Is the mechanic liable for neglecting to find a fault in my car?

Question Details: I took my car in to get fixed because it had a problem with the engine - they apparently fixed the problem but two weeks later I was driving to a job for work which was in a neighbouring town and my car broke down for another engine fault halfway. Is the mechanic responsible for this?

Filed under Consumer Law | 3286 View(s)

Are you a lawyer? Login or register to answer this question.

Answers by Lawyers

Community Law Wellington & Hutt Valley

This depends on whether there is a problem with the mechanic's work, or whether there is a separate problem that the mechanic wasn't asked to look at (and hasn't caused).

Whether the mechanic is responsible for this new fault will depend on whether the second fault you've experienced is:
- the same problem that the mechanic originally claimed to fix, or
- a new problem arising from the mechanic's failure to do the first repair properly, or
- if this new fault is an entirely unrelated problem.

If the mechanic is responsible for your car breaking down, you have a right to a remedy under the Consumer Guarantees Act. This law gives you a right to have services, including car repairs, provided with reasonable care and skill. If you want to enforce this right, you need to first give the mechanic a chance to fix the problem.

You should start by contacting the mechanic, and talking to them about the new problem. Ask them directly if the new fault is related to the original problem - or if they should have found it when they did the work you asked them to do. The mechanic may simply agree that this new problem shouldn't have happened, and offer to put it right. How the mechanic remedies this problem is up to them: they can repair the car, refund your money, or send you to another mechanic at their cost.

If they don't agree that your car breaking down again was a result of work done (or not done) by them, you may need to prove that the mechanic is at fault. Examples of evidence of this include a professional opinion by another (independent) mechanic that the first repair led to the second problem, or comments made by the first mechanic at the time you collected your car (for example, a receipt saying they topped up the oil, when in fact they failed to do so).

If you're convinced that the new fault is because of the mechanic's poor work, we recommend you do the following:

1. Talk to the mechanic again, and explain that you believe they are responsible for your car breaking down. Explain that because they failed to provide their services with reasonable care and skill, they need to fix this problem in line with the Consumer Guarantees Act.

2. If the mechanic refuses to fix the problem, or tries to fix the problem but fails, you can take your car to another mechanic. The first mechanic will be liable to pay you for the costs incurred by this second mechanic if you can prove the first mechanic was at fault.

3. If the mechanic then refuses to meet the costs of repairing your car, you can enforce your rights by bringing a claim in the Disputes Tribunal (so long as the total amount of money you are claiming from your mechanic is not more than $15,000, or $20,000 if the mechanic agrees to have the claim heard by the Tribunal). Details of the Disputes Tribunal and how to bring a claim are available by clicking here: www.communitylaw.org.nz For an example of a successful Disputes Tribunal claim against a mechanic, click here: www.nzlii.org. If you want to claim more than $20,000 from your mechanic you will need to bring a claim in the District Court. Information on bringing a claim in the District Court can be found here: www.courtsofnz.govt.nz.

It is possible that your car now cannot be fixed. If your mechanic is responsible for this, you may also be able to claim the loss you have suffered. For example, if your car has been written off as a result of the mechanic's work, the mechanic will be required to refund you the value of your car. If he or she refuses, you can also claim this amount in the Disputes Tribunal or District Court as appropriate.

Answered 2 Dec 2012. The IMPORTANT NOTICE below is part of this answer.

IMPORTANT NOTICE: The answer provided above is intended for general informational purposes only and cannot be considered a substitute for face-to-face legal advice. It should not be relied upon as the sole basis for taking action in relation to a legal issue. Laws change frequently, and small variations in the facts, or a fact not provided in the question, can often change a legal outcome or a lawyer’s conclusion. No liability whatsoever is accepted by the authors or publishers of the answer, for loss, damage or inconvenience arising in any way from the use of this site. While each answer has been published by a lawyer with a practising certificate, that person may not necessarily have experience in the particular area of law involved.

For more information about this website, please review our Terms of Use.