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July 07, 2017|
Whether it's at a mall or a hotel, at some point, most drivers in the UAE will have handed over their keys to get their automotive pride and joy valet parked. The majority of us do so without thinking, but what happens if things go wrong? And what are your rights? We asked Hassan Elhais, legal consultant at Al Rowaad Advocates & Legal Consultants, to explain.
Do most valet tickets have a disclaimer stating that the valet company isn't responsible for any damages to the car, is this legally binding?
In law, valet parking is a contract between the car owner and the valet company, which is represented by the driver. The terms and conditions of their contract are written on the valet ticket itself. Whether the car owner would like to deliver the car under these conditions or not, he or she is free to take that decision and accept the terms and conditions. So, unless the valet card waives the company's liability, they shall be liable to cover any damages according to Article 243 of Law No 5 of 1985 and Article 338 of Law No 5 of 1987. However, such clauses do not cover any damages caused intentionally as per article No 246/1 of Civil Law No 5 of 1985 indicates: "The contract shall be implemented, according to the provisions contained therein and, in a manner, consistent with the requirements of good faith."
What steps should you take if your car is returned damaged?
The car owner has to file a police complaint, immediately. The reason for the complaint could be to file a criminal case against the valet driver for breach of trust and damage of property (the car) if the damage was done with intention. In case it was not intended, the owner will need the police report to prove that there was an accident and to use it for insurance purposes.
It is important to note here that many valet-parking companies have an insurance policy for such scenarios, so it is important to ask if they are covered by such insurance.
And what should you do if your car is returned with significantly more kilometres on the clock?
If the car has been returned with significantly more kilometres on the clock than when the owner left it with the valet, that is a big sign that the car might have been taken for a joyride or illegal use, more than just being parked. Such acts can never be interpreted as an act of good faith. The car owner has the right to file a criminal case for breach of trust under Article No 404 of Criminal Law No 3 of 1987 and its amendments, which states: "Whoever embezzles, uses or wastes funds, securities or any other movable property with the intention to prejudice the interest of the due right's owners, if it is delivered to him as a deposit, rent, pledge, loan for use, or proxy, shall be punished by detention or by a fine. In application of this provision, the partner in joint property, and the owner's property, and whoever receives anything to use in a certain manner for the benefit of its owner or the benefit of another, shall be considered as an agent."
Is there a "burden of proof" in either of these circumstances?
The burden of proof in such cases falls on the owner. Unquestionably, they shall be requested to show the car parking ticket to prove the relationship with the valet-parking company. Moreover, it would be better if they can provide some more evidence, such as witnesses (for example, witnesses who noticed the total kilometres odometer value, before and after, or somehow know about the misuse of the car). If it is about car damage, the owner will be requested to indicate where the damage is.
The United Arab Emirates abrogated the earlier Penal Code (Federal Law No. 3 of 1987) and issued a new law to govern crimes and penalties, called the Federal Decree-Law No. 31 of 2021 on the Issuance of Crimes and Penalties Law. The new Penal Code was issued on 20 September 2021 and came into force on 2 January 2022. Article 453 of the new Penal Code deals with breach of trust.
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