Who is liable for in-transport damage to a vehicle?

UPDATED: Sep 17, 2011

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Who is liable for in-transport damage to a vehicle?

I work in a mechanic shop. My brother-in-law and I had just finished repairing a vehicle, and the owner requested that we bring it to him, as he didn’t have the means to come pick it up. Being nice people, we took the car to him at no charge. However, this car’s hood is not attached correctly because of some front end damage, so the owner ties the hood down with a bungee cord. We ensured that the bungee cord was tied well to the hood to hold it down and we headed out to return the vehicle but about 3/4 way there, the hood flew up, breaking the windshield. Now the owner is blaming us for the damages and demands us to pay to fix it. However, it was his responsibility to have a safely-equipped vehicle, not ours; he did not ask us to fix the hood, only the fuel pump. So, do we have to pay to fix the car or is it his problem?

Asked on September 17, 2011 under Accident Law, Colorado


SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 11 years ago | Contributor

In this case, it is most likely you and your brother who are liable, unfortunately. You may have been going beyond what you had to, in terms of delivering the car, but the fact remains that you choose to do so, which means that you were driving/delivering the car as part of your services as mechanics. So you were still subject to you duty to use care in handling the car, and were still liable in the event of want of care.

While the hood was bungied down, you were aware that it was bungied down; that means that you chose to drive it knowing of the issue. That means that you were obligated to use care in the context of a car with a loose hood. The more careful thing would have been to have refused to drive it under those circumstances, or to insist to the owner that he allow you to fix the hood properly before driving it, etc. Instead, you drove a car with a known defect, and while in your car (delivering it back after performing your work on it), damage was done. That probably makes it your financial responsibility.

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