Did you buy a used car from a car dealer, only to later find out that it had been in involved in a serious accident? If so, the dealer may have committed fraud, violated California’s lemon law, or breached one of this State’s other consumer protection statutes. The Vachon Law Firm specializes in collision-damaged used car cases. We also offer free consultations to consumers who were tricked into buying accident-damaged cars, trucks, and SUVs, and who want to learn more about their legal rights.
Want to find out if you are entitled to a refund? Or if you are entitled to punitive or other monetary damages? If so, call the Vachon Law Firm right now at 1-855-4-LEMON-LAW (1-855-453-6665) for a free consultation. We might be able to represent you and sue the dealership under statutes that will force the dealer (and not you) to pay our legal fees and costs.
Although any type of accident damage could potentially be the basis for a legal claim against the selling dealership, this page contains information about two of the most common, and most serious, accident-damaged used car scenarios:
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Were You Tricked Into Buying a Car With Frame Damage?
If you purchased a used automobile, only to later find out that it had been involved in a prior collision in which it sustained frame damage (sometimes referred to as “unibody damage”), then you may be entitled to legal relief. Frame damage is typically a “material fact” that a used car dealer must to disclose to you if the dealer knows about it. So if you just found out that your car or truck was in a serious accident, and the dealer never disclosed this to you, then you should contact an experienced car dealer fraud lawyer immediately to discuss your legal rights.
So why is frame damage important? Modern vehicles’ frame and unibody structures are the source of their stability, structural integrity, and performance – particularly in an accident. Once a vehicle’s frame has been bent, although it can be straightened back into shape, it will never be as strong and resilient as an undamaged frame. Because modern automobiles are designed to crumple in a collision, and absorb the shock and energy in doing so, a car a damaged frame (even if it has been repaired) will crumple more easily, and absorb less of the shock and energy in a future collision. That means less safety, and potentially more serious injuries for you and your family and friends. In addition, your automobile’s airbag system is designed around and triggered by the crumpling of the vehicle’s frame. Accordingly, the airbag system in frame damaged automobile might not function in the way it was designed to. Finally, frame-damaged automobiles are also more likely to suffer a variety of mechanical problems, and thus they are likely be more expensive to operate and maintain.
Wondering how you can tell if your car is frame damaged? The only way to tell for sure is to have it inspected by a qualified auto body mechanic. That being said, there are a few tell-tale signs and good indicators of whether or not a used car has been in a serious accident. First, you can purchase a vehicle history report, like AutoCheck or Carfax. These reports are not 100% accurate, since many automobile accidents are never reported to their databases, but they are a quick and easy source of information. In terms of mechanical symptoms, the following may all be indicators that your vehicle has frame damage:
- Misalignment – if your automobile drifts to one side when you let go of the steering wheel on a straightaway, and this problem comes back quickly even after you have it realigned, this may be a sign that the vehicle’s frame has been compromised.
- A/C malfunctions – because the air conditioner’s compressor is located immediately inside the vehicle’s frame, automotive frame damage often results in A/C malfunctions. If you suspect that your vehicle was previously in collision, and the air conditioner is not working properly, it is a good idea to have it inspected for frame damage.
- Wheels not tracking properly – if you drive your car through a puddle of water, and are driving straight in one direction, the rear wheels should follow exactly in the tracks of the front tires. If they do not, then this is a telltale sign of frame damage.
- Vehicles that don’t “fit together” properly – the gaps between the body panels on your car should be even and straight, and the same on both sides of the vehicle. If they’re not, there could be a problem. Similarly, if you look under the hood and find bolt holes with the bolts missing, this may be a sign that new holes were drilled in order to put the car back together.
If your used car has any of these signs or symptoms of frame damage, and the dealer didn’t disclose that the vehicle had been in a serious accident, then you should contact a qualified car dealer fraud attorney immediately to discuss your legal rights.
Accident-Damaged Certified Pre-Owned Automobiles
When you buy a so-called certified pre-owned car, you pay more money for the “certification” and are entitled to expect a higher standard of quality. However, because CPO used cars typically sell for higher prices, many unscrupulous used car dealers label their vehicles as certified without first making sure they qualify. If you have been a victim of this illegal practice, you have rights and potential remedies under California law.
California Vehicle Code Section 11713.18 prohibits car dealers in this State from selling a used automobile as “certified” if either (1) it has been damaged by an accident, fire, or flood in a manner that will affect its safety or performance, or (2) the dealer knows or should have known that it had sustained frame damage. Because the dealer’s certified vehicle inspection should almost always find signs of accident damage, if you bought a certified pre-owned automobile with frame damage you are probably entitled to a refund (and potentially punitive damages), and should contact a car dealer fraud attorney immediately.
California Vehicle Code Section 11713.18 also prohibits car dealers from selling an automobile as “certified” if any of the following apply:
- The dealer knows or should have known that the odometer was tampered with;
- The dealer knows or should have known that it was repurchased under the federal or a state’s lemon law;
- The title is branded as a lemon law buyback, manufacturer repurchase, salvage, junk, non-repairable, or flood;
- The dealer failed to give the buyer, prior to the sale, a report listing all of the vehicle components that were inspected;
- The dealer is disclaiming the implied warranty of merchantability; or
- The dealer is selling the vehicle “as is.”
Want to Talk to an Expert Consumer Lawyer About Your Accident-Damaged Used Car?
Michael Vachon, LL.M. is one of the pioneering California attorneys in the field of prosecuting sellers of accident-damaged used cars. Our law firm specializes in accident-damaged car and truck cases. What’s more, we offer free consultations, typically start cases for no money down, and bring accident-damage automobile lawsuits under statutes that force the dealers (and not you) to pay our attorney’s fees and costs when you win.
Call us today at 1-855-4-LEMON-LAW (1-855-453-6665) to discuss you accident-damaged used car free of charge. You can also send us your questions via email.
We’re here to help!
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