Yes, a mechanic can keep your car if you don’t pay. This is a form of security interest known as a mechanic’s lien. The mechanic’s lien exists to protect a mechanic from having a customer leave with their vehicle and then refuse to pay for the repairs.
However, you may be able to challenge a mechanic’s lien, especially if the mechanic failed to provide adequate notice of the lien. You may also be able to contest a lien if the repairs were faulty or the work went beyond what was originally agreed upon. Given the high cost of losing a vehicle, you may have the right to be heard in court over a mechanic’s lien dispute.
What Is a Mechanic’s Lien?
A mechanic’s lien is a type of security interest that attaches to physical property.
When it comes to motor vehicle repairs, a mechanic’s lien remains in place until the vehicle owner pays for the repairs. However, the law on these liens varies from state to state.
Louisiana Law as It Applies to a Mechanic’s Lien
In Louisiana, if a mechanic takes possession of a vehicle due to nonpayment, certain notices must be processed. For instance, the owner of the vehicle must receive notice of the following, according to Louisiana Revised Statutes (RS) §32:1720:
- The location of the vehicle
- The vehicle’s description
- The vehicle’s condition
- Any outstanding charges on the vehicle
- Notice of the owner’s right to an administrative hearing
If the owner would like to take advantage of this administrative hearing, they must respond to the notice of the vehicle’s storage within 10 days to confirm their request for a hearing, according to RS §32:1727.
If 45 days have passed since the mechanic’s lien notice was issued to the vehicle owner and payment has not been processed, the mechanic may sell the vehicle in order to recoup the costs of the service and parts that were not paid for, according to RS §32:1726.
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How do You Contest a Mechanic’s Lien?
The good news for consumers is that there may be recourse to contest a lien. There may be a number of grounds on which you could support your case. For instance, you may be able to challenge the lien on technical grounds. If you did not receive notice of the vehicle’s status and the outstanding charges as described in any local or state laws, you may have a means of fighting the lien.
There are a number of other potential defenses in a lien contest. A vehicle owner could argue that the work done by the mechanic exceeds what was agreed upon. Additionally, there may be valid defenses for inadequate or incomplete work.
How do You Pursue a Claim Against the Mechanic for Defective Work?
Challenging a mechanic’s lien is only one potential avenue for a person dealing with defective repairs. If you are injured in an accident caused by shoddy repair work to your vehicle, you could have a civil claim against the mechanic or shop owner.
A claim for defective repairs must meet the same requirements that are involved in any motor vehicle accident. The first step involves proving the mechanic owed you a duty of care. By accepting payment to repair your vehicle, this element is usually not at issue.
Next, you must show they violated that duty of care by carelessly or recklessly failing to adequately repair your vehicle. This can involve evidence that they failed to recognize a necessary fix, used the wrong part, or simply performed shoddy work.
The third element requires you to prove causation. Causation is the link between the mechanic’s negligent work and your losses. You must show your vehicle accident only occurred due to negligent repair work. Finally, you must demonstrate that you suffered losses from the accident. This could be anything from medical bills to lost wages or even the cost of additional vehicle repairs.
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A mechanic can keep your car if you don’t pay. However, if the lien is improper or your repairs were not done, you may have grounds to contest the lien. Worse, defective mechanic work could result in a motor vehicle crash. If you have a claim resulting from a defective repair, call the Morris Bart law firm at (800) 537-8185 for a free case review.
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