Every day, used cars and previously owned vehicles of all costs and sizes are bought and sold in Pennsylvania. Most of these used vehicles are a sound investment – but some are not. Insurance companies will often take prior damage vehicles and sell them at auto auctions. Shady dealerships buy these vehicles at auction and resell them for a huge profit without disclosing damage or defects.
What recourse do you have if you are an unwarned buyer of a defective used vehicle with an unfavorable history? If the dealership did not tell you about prior damage before selling you the car, the law is on your side. The Pennsylvania Auto Industry Trade Practices Act requires dealerships to tell you about very specific damage if the dealership knew, or should have known, that damage existed at the time of sale.
Risks go beyond your bank account.
Typically, people equate prior damage auto fraud as monetary loss for the unsuspecting buyer versus monetary gain for the unscrupulous dealer. But it’s more serious than that: cars with structural damage can be dangerously unsafe to the passengers, particularly in the event of a collision. Underlying structural weaknesses can lead to even greater damage caused if the car is in another accident – even at residential-level speeds. That means safety is significantly comprised for you and your family when riding in a car with previous damage.
Healthy bones matter: vehicle frame problems.
During manufacture, every car on the road begins with a structural component that creates basic shape and support. Depending on the year of manufacture and the type of vehicle being made (car, truck, van, SUV) – that basic support or frame (sometimes called a chassis system) can either a ‘body-on-frame’ design or ‘unibody’ design. Like a skeleton, both frame designs support all of the other vehicle’s components. But no matter the frame design, there is a direct connection between previous frame damage and chronic mechanical and safety problems. Causes of vehicle frame damage include:
- Accidents, which may cause a frame to be bent, cracked, or twisted
- Weather exposure, with rust hole formation in the frame or chassis
These are the most common prior damage issues, compromising the vehicle’s structure and safety. The dealers – not the buyers – are responsible for properly inspecting a frame and disclosing any and all prior damage before the sale.
What other prior damage can’t be denied?
Pennsylvania law also requires that damage to the transmission, engine block, cylinder heads, and/or differential must be disclosed before the sale. If damaged, these critical mechanical parts will prevent the car from operating properly, or at all.
State Inspection details must be revealed.
Last but not least, prior damage that must be revealed is anything that prevents the vehicle from passing a State Inspection. Pennsylvania law requires every vehicle registered in the Commonwealth to pass an inspection, which is a rigorous checklist. If something is defective or missing, the vehicle fails inspection. If this defect existed at the time of sale, and the dealership knew – or should have known – about it, the dealership is required by law to tell you that the car won’t pass inspection before you buy it.
We help solve the prior damage puzzle!
We expertly solve prior damage puzzles by creating a timeline of everyone who knew about the prior damage. Our thorough investigations often clearly demonstrate to a judge or jury that the dealership is blatantly lying. Their deceit about the vehicle is unmistakable because we’ve made the prior damage case explicitly evident.
Dealer fraud can weigh heavily in your favor – many times we are able to receive attorney fees from the dealership and even possibly win up to three times your damages. Give us a call today.