Compensation for car damage from malfunctioning gas pump?
(Grass Valley, CA)
I went to a gas station and pulled the hose out to pump my gas. Without warning, gas starting spraying all over my car and inside my car. I started shaking the nozzle and it finally stopped, but the inside of my car now has gas in it because my window was down.
Is there anything I can do? The lady that was working there said it wasn't their problem. There must be a way I can get some sort of restitution for the damage to my car.
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ANSWER for "Compensation for car damage from malfunctioning gas pump?":
Kelly (Grass Valley, CA):
Fortunately you weren't injured. There are a couple of ways to pursue your property damage claim. There's the easy way, and the hard way. Which way your claim will proceed will be entirely up to the gas station owner.
The Easy Way:
Go back to the gas station. Ask the attendant for the name and address of the owner. Some gas stations are privately owned, while others are owned by the major oil companies and their subsidiaries. In many cases the name and contact information for the owner will be clearly decaled on the window at the entrance to the main area.
Take multiple photographs of your car and its damage. Get at least three bona fide estimates to repair the damage. Write a letter to the station owner setting out the details of the event. Include the photographs, and all three estimates. Make clear in your letter you did not contribute to the damage. Ask them to send you a check to pay for the damages. Hopefully they will comply and the matter will be resolved.
In all likelihood there will be a video tape of the incident. This is especially true if the gas station was owned by one of the major oil companies. While at this point you don't have a legal right to see the tape, the gas station owner will surely review it.
The Hard Way:
If, after going through the steps above, the gas station owner refuses to pay for the damage, you can file a small claims lawsuit against the station owner. In the State of California the maximum amount you can sue for in small claims court is $7500.00 - also called the "jurisdictional amount."
The above is general information. Laws change frequently, and across jurisdictions. You should get a personalized case evaluation from an attorney licensed in your state. Find a local attorney to give you a free case review here, or call (888) 647-2490.
Best of luck,
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