Who's responsible if your car has problems after leaving the repair shop

Published: Oct. 21, 2015 at 1:43 AM EDT|Updated: Oct. 21, 2015 at 11:10 AM EDT
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RICHMOND, VA (WWBT) - If you take your car in for repairs, and it catches fire and burns up just days after you got it out of the shop, is the repair shop responsible? Does the shop owe you because it was their mechanic who worked on the car last?

Before you get too worked up and threaten to sue, you've got to prove it first.

Eugena Willis says her daughter was driving the car when it caught fire nearly two weeks after Eugena picked it up from the auto repair shop. The daughter called screaming the 2001 PT cruiser was smoking profusely.

"I was shocked. I said, 'I just got my car out of the shop.' I said, 'Lord, pull over, pull over.' She said, 'It's smoking real bad, Mom.' When she pulled over and jumped out, she said, 'Mom, flames coming from it.' I said, 'Oh my God. There goes my car.' I couldn't believe it. I just got it out of the shop. It hasn't even been two weeks," said Willis.

Owner, Robert Tyler of Tyler Automotive, Inc. declined to talk on camera, but he did say on the phone that he's not responsible. Tyler says the car was not overheating when Eugena left his shop. Tyler also says a gas or oil leak likely caused it to catch fire.

"Bessie was running very good," said Willis. "The only thing wrong with my car was it was overheating. That's why I put it in the shop for. That's what he told me he found the problem and fixed it."

Tyler says he believes it had problems unrelated to the coolant repairs he did.

"I'm out of a car because of something they supposed to have done, and they telling me it's not their fault," said Willis.

Comprehensive auto coverage would have covered it, but Eugena only has liability. However, she wants to sue, and she filed a warrant in debt seeking $2,019.17 from Tyler Automotive.

Consumer law attorney John Gayle says if you're in a similar predicament, you will need more than your gut feeling to prove your theory over the mechanic's.

"The challenge is to prove the mechanic who did the prior repair caused this fire," said Gayle. "He may be right, so you just have to prove it. The nice lady who owns this car is going to have the burden of proof. Before you file a lawsuit, get a mechanic to look over your car because it may be something very obvious. Go back to that mechanic and say, 'Look, here's the screw up."

Eugena could not afford a second mechanic and she was already having difficulty getting to work without her PT cruiser. To help resolve the issue, NBC12 contacted an auto company known for its "Feedmore" campaign, and it gave us an independent assessment of the burned car. That part of the story is coming up Thursday.

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