Buying a new vehicle is a big commitment of time and money. Therefore, if you bring home a new to you vehicle and find that it does not pass inspection or is not safe to drive, then it is time to consider the signs to determine if you were a victim of car dealer fraud. No one wants to believe that auto dealers are in it for the money with no regard for auto buyer safety, but the fact that 5% of the vehicles sold each year in the US end up being lemons means that the truth is not pretty.
Fraud involves selling you a vehicle when they are aware it has issues. It also covers cases where the dealership may not have known the vehicle had a defect, but that is because they did not do their due diligence in making sure the vehicle is suitable for sale and/or told the auto buyer that the vehicle was something that it was not.
One way to see outright if you have been the victim of auto dealer fraud is to get the accident report on the vehicle, from Carfax.com or another reputable source. If the vehicle has a salvage title, has been in prior accidents that the dealership did not inform you about or was damaged by a flood, auto dealer fraud is a possibility. Likewise, if the vehicle’s odometer has been changed or you saw and test-drove one vehicle and were sent home with a different one, the possibility of auto dealer fraud is high.
Signs of odometer tampering include damage to the dashboard around where the odometer is located, low mileage in a car where the pedals and driver side show significant signs of wear, a different reading in the vehicle than what is on the maintenance reports or inspection records. Also, if the amount of miles traveled since the last inspection is low but the vehicle was a daily driver or used in a long commute – this could be a sign of odometer tampering.
For more information on arbitration and other frequently asked auto fraud questions, click here.
Any of these situations can mean a lot of money out-of-pocket for the new owner. It may also lead to purchase of another vehicle sooner than you were planning, which is also expensive.
Keep in mind that being aware before purchase is the best way to avoid auto dealer fraud. Once a contract is signed, the possibility of getting out of the deal becomes a lot harder. This is because, if you are dealing with a dealership that is willing to commit fraud, they also will be highly unlikely to offer you a refund when you bring the issues to their attention.
This is where a lawyer can be helpful. There are options for legal recourse if the vehicle has been in numerous accidents prior to your purchase or if it has significant issues, like unibody damage.
Also, if you find that the vehicle was advertised online at a lower selling price, the options for legal pursuit of a refund is a possibility. Presenting that vehicle as available for a certain price and charging you more is a case of inventory markup – which is a shady way to do business. Auto dealers know this, but many do not care.
Cases of auto fraud typically reach a settlement and can avoid courtrooms, which is a benefit to you as the auto buyer. That is less of your time (and money) tied up in a defective vehicle.
A legal team with experience in handling auto dealer fraud can provide the knowledge you need and typically have the ability to direct you in the best way to move forward quickly and efficiently with a case that will lead to success.
If you think you have been a victim of odometer fraud, contact Allen Stewart. The consultation is free.
Many people don’t have the time to take off work to go to a court hearing on something like a defective vehicle. Therefore, working with an experienced attorney can bring about resolution before that becomes a necessity.
If you purchased a new vehicle, that is still covered under original warranty, and you find it has a significant and potentially life-threatening defect, you may have protection under the Texas Lemon Law.
There are certain criteria, such as four or more attempts to repair the same defect with no success, to determine the vehicle is a Lemon and therefore covered under the Texas Lemon law. However, those criteria can be discussed with a lemon law lawyer and the next steps can be carefully determined.
If your vehicle is defective, it is wise to get the ball rolling on a case for recourse. Vehicles must be within the four 24 months of ownership, first 24,000 miles driven or within six months since that milestone has passed in order to be considered a lemon.
Likewise, the vehicle must have sat idle during that period for 30 days or more (these do not necessarily have to be consecutive).
Are you a victim of auto fraud? Contact Allen Stewart today.
Also, the manufacturer or dealer must have been made aware of the ongoing issue with the vehicle, and the visits to the service department with no resolution.
Documentation is key here- make sure to send the notification by certified mail so they can’t say they were never made aware. Do not have this conversation with someone over the phone.
The process for filing a Lemon Law complaint begins by filing with the Texas Department of Motor Vehicles, who have a specific department within the DMV to deal with Lemon law complaints. The complaint can be filed online and the fee paid. Following that, the case is assigned to someone in the department. The evidence is evaluated, and a mediation is scheduled. If the mediation is unsuccessful, then the process moves on to a hearing with an examiner. That examiner hears both sides and then has 60 days to provide a written decision. Both sides have the option to appeal said decision if they so choose.
Lemon laws are confusing. Read our guide to the lemon law process.
Meanwhile this avoids a courtroom and the delays that scheduling court proceedings can face.
If the case is found in favor of the auto buyer, then the vehicle could potentially be repurchased, replaced or repaired. The examiner determines the best option of the three on a case-by-case basis, based on the evidence provided.
Even if the vehicle is replaced or repurchased, after-market additions to the vehicle are not considered in the monetary amount or the value of the comparable vehicle in case of replacement.
The auto owner could possibly be reimbursed for the multiple repair attempts already made, however. That is a factor to discuss with your legal representation.
Auto fraud and lemon law cases can be tricky to navigate on your own. Considering the stress of having a defective vehicle and attempting to get to work reliably and get things done that need done in daily life, it may be a challenge to find the time to handle the case correctly. This is why working with legal professionals is the best option and the way to increase the odds of a successful ending to a challenging situation. Reach out to a legal professional day and find the representation you need to rid yourself of a defective vehicle and get back on the road safely.