When Mechanics Make Mistakes
Between 2006 and 2016, there were roughly 221,000 to 228,000 automobile repair and maintenance businesses in the United States. People have an ongoing need to look after their cars, and thankfully, the vast majority of auto repairs are completed without any problems.
But situations do arise where a repair was misdiagnosed, done incorrectly, or used the wrong materials. Let’s look at examples of negligent repairs and address when negligent work can lead to an accident and liability on the part of the mechanic.
Example: Fry v. Larry Miller Toyota
Kenneth Fry brought his Toyota 4Runner in for a drive shaft repair at a Toyota dealership in southern California. About 11 months after the repair, Fry was traveling on the freeway when the rear driveshaft propeller dislodged from the vehicle. Fry incurred shoulder and neck injuries that required initial arthroscopic surgery and a subsequent cervical spinal fusion. He pursued a civil claim, citing the dealership’s failure to fully tighten the replaced part to the transfer case. A jury awarded him $2.17 million for medical and other damages.
Example: Delbrel v. Doenges Brothers Ford, Inc.
After having a repair completed at Doenges Brothers Ford, Johnny Delbrel’s car stalled in the middle of the road. He got out to push the stalled car, and was injured. Delbrel brought a claim alleging that negligent repairs led to his injury. He appealed the claim to the Oklahoma Supreme Court, which relied on two prior Oklahoma cases, Stuckey v. Young Exploration and Barnhart v. Freeman Equip, for precedent. The court acknowledged that mechanics have a duty to properly complete a repair in a manner that will not create harm. It also found the mechanic also had a duty to examine and test the vehicle to be certain it could be driven without being a hazard to the occupants or the general public on the road.
What Counts as a “Negligent Repair” in Oklahoma?
State law requires auto repairers to put the details of the repairs in writing. Some examples of negligent repair work include:
- Repairs not being completed
- Replacement involving an incorrect part
- Causing other vehicle damage during the repair
- Performing the wrong repair
- Misidentifying the necessary repair
- Work performed by mechanics who are not qualified
- Leaving an object or tool within the vehicle that creates damage
Now, the obvious question: if your mechanic did complete a negligent repair and you got into a car accident because of it, what can you do?
Answer: that may depend on the type of repair facility involved. There are various businesses that offer automotive repair, maintenance, and service, including the following:
- Smaller private shops or garages: These have limited organizational structure and a small number of employees. In many cases, the owner may function as the manager and the mechanic, meaning your interactions will be with him exclusively. Often times, these companies have professional insurance to protect them, so you could file a claim against the insurer.
- Specialty providers: Often, these businesses are structured similarly to the “private garages,” but tend to focus on a niche such as foreign vehicle brands like Volkswagen, Jaguar, or Mercedes. Again, they have professional insurance to protect them, so you can file a claim.
- Chains: These may be national or regional chains that are centrally owned or franchised automotive service providers. These organizations are much more likely to have customer service representatives, dedicated shop managers, and some type of corporate structure. When you file a claim, these providers are likely to seek a quick resolution and allow you to “escalate” your issue to higher levels of the organization in extreme cases. That doesn’t guarantee you’ll get a fair amount offered to you, however.
- Auto dealers: Repairs conducted by dealership service departments are typically the most expensive option. They have higher costs, usually adhere to the highest standards for repair work, and use manufacturer-approved parts. But as you can see from the examples above, they are not immune to lawsuits for bad repair work.
Some garages may try to settle with you; others may dig in and deny liability. Your best bet is to show them evidence of the shoddy repair, the accident, and your damages. If you need assistance, Car Accident Help can investigate and review your case for free. Just call (405) 285-4357 today!
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