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Who Is Responsible For Damages Incurred When Your Car Is In The Shop?

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RALEIGH — If a mechanic takes your car for a test drive and gets in a accident, who pays? Or what if your car is broken into while left at a dealership?

The answer to both is, "it depends."

That is what Travis Lassiter of Raleigh found out when his car was damaged.

There is no disputing his car's bumper really got bumped. The issue is how and where it happened.

Lassiter's car was at Merchant's Tire on Millbrook Road in Raleigh getting new tires.

When he picked it up, he saw the damage.

"I thought, 'That can't be my car because my car's not wrecked,'" Lassister claims.

It turns out, a Merchant's employee parked Lassiter's car on a side street after a test drive, because Merchant's lot was full.

Employees of Merchant's Tires believe someone must have hit it and just kept going.

Lassiter says a manager told him to call the regional office to get the car repaired.

"I figured I'd just need to speak with them and they'd go ahead and put everything through and get it fixed and take responsibility for it. It ended up not being the case," says Lassiter.

In a letter, Merchant's attorney told Lassiter the company is not responsible for the $1,600 in damage because the car was hit by an "unknown third party."

So Lassiter called 5 On Your Side and we did some checking. Every time you turn over your car to a dealership or repair shop you give up control of it to that business, which is then supposed to provide "reasonable care."

That is where it gets tricky because unless you can prove they were "negligent" in caring for your car, they are not responsible for damage someone else does.

Lassiter does not think Merchant's should have parked his car on the street.

After Five On Your Side got involved, Merchant's finally agreed to pay to fix the car.

"We feel responsible, but are not legally responsible," says Company Spokesman Steve Steffens.

"I'm still disappointed that it took so long and was so much trouble, but I'm happy that it's finally getting done," says Lassister.

Part of proving "negligence" is knowing there is a problem and that it is being ignored.

Merchant's says they park cars on that street all the time and have not had any trouble. If another customer gets hit there, that person could make a case for negligence.