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Ben Jones
Ben Jones, UK Lawyer
Category: Law
Satisfied Customers: 46196
Experience:  Qualified Solicitor - Please start your question with 'For Ben Jones'
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A car valet firm damaged the electrics in my car when they

Customer Question

A car valet firm damaged the electrics in my car when they were washing it. I reported it as soon as it became obvious there was a fault. Within 5 mins of leaving the car wash I started getting all kinds of fault warnings so took it to be seen by a local mechanic, A.
Mechanic A told me the car was legal to drive but the damage was likely done by extensive water damage, and I initially arranged to have it fully assessed by him later that week as I had to go to work and was late as a result of having to have the car assessed to see if it was safe to drive. I returned to the car wash straight after mechanic A had said the car was legal to drive and registered a complaint with the employee who washed my car and who was running the valet service that day, and he said that it "wasn't his problem" and that I should come and talk to the manager the following day. I arrived at work 2 hours late and lost £150 as a result.
I returned to the car wash the following day and spoke to the manager who denied all responsibility initially, but after half an hour or so of me demonstrating that the car was still wet inside near the fuse box and the electrics in the rear, he said he wanted the car inspected at his garage by mechanic B. I went to the garage with a representative of the garage (the employee who washed the car the previous day) and arranged to drop the car off the following morning for inspection and I'd get the train to work.
I was contacted by mechanic B who explained that he had traced the fault to a component called the SAM unit, and that it would cost £340 + VAT for the part, plus labour costs to replace. I asked if it was due to water damage, and he initially said yes but later denied that he had said that.
I spoke to a mechanic that I have used for approximately 10 years (mechanic C) who is a Mercedes trained electrical specialist and asked him for his opinion, as if it had been a straightforward matter of replacing fuses or bulbs I would have let mechanic B carry out the work. As it was more specialist, I was not confident that mechanic B was competent to carry out the work, so I arranged for the work to be done my mechanic C who has appropriate qualifications, and is able to interrogate the fault computer and indicate that the faults occurred at a specific milage and date (i.e. immediately after the car had been washed).
I approached the manager with the bill from mechanic C (£545.46, paid by my wife on collection of the car) and a letter asking for this to be resolved within 14 days. I was contacted that night by the car wash manager who was irate and refusing to pay for the damage as I didn't use his mechanic. I have a recording of the phone conversation in case it is admissible in small claims court - would it be able to be used?
He is also counter claiming for the cost of the inspection done by his mechanic (even though it was at his insistence and I didn't feel it needed doing). Can the manager of the car wash refuse to pay for damage if it wasn't repaired at a garage of his choosing, and am I liable for work done at his insistence if I didn't feel it necessary? Can I use the recorded phone conversation in small claims court where he says that he would have paid for the damage to be fixed if I had used his own mechanic, or is it up to me to specify an appropriately qualified person to fix the car?
Submitted: 5 months ago.
Category: Law
Expert:  Ben Jones replied 5 months ago.

Hello, my name is***** am a qualified lawyer and I will be assisting you with your question today.

Expert:  Ben Jones replied 5 months ago.

How long ago did this occur?

Customer: replied 5 months ago.
Damage done on 25th August
Customer: replied 5 months ago.
I can send you a timeline with the dates/events and the letter I sent if it's helpful?
Customer: replied 5 months ago.
here you go
Expert:  Ben Jones replied 5 months ago.

OK, thank you for your response and for the attached document. I will review the relevant information and laws and will get back to you at the earliest opportunity. There is no need to wait here as you will receive an email when I have responded. Also, please do not responded to this message as it will just push your question to the back of the queue and you may experience unnecessary delays. Thank you.

Expert:  Ben Jones replied 5 months ago.

Many thanks for your patience. First of all it is possible to use the recording as evidence although only the judge can decide whether to allow it or not. All you can do is put it forward as evidence and ask that it is admitted as such. However, the judge could decide that they do not wish to allow it as admissible evidence and that is their decision, so you have nothing to lose by asking in the first place.

It is very unlikely that they can claim back the time for their mechanic if this was done on their insistence and not conditional on you having the work completed with them.

As to the choice of mechanic, they could have used their own mechanic, assuming they were competent to undertake the work. Whilst you assume that they may not have been that is just your opinion, they could have been fully competent to do this work. This would have kept the costs down so if you ended up paying more to get this done elsewhere they could refuse to pay for these full costs and deduct the difference. However, if they were not qualified or competent to do the work then you will have a better argument in claiming the full repair costs.

I hope this has answered your query. I would be grateful if you could please take a second to leave a positive rating (3, 4 or 5 stars) as that is an important part of our process and recognises the time I have spent assisting you. If you need me to clarify anything before you go - please get back to me on here and I will assist further as best as I can. Thank you

Customer: replied 5 months ago.
Thanks - could I clarify a few points?
1) Is it reasonable that I can claim my lost earnings back as it was as a direct result of not being sure if the car was roadworthy or not and dealing with registering a complaint that led to me being late and losing money?
2) Is it ultimately the car wash's decision or my decision on where to take the car to be fixed?
3) I've put the wrong date on the letter (a month out). It was a simple typo when I was writing it, but will that cause any issues when I go to small claims court or will it be accepted as a typo and not cause a major problem?
4) What is the correct way to put in statements from mechanics A & C? Can I get them to email me a statement each or will they need to come in in person for them to give evidence?
5) Is there anything specific I should know about claiming this sort of case in small claims in order to improve my chances of getting a successful verdict?Thanks,P
Expert:  Ben Jones replied 5 months ago.

