I Purchased a Damaged Car. Do I have a Claim for Consumer Fraud?
The dealer lied to me about the history of the car I purchased and I htink I have been ripped of because I should have been told
There are thousands of cars circulating that have been damaged by floods and have been repaired by insurance companies or have been totaled. There is an entire market in buying and selling these used cars. There is a huge discrepancy in the titling requirements between states for these cars. Sometimes a dealer can wash titles (remove the salvage marking) completely legally and then re-title the car in another state with a clean title. Your car could have flood damage or could have been totaled by an insurance company and you would not know. Usually if the car had a salvage title it will show up in Carfax, but sometimes there is a delay. You might only find out that the car had a salvage title when you try to sell the car. New Jersey Law requires that dealers make known defects which they are aware of. To complicate the matter even further, insurance companies have their own internal standards as to when they should salvage (repurchase) a car. These numbers range from 80% to 90% cost to repair compared to actual cash value (ACV). If an insurance company salvages a car and it falls below the state threshold requirements they might not have to salvage the title. There are thousands of cars circulating that have been salvaged by insurance companies and resold at auctions without any title restrictions. You could be driving a car that has been repurchased by an insurance company and resold at an auction in which they have a monetary interest. To make matters worse, Carfax would not pick this up because they do not have access to CLUE, Comprehensive Loss Underwriting Exchange.
Do I have a claim for Consumer fraud if sold a car that was damaged? Yes
There are some relatively simple and practical tips for litigating and handling these claims (prior Damage) in Superior Court New Jersey. While the law is relatively strict on what a jury can and cannot hear there is the ultimate issue of credibility and who a jury believes in the presentation of the case. The basic concepts of litigating and obtaining damages in a consumer fraud case are no different than litigating and obtaining damages in a personal injury or any other case presented to a jury. There is a significant issue of credibility.
Usually in this type of claim the dealership might protest in that they did not know that a vehicle was in an accident and had no way of knowing and they relied upon a Carfax same as the plaintiff. Generally I like to refer to this as a stick my head in the sand defense. I do not think this is reasonable nor do I think a jury thinks this is reasonable that a trained seller of the vehicles who might make millions of dollars cannot tell or determine as to whether or not a vehicle has been in an accident or has not been in an accident. (either new or used vehicles)
A dealership that sells a car inspects it themselves to make sure they getting a good deal. Then after a dealership inspects a vehicle for themselves they have it inspected before it is sold to a consumer or to a member of the public. So now there are two separate instances in which a dealership inspects a vehicle prior to selling a vehicle. And it is very important to note that the dealership must know if a vehicle is in an accident as the value is significantly reduced and they have no real motivation to obtain this vehicle to sell unless they know what is cheap and intent to jack up the price on a car which is otherwise valueless.
These cases can have significant value depending on the nature and extent of the prior damage and to what extent the dealership inspected the vehicle. What if I were to tell you that a vehicle had $12,000 a prior damage and a franchised dealer inspected it and had it certified pursuant to a 125 point inspection checklist required to be reviewed and inspected by the manufacturer. This would appear to be a no-brainer and nobody would ever believe the selling dealership claim that they did not know that this type of vehicle had been in an accident or had been flooded. Also remember that a franchised dealership in the process of certifying (CPO) the vehicle had it certified and inspected by technicians trained by the manufacturer and trained by the dealership. There is no reason, nor any excuse for a dealership to sell a vehicle that had been in a prior accident or had been flooded and claim that they did not know that the vehicle had been in an accident or sustained damage. Inherently this just does not make any sense and inherently it is not credible and this is certainly not a position that anyone wants to argue to a jury in Superior Court in New Jersey.
The purchase of previously damaged vehicles cost customers millions of dollars. A customer purchasing damage vehicle which is now worth less than previously imagined. If the dealer is aware that a vehicle has been damaged the dealer is obligated to make the disclosure if the disclosure would make a difference in the purchasing decision. Thus, it is always a better option to disclose then not disclosed for dealers. Much litigation arises out of the decision not to disclose such damage. Frequently, the dealer's claim that they were unaware of such damage in the first instance. Since the dealer's take disposition sometimes it is necessary to retain an expert to testify against the dealers that had they made the appropriate inspection they would've been made aware of the defects in the vehicle. Moreover, the dealer has an obligation to make such inspection of an automobile to make sure the vehicle is safe for the road for both the customer and other people on the road