Peter decided to get a head start on winter. Normally he is the last guy to make an appointment to change from summer to winter tires. He’s the one we see fishtailing down the street during not only the first and second but even the third snowfall. The eternal optimist, Peter always hopes that this year we won’t really have a winter season at all.

But of course we will have a winter and snow this year – probably a lot of it and at times certainly more that we would wish for. For once, Peter decided to switch his tires early. Although the middle of November is not really too early, the warm and pleasant fall that we had this year delayed the formal advent of winter tire season by several weeks.

Although changing to winter tires has become increasingly common, there is no law that actually obligates you to purchase and install winter tires except in Quebec where a new law has just been instituted. Studies have shown that running four winter tires in the winter will give you better traction in snowy and icy conditions.

All-season tires, however, are still legal in most places in the winter but they must be in good condition and have sufficient tread to provide you with a safe ride. Depending on the tire, the type of driving that you do and the number of kilometres you drive per year, all-season tires may not be good for much more than three years, if that much.

Ironically, Peter’s decision to change over his tires early this year almost cost him his life! Peter took his car to a reputable yet busy garage. Since a few flakes of snow had already fallen the panic and rush to change tires had begun. Peter made an appointment and patiently waited his turn.

Although the garage was really busy the employees were pleasant and completed the work in a reasonable amount of time. Peter got into his car after paying his bill and drove away.

After driving for about a block Peter felt the front of his car lurch to the left. In a split-second he saw the front left hood drop with a shuddering crash. He thought that he had hit a massive pothole. Almost immediately the right front side crashed down as well. Although Peter was a bit shook up he was not physically injured.

Peter got out of his car and went to see what had happened. Imagine his shock and amazement when he noticed that both front wheels had separated from his car. The front of his car was now resting on the pavement. It was sitting on its undercarriage and bumper!

It took him only a few more moments to realize that the garage had inadvertently forgotten to reinstall the wheel lugs that held the wheels to his car.

Peter called the garage and explained what happened. They were mortified. They immediately sent out a tow truck to pick up his car.

Peter got on his cell phone and called me. He wanted to know whether he could sue the garage. According to the law, people are responsible for the damage that they cause. In most cases damage awards are limited to an amount of money equal to repairing the actual damage suffered.

In this case, there was damage to Peter’s car and fortunately no injuries. The garage offered to fully repair his car and do the bodywork and repaint the damaged areas. In addition they gave him a loaner car so that he would not be inconvenienced during the time it took to complete the repairs. They also apologized profusely. All of this was a reasonable settlement.

Fortunately for Peter, the garage was honourable enough to offer it to him without the involvement of a lawyer or the courts.