1) Is it reasonable that I can claim my lost earnings back as it was as a direct result of not being sure if the car was roadworthy or not and dealing with registering a complaint that led to me being late and losing money?

If the car was unroadworthy and as a result there were losses then that is more likely to be compensated. But just a possibility it may have been and trying to work out if it was is unlikely to be compensated. Still, nothing stopping you from trying your luck and including it in a claim.

2) Is it ultimately the car wash's decision or my decision on where to take the car to be fixed?

Ideally a mutual decision, but ultimately there is an expectation to keep costs down as long as it is done at a place which is capable of doing it to a reasonable standard.

3) I've put the wrong date on the letter (a month out). It was a simple typo when I was writing it, but will that cause any issues when I go to small claims court or will it be accepted as a typo and not cause a major problem?

Not an issue as long as you identify it as an error

4) What is the correct way to put in statements from mechanics A & C? Can I get them to email me a statement each or will they need to come in in person for them to give evidence?

They can give a statement you can include as evidence but they should be available to attend if needed to be cross examined otherwise their evidence can only have limited effect.

5) Is there anything specific I should know about claiming this sort of case in small claims in order to improve my chances of getting a successful verdict?

It is for you to prove that damage was caused by them so try to get whatever evidence you can to back that up. The rest is really down to the judge

If your original question has been answered I would be grateful if you could please quickly rate my answer by selecting 3, 4 or 5 starts at the top of the page - it only takes a second to do and is an important part of our process. I can still answer follow up questions afterwards if needed. Thank you

Expert:  Ben Jones replied 5 months ago.

Hello, I see you have read my response to your query. If this has answered your question please take a second to leave a positive rating by selecting 3, 4 or 5 stars from the top of the page. I spend a lot of time and effort answering individual queries and I am not credited for my time until you leave your rating. If you still need further help please get back to me on here and I will assist as best as I can. Many thanks.

Customer: replied 5 months ago.
Hi Ben,Sorry for the delay in getting back to you - I've been on night shifts so have only just had chance to catch up with this. Happy with everything so far and I've been doing a bit of reading. The car wash manager has put in a counter claim for the cost of the diagnostics done at his request by mechanic B, and it is much higher than the same work done by mechanic C that I took the car to eventually. I'm also getting quotes from other Mercedes dealerships to provide information as comparison for the judge to prove that I had it done at a reasonable cost by an appropriately qualified person. Can I use the information provided by the car wash owner as a price for the work done as an example of a quote without admitting liability for work?The counter claim is for the work done for diagnostics only and is over £300, whereas I had the same work done for £55, and although I made the car available for inspection by the mechanic on behalf of the car wash owner, and my response to the counter claim is that I had no contract with mechanic B as the inspection was at the insistence of the car wash owner. Is it possible to use this as another example of why I did not want the work done there (i.e. excessive cost) or would it give more strength to the counter claim?Also, regarding the typo previously identified, do I need to identify that in my written response to the counter claim or can I just clarify that at the hearing?Thanks again,Pete
Expert:  Ben Jones replied 5 months ago.

Hi there, no problem at all and thanks for getting back to me. Yes you can certainly use the information provided by the car wash as evidence and it would not be seen as admission of the work carried out.

If their costs were indeed excessive and you can show this by comparison with other quotes then you can use it as a potential argument as to why you did not have the work done there.

Finally, the typo – it does not really impact the case in any way so it is a minor issue which you can clarify at the hearing if necessary.

If your original question has been answered I would be grateful if you could please quickly rate my answer by selecting 3, 4 or 5 starts at the top of the page - it only takes a second to do and is an important part of our process. I can still answer follow up questions afterwards if needed. Thank you

Ben Jones, UK Lawyer
Category: Law
Satisfied Customers: 46196
Experience: Qualified Solicitor - Please start your question with 'For Ben Jones'
Ben Jones and other Law Specialists are ready to help you
Customer: replied 5 months ago.
Hi Ben,Quick follow up question - I'm filling in the paperwork for the small claims track and the form is asking if I'll be using written evidence of an expert and how many witnesses will be appearing. I'm planning on using written statements from both mechanics A and C, but not putting them in as witnesses to attend the hearing as one lives over 200 miles away. Will this be acceptable, and can I fill in the form saying that I'll have no expert witnesses and only myself appearing if I'm planning on submitting written evidence from the other two people?Thanks,Pete
Expert:  Ben Jones replied 5 months ago.

Hello again, it is entirely acceptable to use witness evidence without having the witness appear but I think I mentioned that in doing so it could mean that their evidence it given less wight by the court. That is because the other wide will not have an opportunity to cross examine them to pick holes in their evidence and challenge parts of it. So it may not be as effective as having someone appear in person to back up what they have said in writing but if it has to be done that way then it is certainly acceptable.

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