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Who is Liable if My Car is Damaged at a Car Wash?

car wash

It’s finally May, which means it’s time to take your favorite warm-weather vehicle out of the garage to the car wash for a good spring cleaning. Whether you go to a self-serve or full-service car wash, the assumption is that you’ll leave with your car in a better condition than when you entered. Unfortunately, that’s not always the case. If your car is damaged because of the car wash owner’s negligence, you can file a property damage claim.

Is the Car Wash Owner Responsible?

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The owner of a car wash has a duty to provide reasonable care and make their property safe for customers. This means providing detailed instructions for how to use the car wash, training employees to answer customer questions and follow safety guidelines, and regularly repairing and updating the car wash equipment.

If the car wash owner fails to keep their property safe for customers, then they have been negligent. If you can prove their negligence led to your car being damaged, then you could file a claim with their insurance to recoup your losses.

Damage Caused by Owner Negligence

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Negligence means the owner knew about an unsafe or hazardous situation on their property and didn’t take steps to fix it. This doesn’t apply to spontaneous malfunctions that the owner would have no way of knowing about or repairing in time.

For example, say that the owner doesn’t put up any signs showing where or how to drive your car onto the automated track. You enter the car wash incorrectly and the track damages your rims. In this case, the owner could be liable because they didn’t meet the standard of care expected of property owners.

But if a piece of equipment malfunctions and damages your vehicle during the wash cycle, you would have to prove that the owner knew about the malfunctioning equipment and did not take action to repair it.

In addition, some car washes have you sign a waiver absolving the car wash of any damages. However, you may still be able to get compensation for your damages if you can prove that they were negligent. An experienced property damage attorney can help you determine whether negligence caused the damage to your car.

What if a Car Wash Attendant Damaged My Car?

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Some car washes offer additional services like detailing and interior cleaning done by car wash employees. The car wash owner is responsible for hiring employees with adequate experience, and for training them if needed.

If a negligent employee damages the interior or exterior of your car, you could hold the car wash owner responsible because the employee was acting on behalf of the car wash.

Help from a Premises Liability Lawyer

If you have a property damage only claim, you can probably handle it on your own. You can file a claim with the negligent car wash’s insurance company, though it may take longer to receive an offer. Depending on the amount of damage, it may make more sense to file a claim through your personal car insurance and let them do the legwork.

However, if you suffered an injury because of defective car wash equipment, a local premises liability lawyer can help you determine whether or not you have a case. Give us a call or contact us online for a free conversation about your premises liability claim.