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Ben Jones
Ben Jones, UK Lawyer
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Hi, This is an unusual situation. I work as a Domestic Assistant

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Hi, This is an unusual situation. I work as a Domestic Assistant on a private residential site for the over 55`s and was asked by a resident if I could help her with the handbrake on her car in her garage which had been put on too tight. As I approached the garage I noticed that she had left the car unattended in a dangerous situation, with the engine running and the car in reverse gear, which told me it was an automatic because you wouldn`t be able to do that with a manual as it would stall. I said to her twice " Your car is in gear can you take it out of gear please" and twice she replied " I can`t " Now I don`t know much about automatic cars and didn`t realize that as soon as you release the handbrake the car will move even on level ground, but she should know that but didn`t say so. So I leant into the car and released the handbrake and the car started to move slowly out of the garage. On realizing what was happening I immediately pulled the handbrake back on but not before the drivers door had hit a small metal cabinet on the floor. The car had travelled less than five feet in a straight line. On examining the door there was a small crease at the bottom and some paint missing. I apologised to her and she said " It was a misunderstanding on her side " She has had a couple of quotes done for the damage, but when I looked at them there is far more damage listed than happened that day. There are quotes for front head lamp/ bumper and no end of other scratches on the car. So as I see it she is trying to get me to pay for all the little knocks and dents which were already on the car. Can you tell me if I am just responsible for the payment of the drivers door or none of it as she asked for the help. She tried to put it through the company insurance but they have thrown it out. This was done back in February and she is now only approaching me about it, so I just need to know where I stand before I have a meeting with her about it. It just seems to me that she wants someone else to pay for all the work that needs doing on her car, but if need be I will pay for the door. D. Todd.

Ben Jones : Hello, my name is XXXXX XXXXX it is my pleasure to assist you with your question today. Is there a way to prove what was already on the he car and what damage was caused by you? Please note I am in court today so there may be a slight delay in responding, thanks

Hello Ben, No I`m afraid not. But what I do know is that nothing touched the passengers side as there was nothing stored down that side of the garage and as the car is moving backwards how can the front headlight get damaged ? I know this is irrelevant but a couple of people have seen her driving and it`s not good. I am willing to pay for the drivers door damage which did happen at the time if need be, but as the car hardly moved before I stopped it there is no way all the other damaged listed could of happened that day.

Ben Jones :

Hello, many thanks for your patience. You will likely have some liability for the damage that your actions caused but you will certainly have no liability for any pre-existing damage or anything that was not caused by your actions. Whilst in the absence of any witnesses it would mainly be your word against hers, there will still be a common sense approach to this, such as the damage that she is claiming for which in the circumstances is quite unlikely to have occurred through your actions (e.g. front headlight damage when the car was only moving backwards).


Another consideration is that whilst she may be trying her luck now and asking you to pay for the damage, she cannot really force you to do so unless she actually takes you to court and manages to convince a judge that you were responsible for the damage that she is claiming. The issues are twofold – she may never get as far as taking you to court – many people threaten legal action in the hope that someone agrees to settle with them to avoid being sued but they may never have the intention of going that far anyway. Of course no one can predict that but it is a possibility that she may just be trying her luck at this stage. Secondly, even if she does make a claim, she would still have to show that you were guilty of the damage she is claiming for and that could also be difficult in the circumstances considering the nature of the damage caused.


So when you meet with her it is probably best to have a frank conversation with her where you consider agreeing to pay for the damage that your actions most likely caused but make it clear that you fully dispute the other damage she is attributing to you and point out how it is very unlikely this was caused by you. Make her an offer to settle your damage and leave it at that – take it or leave it basically. She may threaten you further she may get upset about it, but unless she sues you and wins there is little she can do so you can let her do whatever she wants to do and see where she takes this – if it comes down to her making a claim you can always consider your options again and make another offer if needed or just defend the claim and hope that she simply cannot prove the damage was caused by you. In the worst case scenario you may have to pay for the damage she is claiming for but that is a long way off at this stage.

Ben Jones :

Hope this clarifies your position?


Dear Ben , Thank you for your response, It has clarified most of the points I was concerned about. Can I ask finally ask you please was she required in law to inform her insurance company, as far as I know she has not done so. And as she gave permission for me to enter the car for the purpose of removing the handbrake, should she not therefore be partly liable as I would if I loaned a friend my car with permission to drive it. Thank you Dawn.

Ben Jones :

Hello, not it is not a legal requirement to inform her insurance company - there may be something in her insurance policy that may require her to report all accidents or incidents that the car may be involved in but that is a policy requirement, not a legal one. Also she does not have to claim through her insurance if she does not want to - it is there to be used if she needs it but she does not have to use it if there is an incident. She would not likely be liable for allowing you to use the car - it depends on whose actions caused the damage. If you lent your car to someone to drive it and they caused an accident it is not you that would be liable - it would be them as they were driving


Thank you very much for your help. Regards Dawn.

Ben Jones :

you are most welcome, all the best

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