to balance what you hope to get (the lesser of the repair cost or the car's then-current fair market or blue book value) vs. the cost of a lawsuit (probably several hundred dollars if you are your own attorney or handle the case "pro se," since you'll have to pay your auto/fire expert to write a report and testify; several thousand if you hire a lawyer).

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