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Thieves Damaged Her Car in an Auto Shop Parking Lot, Who Repairs the Damage?

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A North Texas driver left her car with a mechanic for repairs. When the work was done, thieves cut out the catalytic converter while it was in the shop’s parking lot waiting for pickup.

So, who’s responsible for the damage?

“My assumption was their insurance would cover something like that”

When her son’s 2006 VW Beetle broke down, Amanda Walker-Wait had it towed to the auto repair shop in Cedar Hill that she’s used for years. After the Beetle was ready, Walker-Wait said her son paid the bill and the family planned to come back for the car when a second driver was available.

“We picked up the keys and made arrangements to pick it up before they opened the next morning,” said Walker-Wait.

While the car was parked in the parking lot, in front of the shop, thieves stole the catalytic converter. Walker-Wait said she knew something was wrong when her son started the car up to take it home.

“It was tremendously loud,” she said.

The shop’s security footage filled in the blanks.

“They looked at the security camera and saw that two people had arrived on the scene, actually they were pretty bold, they were there overnight, jacked up the car, had bright lights and cut out the catalytic converter and sensors,” Walker-Wait said.

Cedar Hill Police took a report and said the video didn’t offer enough information to help identify any suspects. Police said they found no other similar reports at that auto shop in the last year.

Walker-Wait turned her attention to an estimated $2,600 repair and asked the shop about covering the damage.

“My assumption was their insurance would cover something like that,” she said.

Walker-Wait said the owner told her once the customer picked up the keys and left the car, the shop’s not on the hook for the damage.

NBC 5 Responds spoke with a manager at C.S. Lee Tire and Auto by phone. He said the shop’s insurance wouldn’t cover the repairs. He said once the shop was done with the car, the customer had the keys and shop employees couldn’t move the car somewhere else for the night if they wanted to.

Options for consumers

“You have several options if it does happen,” said Meloney Perry – an insurance coverage attorney who is not involved in this case.

Generally, Perry said if something happens to a vehicle at an auto shop, start by appealing to the shop’s customer service.

You can also ask for the business’s insurance information and file a claim yourself. If you can’t get the carrier name, send a certified letter and request it.

“I would document, certified mail, to make sure you can prove that their registered agent received the letter and they're going to have to respond one way or another. They know then you mean business, or at least they know you're not going away,” said Perry.

Perry points out the claim could be denied or the shops you visit may not have insurance to cover theft or vandalism.

If you have comprehensive coverage for your vehicle, you may fall back on your insurance.

“Make sure you have good coverage so that you don't have to worry about this. You will be reimbursed by your own carrier, at the least,” said Perry.

Your insurance may also reach out to the shop’s carrier about settling the claim.

Ask how your vehicle will be secured

Perry said a last resort may be court, but there is some gray area in these cases. Before you leave your vehicle at a shop, Perry said ask questions about how your vehicle is going to be secured.

“Have good communication with the auto repair shop or your dealership. Hopefully, it won't happen, but you do sometimes park at your own risk,” Perry said.

Walker-Wait said she ended up filing a claim with her own insurance. She had to pay a deductible and her insurance company will take it from there.

“All's well that ends well,” said Walker-Wait. “The car is repaired; we have a new relationship with a new shop.”

NBC 5 Responds is committed to researching your concerns and recovering your money. Our goal is to get you answers and, if possible, solutions and a resolution. Call us at 844-5RESPND (844-573-7763) or fill out our customer complaint form.

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