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When should car washes pay for damages they cause?

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A Gilbert man says a local car wash damaged his sweet ride and he doesn't know what to do next. What are your rights when it comes to damage done by a commercial car wash?

When damage occurs, it's important for every car owner to know when they should walk away and chalk it up to bad luck and when they should fight to get the car wash to take responsibility.

"I saw that the entire piece was broken off and missing," Martin Rojas said.

Rojas keeps his 2003 Cadillac CTS looking great. He says he cleans and waxes it every week. Recently, he took it through the Francis & Sons car wash at Ray and Power Roads in Gilbert.

"And as I started to walk to the back of the vehicle, I noticed the whole reflective, glass plate off the back of the vehicle was missing," Rojas said.

Rojas found the part in pieces inside the car wash. The factory-installed plastic casing protects the reverse and parking lights and also holds the license plate onto the vehicle. Rojas got on the phone right away with a manager for Francis & Sons.

"I take good care of my vehicle, something needs to happen with this, I need to get this taken care of, you guys need to either pay for it or fix it. He said he wouldn't do anything for me, and that was it," Rojas said.

Rojas says the manager didn't even offer to refund his $20 wash. He feels it's cut and dry what Francis & Sons should do here.

"I just want it fixed, plain and simple. Either give me a new part or give me the money to get a new part," Rojas said.

And he wants Francis & Sons to do the right thing.

"Being in your line of business, you need to take responsibility for damaging people's vehicles," Rojas said.

If your car is damaged in a car wash, your likelihood of getting the company to take responsibility depends on what was damaged. If the damaged part is an after-market product, installed by a third party or even the dealer (like a spoiler), the car wash can legally deny liability. But if it's a factory-installed part in good order, like it was in this case, then the car wash should take responsibility. Give them an estimate, demand payment and consider small claims court if they won't take responsibility.

Francis & Sons told CBS 5 News that there was a communication breakdown between their on-site manager and Rojas.  They say they wanted to help resolve this matter all along.

After CBS 5 News got involved, Francis & Sons met with Rojas, took responsibility as a reputable car wash would and paid Rojas $550 - the entire cost of the part.  CBS 5 News wishes to thank Francis & Sons for working so quickly after our contact to bring this matter to a fair and satisfactory conclusion.

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