In this article, automotive engineer Marcus Mazza shares his expert insight on the standard of care for vehicle maintenance and repair stations.
What is the standard of care for vehicle maintenance & repair?
We are frequently asked this question in the course of a crash investigation. The answer is not always simple and depends on a number of factors including, why the vehicle was being serviced, what specific work the vehicle was having done, and who was performing the work. In this article we discuss some of these questions as a starting point to assist in your investigation. As a general note, any repair or service station is responsible for the quality of the work they have performed. This includes the quality and completeness of workmanship as well as the selection of parts and components that are appropriate for the vehicle. In the course of completing their job, technicians and service stations are obligated to notify their customer of any unsafe conditions they notice. In certain situations, a maintenance or repair station may be responsible for inspecting components outside of the initial scope for which the vehicle was brought in.
- Why was the Vehicle in for Service? The reason a vehicle was brought in for service may affect the process by which a technician diagnoses and resolves an issue. Using the example of a flat tire, the standard of care for repairing the problem depends on the cause of the flat. If the tire was punctured, it may be sufficient to remove the puncture and plug the hole; however, if the flat was caused by a pothole, the technician would be expected to check the wheel and suspension for further damage.
- What Specific Work was Performed? This is an important question because some service/maintenance operations are confined to a particular area of the vehicle. For instance, a technician repairing a broken window switch would be unlikely to notice signs of advanced rust or decay on the underside of the vehicle. Alternately, a worker providing an oil change would be likely to see signs of advanced rust even on the rear-underside of the vehicle, but may not notice smaller signs of failure on other components. On the extreme other side, are technicians performing inspections for state requirements or as part of a certified pre-owned program; these workers would be expected to notice and address significant issues throughout the vehicle.
- Who Performed the Work? As mentioned earlier, the shop performing any work is responsible for the quality of the work they have performed and to notify their customer of any unsafe conditions they notice. There are some types of facilities however, that may have greater or lesser responsibilities for noticing issues based on the specific services they provide. For example, car dealerships are responsible for checking each vehicle that comes in for service for any applicable recalls and service bulletins. This service would not necessarily be expected by a non-dealership. On the opposite side of the spectrum are shops specializing in aesthetics, such as interiors, audio/visual, or window tinting; these shops would be less expected to notice or recognize potential mechanical issues with a vehicle.
An analysis of any of these questions requires an understanding of the job performed, the process for completing it, and the facility in which it was performed. It is essential to understand if the vehicle was placed on a lift, whether or not wheels were removed as part of the process, and many other factors that may impact whether or not a particular condition would have been obvious. For cases involving the repair and maintenance of motor vehicles, Robson Forensic offers automotive engineers with firsthand experience working as automotive technicians. Many of our experts who investigate these matters are ASE certified technicians, some have owned their own garages, all of them are meticulous in the maintenance of their own vehicles.
VEHICLE CRASH INVESTIGATIONS
From complex crash reconstruction to developing demonstrative evidence for court testimony, the transportation experts at Robson Forensic are well equipped to assist in your investigation. Our experts have in-depth knowledge of how vehicles are designed and built, they are fluent in the regulations affecting trucking operations, and have designed, built, and maintained our nation’s transportation infrastructure. For more information visit our Vehicles & Roadway Systems page.
Robson Forensic offers automotive experts from many of our regional offices. This article was assembled with the guidance of Marcus Mazza. Marcus is an automotive engineer who has experience working for major vehicle manufacturers and also owned and operated his own vehicle service center. He applies his expertise to vehicle crash investigations, including crash reconstructions, crashworthiness investigations, and analysis of negligence repair/maintenance claims. His hands-on experience designing, testing, and servicing vehicles qualifies Marcus to investigate a broad range of vehicle matters. If you are investigating an incident involving unintended acceleration, please contact Marcus directly. He can help determine which of our experts is most appropriate to address the issues specific to your case.