Don't Sign Repair Orders
Whatever you do, when you pick up your car after a repair job, don't sign a repair order. It could kill your legal rights later if something really wasn't fixed at all.
That's the lesson coming out of an Rv case I saw recently in Michigan. Two great Michigan attorneys had a lemon Rv case where the owner signed the usual repair orders at the end of each repair job, not thinking anything about it, only to have it come back to haunt them later.
The couple's rv was a true nightmare, with several dozen defects, big and small. And they just kept taking it back month after month, for more repairs. Their mistakes? That's what we'll talk about now.
This is like Murphy's Law. As sure as you follow these steps, everything will go right and you won't have a problem and you won't end up wishing you had followed the steps below. As sure as you don't follow these steps, you'll end up wishing you had. Better safe than sorry, so here's our list of things to make sure you do right when your car is headed into the repair shop.
First, when they went into the shop each time they just stood there and told the service adviser what they could recall off the top of their heads. You don't want to do that. Long before you go to the shop you want to sit down and write out a list of each and every defect and malfunction. Say what it is and explain it. Number each item on your list. Make sure your list is thorough, detailed and absolutely complete. You might even want to look over your vehicle with the list in your hand, so you don't miss anything. Write your name, phone number, and vehicle description at the top of the list (year, make, model is enough).
Then leave a copy of your list at home and take a copy with you to the shop. It is extremely important that you leave a copy of the list of defects at home. You need to be able to prove what you complained about and the shop is likely to throw away their copy of your list later. No list, no proof. Simple as that.
Then, when you arrive at the shop, give the service adviser your list. Don't read it to them. Don't summarize it. Give them the list. That way there's no misunderstanding about what you want done.
The service adviser may type it all into their computer and print out a repair order. That's okay, but watch out. Often they will then ask you to sign the repair order before they start to work. The problem is that the paper they want you to sign may not have listed all of your complaints or it may say it differently from the way you said it. So what do you do? Simple. Write on the repair order "See Owner's List" and then sign it. That way you are "incorporating" your list into the repair order itself and you're covered. The service adviser may not notice or may not care or may scratch out what you wrote but it doesn't matter. The important thing is that you wrote it down.
And get a copy of the repair order before they start to work. Many states, like Ohio, require the service adviser to give you a copy of what you sign when you sign it. For every job you should have a piece of paper that says what you complained about when your vehicle went in (and you should get a separate repair order copy at the end of your repair trip too, which shows what they did about each of your complaints).
Then, at the end of the job, don't sign nothing! Nada! Zip! Nothing in the law says you have to, so don't do it! There is no legal reason you have to sign the repair order, plain and simple.
But the repair shop MUST give you a copy of it at the end of the job. Okay, so what happens when the repair shop says they won't give you a copy because you won't sign it? Simple...you have some choices.
First, you can just ask for your keys and leave. The repair shop has no legal right to keep your car unless you owe money for the repair. If you do, pay it and then demand your car keys.
Or, you can take the repair order (like you are going to sign it) and cross out anything printed above your name (you know, the stuff that says you've inspected the car and everything has been repaired and you have no complaints, stuff like that). Then sign it and give it back to the clerk and demand your car keys. That's what the Michigan Rv owner did NOT do and because of that the Judge said "tough luck, you shouldn't have signed it if it wasn't true."
If you really want to, you could also just write on it the opposite of what their form says..."I have not inspected my car, I do not know if it has been fixed, I do not know if I have more complaints" but that can take too long and be too confrontational for many people.
The moral here is simple and extremely important. Don't sign anything that is not 100% true because repair shops, dealers, and manufacturers will use their fine print to take away your legal rights and make it look like you were completely satisfied and happy when you don't even know if they did anything at all to fix your car --- or if it was just another "could not duplicate" or "no problem found" day for them.
And watch out for fine print on the back of the repair order too. Repair shops are starting to hide the fine print on the back and just put on the front a very short sentence in small print that says the back includes terms of your repair agreement. That stinks!
Watch out. Don't let them use the fine print to zing you the next time you go into the repair shop. And if it turns out you've got a lemon, call us 1-888-331-6422 Toll Free or contact us by clicking here. Sueing dealers and manufacturers is what we do every day.