What to do if my car was totaled while being serviced by an autobody shop?

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What to do if my car was totaled while being serviced by an autobody shop?

My insurance is liability only. Can I be compensated by the auto-shop? I did not learn about the condition of my car for over a week while it was at the garage shop (they would not return my calls) and the mechanic did not file a police report because he says although while in the car he was not driving at the time of the accident and driver is no longer available. Insurance type is only liability with only a partial plate and general description on the car that hit mine. The mechanic also says it happened on the expressway while car was stalled, hazards on but no shoulder to pullover on. The damages are greater than the blue book value and I don’t know how to proceed.

Asked on January 14, 2014 under Accident Law, Illinois

Answers:

SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 7 years ago | Contributor

If the autobody shop was at fault, then they should be liable for the damage. "Fault" in this case can arise from letting someone drive (a permitted driver in other words; as opposed to someone who stole or took the car without permission) if that person, in turn, was negligent or careless in some way--that is, a person who themselves has permission to drive a car is responsible if they let someone else drive and that person is careless. It doesn't matter if "the driver is no longer available"--if that person was somone whom the auto shop or its employees (like the mechanic) let drive, and that person was negligent or careless (e.g. driving too fast, carelessly, etc.), the auto shop may be liable.

Fault could also come from: 1) not having properly repaired the car, so that it was likely to stall while on road test;or 2) being careless in selecting as a road test road an excessively dangerous one (e.g. no shoulder).

Also, a different kind of liability or fault would attach if the car was being taken for a drive because an employee or his/her friend wanted to drive it, and *not* for an actual road test or something connected with the service/repairs, since the shop only has permission to drive your car for the purpose of serving, evaluating, etc. it. If a shop employee took the car out for a spin simply because he wanted to or needed to borrow a car, or let a friend take your car for a spin, then that would not be a permitted use; and anyone who takes a car without permission is at fault and responsible for *all* damages to it.

On the other hand, if there was no fault at all on the part of the shop or its employees, then they would not be liable. So, say that they reasonably thought the car was in shape to drive; drove it as part of a road test to check it out; without them doing anything wrong in either repairs or driving, it happened to stall on a road where it was reasonable to drive it; and while stalled, another driver was completely at fault in hitting it...under those circumstances, the shop would not be liable.


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