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Get Gephardt: Who’s legally responsible for damage when cars collide in a car wash?

Jun 17, 2024, 10:47 PM | Updated: 10:54 pm

TOOELE – You might expect a fender bender in traffic or in a parking lot, but Lynzee Delapaz says she was struck where she’d never expected it: inside an automated car wash.

“There was a Jeep in front of me through the car wash and halfway through the car wash, she went off track, which pulled my car into the back of her Jeep,” Delapaz said.

Footage from cameras inside the tunnel at a Quick Quick Car Wash shows Delapaz’s Volkswagen got pulled into the Jeep ahead four times before someone shut the wash down.

A camera inside the Quick Quack Car Wash tunnel shows Lynzee Delapaz’s Volkswagen being pulled into the back of the Jeep ahead of her. (Lynzee Delapaz)

While the Jeep didn’t get hurt, repairs to the VW add up to $1,540.

“This chunk of paint taken out and this whole dent right here,” Delapaz said as she pointed out the damage.

She said the car wash’s manager reviewed her claim and the footage and told her it is the Jeep driver’s responsibility, not theirs.

“The girl in front of me must have touched the steering wheel to take her off track,” Delapaz says she was told.

The other driver

Becky Lutz was behind the wheel of that Jeep. She says she’s been through that Quick Quack Car Wash before and knows the drill.

“It’s definitely not my fault,” she said. “I know you’re not supposed to touch your steering wheel. You don’t touch the brakes. You leave your car in neutral. You just let it do its thing.”

This time around, Lutz says she didn’t do anything different.

Quick Quack is adamant its machinery is not responsible but the Jeep’s driver, Becky Lutz, tells KSL’s Matt Gephardt that she did nothing that would have caused her Jeep to go off track. (Meghan Thackrey, KSL TV)

“I was talking to my daughter and all the sudden, I see my steering wheel go like crazy and then we hit what was like a big bump and I was off the track,” she said.

And the moment her wheel landed, she said she started honking the horn to alert employees.

“It felt like it took them forever to stop it,” Lutz said.

The KSL Investigators watched the footage repeatedly. There is no audio to confirm the honks, but we count 22 seconds between the time Lutz’s Jeep went off track until an attendant shut the wash down.

“It feels like they turned it off and then it turned on again for a minute and then they hit me, into me again right back into the tire area,” she explained.

A matter between drivers

Delapaz says Quick Quack told her it’s a matter between her and Lutz’s insurance companies.

“That’s what they’re basically saying, is it’s no different than an accident on the street,” she said.

Frustrated with that answer, she contacted the KSL Investigators. This is not the first time we’ve reported stories on damage done inside car washes.

Who’s on the hook if your car gets damaged in a car wash?

And it’s not a stretch on the imagination to understand how it might happen: Soap-covered windshields making it tough to see, and the cars being pushed forward not by a trained driver, but by an unthinking conveyor.

But from a legal standpoint, that doesn’t mean the car wash operators are responsible for any damage.

In fact, lawyers told us that unless you can prove there was some sort of negligence on the part of the car wash, it can be tough to force them to pay repair bills.

Lynzee Delapaz points to the damage on her car caused by the collision inside the car wash. (Alston Crosby, KSL TV)

The car wash responds

The KSL Investigators reached out to Quick Quack to ask about all of this.

“Quick Quack Car Wash’s highest priority is always our customers experience every time they visit a store,” the company’s director of operations wrote KSL in an email. “On the day of this incident, the equipment surrounding this event was functioning correctly and did not experience any issues or deviations from standard operation and did not cause this incident. As we would with any customer, we sought to provide these parties with support to resolve this unfortunate event.”

“If it was my fault, I would definitely take responsibility for it, but I know it was not my fault,” said Lutz.

“It’s not my fault,” said Delapaz. “I was just going through the car wash. I wasn’t even in control of my vehicle.”

Getting resolution

But Delapaz’s story does not end there. She told us she was eventually contacted by one of Quick Quack’s internal adjusters who reviewed the footage and decided to pay her claim after all.

Just like in a car accident, it can be helpful to call the police after a collision inside a car wash. Statements in an official report can sometimes help insurance companies and lawyers sort who is responsible.

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Get Gephardt: Who’s legally responsible for damage when cars collide in a car wash?