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Car repairs can be a scary prospect. First there's the cost, the time it will take, and then the worry about the repairs being done right. Most mechanics do good and honest work, and care for our cars like they were their own. But other mechanics on the other hand...
So what happens if you get one of the bad guys? When can you sue a mechanic if they don't take good care of your car?
1. Bad Repairs
First and foremost, mechanics must do good work. You're there to get a problem fixed, and if it is not fixed properly that could be dangerous for you and other drivers. Not to mention you shouldn't be charged for non-existent or ineffective auto repairs. If a mechanic improperly installs a part, disables a safety device, otherwise fails to make adequate repairs to your vehicle, you may have a valid lawsuit.
2. False Estimates or No Estimates
Most states have consumer protection laws that require auto repair shops to disclose details about repairs before they are done. Under these statutes, mechanics and other service providers must give you a detailed estimate of all work to be done, disclose whether used or rebuilt parts are being installed, and give you a quote for the costs. If your mechanic fails to give you an estimate of the work or fails to honor the estimate, you may want to call a lawyer.
3. Breach of Warranty
Often we purchase new and used cars with warranties that cover certain service to the vehicle. These warranties generally come with stipulations regarding what repairs are covered, for how long, and may require you to use specific mechanics. If the mechanics don't honor the warranty, either to repair the car or in covering the cost, you may need to sue.
Most of us have our guard up when we take our cars to a mechanic. The amount of stories we've heard about auto repair scams, coupled with our general unfamiliarity with the inner workings of our automobiles, means we're already suspicious. But how do you know if your mechanic is taking you for a ride? Actually discovering fraud may be difficult, but if you discover your mechanic has charged you for service or parts he didn't provide you may be able to sue for damages.
5. Invalid Use of a Mechanic's Lien
There are times when a repair person or company can place a lien on a customer's property to pay for service or improvements done to the property. This is called a mechanic's lien, and it is available not just to car mechanics, but to plumbers, painters, carpenters, and construction contractors and subcontractors -- anyone who provides a service that improves a customer's property.
But there are rules to filing mechanic's lien and if they are not followed, you may need to sue to retain or reclaim your property. Mechanic's liens must be filed by the right entity, in a timely manner and with proper notice, and for the right property. Otherwise the lien is invalid.
Most state attorneys general have departments dedicated to consumer protection that may be able to handle claims against mechanics. Or you can consult with an experienced consumer protection attorney near you.