Hit in Car Wash

(WSVN) - You may have done it: You pull into one of those automated car washes, put the car in neutral and roll out the other side, your vehicle nice and shiny. But what would you do if you suddenly hit another car in the middle of the wash? It’s why one woman called Help Me Howard with Patrick Fraser.

Amber Martinez was running errands to pick up a few final things for a wedding.

Amber Martinez: “I was maid of honor for my sister-in-law.”

And after getting things to ensure the wedding would look nice, Amber decided to make her car look better as well.

Amber Martinez: “And I was like, ‘Hey, my car looks disgusting. Let me go ahead and get it washed.'”

She pulled into an automated car wash.

Amber Martinez: “And tell you when to go ahead and put it in neutral, when to let off the break, and the car wash takes over. I followed instructions.”

Amber Martinez
Amber Martinez

The soap and water came pouring down.

Amber Martinez: “You can’t really see anything in those. There’s soap everywhere, and the little brushes are going. And your windshield is pretty well covered.”

And then…

Amber Martinez: “All of a sudden, I felt a bump, and then I felt another bump. I’m like, ‘Oh my God. Am I getting hit?'”

The driver of an SUV ahead of Amber had apparently hit his brakes, stopping his vehicle.

Amber Martinez: “Now I’m hitting the person in front of me, and I started freaking out. I honked the horn. The SUV, I don’t know what caused him to get stuck.”

The SUV then pulled out of the car wash and took off. Amber got out of her car…

Amber Martinez: “The manager at the time started yelling about how the driver of the SUV must have turned the wheel, must have stepped on the brake.”

The damage to Amber’s car didn’t look too bad.

Amber Martinez: “It cracked the plastic piece behind the grill and the chrome off of the grill.”

But two repair shops both gave Amber an estimate of a little over $1,000. Amber can’t find the owner of the vehicle that stopped in the car wash, and she says the car wash manager said it wasn’t their fault, but they did offer to pay a part of the bill.

Amber Martinez: “And he is willing to pay $400 to fix your car. And I’m like, ‘That’s unacceptable.’ He did almost $1,100, at least the car wash did, in damages.”

Amber wants the $1,000-plus in repairs paid. And now her question is, who has to pay it? The other driver, the car wash owner or her?

Howard Finkelstein: “Definitely not Amber, and since it appears the driver of the other vehicle hit his brakes, he could be responsible. However, the law has a concept called res ipsa loquitur, meaning the law will presume the car wash has to pay for the repairs since they control the equipment. And then the car wash has to go after the other driver who may have caused the accident to get their money back.”

We spoke to the owner of the car wash. He was adamant it was the other driver’s fault, that the car wash is 100 percent not at fault, but he added he will pay to repair Amber’s car to get this problem out of the way.

Howard Finkelstein: “It’s nice that the car wash recognized that Amber didn’t do anything wrong and should be taken care of. And sadly, they probably won’t get their money back from the other driver because it will cost more than $1,000 in legal fees to win in court, so it’s not cost-effective to go to court.”

Amber is getting her car repaired. And as for being maid of honor…

Amber Martinez: “One of the most stressful things I’ve ever done was doing that, but it was also a lot of fun.”

The wedding turned out nice, and because the car wash paid for the repairs, that turned out OK for Amber as well.

Now, Howard used that Latin term that lawyers like to throw out: res ipsa loquitur. Translated, it means “the obvious is obvious.” In other words, if a roof caves in, it’s the property owner’s fault. If a plane falls out of the sky, it’s the airline’s fault. And if they disagree, they have to prove they were not to blame, not the victim.

Feel like you are getting waxed by a problem? Don’t brush it off. Hit the brakes and let us try to clean things up with a nice, shiny solution.

CONTACT HELP ME HOWARD:
Email: helpmehoward@wsvn.com
Reporter: Patrick Fraser at pfraser@wsvn.com
Miami-Dade: 305-953-WSVN
Broward: 954-761-WSVN
On Twitter: @helpmehoward7

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