Prior Damage

Prior Damage

There are a lot of used cars sold every day in Pennsylvania.  Many of those cars are perfectly normal used cars that will be good for years.  But, a lot of them have prior damage that affects the use, value, or safety.  Pennsylvania Auto Fraud law protects you as the consumer against buying a car that has certain prior damage if that prior damage was not disclosed to you before you bought the car.  Here is a common scenario:

You need a used car, so you go to a car dealership and start looking.  You find a car that is in your price range.  The test drive goes well, the salesman assures you that there are no problems with the car, and you buy it.  A couple days later, you notice that the car is pulling to the right or left.  You call the dealership and they tell you that everything is normal, maybe it is just out of alignment.  You take it to a mechanic who realigns the car, but it still seems to pull to one side.  Starting to get frustrated, you do some background research, like buy a CarFax Report, and you discover that the vehicle was previously in a front end accident.  You call the dealership again and they tell you there is nothing they can do.

Frame Damage

Under a scenario like this, chances are, your car has frame damage.  Frame damage is a common problem with used cars, especially when they were previously in an accident.  The frame of the car provides the structure, safety, and support.  When a car is in an accident, it is likely that the frame has been bent, twisted, or cracked.  If your frame is bent, twisted, or cracked the dealership must tell you that before you buy the car if that dealership knew, or should have known, about the problem.  Admittedly, frame damage can be difficult to detect.  It cannot be seen with the naked eye during a visual review of the car and will not prevent the car from passing inspection.  The used car dealerships know this, so they won’t tell you that it is a problem.  At Morrow and Artim, P.C., we have a team of attorneys and mechanics who assist in reviewing your car to determine if there is frame damage and how easy it is to detect.  We also perform background checks on the car to look for branding and/or disclosures that were given to the dealership to put them on notice of the frame damage.  If you were sold a vehicle with frame damage, you could receive up to 3 times your purchase price in damages and have the dealership pay for your attorney.

Won’t Pass PA Inspection

Another common problem is that your recently purchased used car won’t pass a Pennsylvania inspection.  Every year Pennsylvania law requires you to have your vehicle inspected.  This is a process in which a mechanic, certified to perform State Inspections, reviews your car to make sure it is roadworthy.  If you recently bought a used car, it most likely came with a valid inspection.  However, here is another common scenario:

You buy a used car from Mark’s Auto Sales.  At the time of sale, your car had a valid PA inspection.  Shortly after purchase, the check engine light comes on.  You call the dealership, and they refuse to help.  Now, the engine is overheating and you are worried about the car failing at any time.

There is a good chance that the there is a problem with your car that will prevent it from passing a PA inspection.  If this problem existed at the time of sale, and your car would not pass an inspection at the time of sale, the dealership was required to tell you that before you bought the car.  A common practice is the “lick’em and stick’em.”  This practice involves a car dealership taking a used car to their friend who is a PA certified mechanic.  That mechanic gets paid to slap a valid inspection sticker on the car so it can be sold.  The key to detecting this problem is to discover it soon after you buy the car.  Therefore, you need to call our office immediately so that we may have the car reviewed by one of our certified mechanics.  The car must be unable to pass inspection at the time of sale.

Other Prior Damage Issues

Aside from those common issues listed above, Pennsylvania Auto Fraud law requires a dealerships to tell you about other prior damage issues before selling you a car.  If the engine block or engine head is cracked at the time of sale, that must be disclosed.  Some common symptoms include leaking fluids and the engine overheating.  You need to stop driving the car and have the engine inspected immediately. A dealership is also required to disclose other mechanical issues like transmission damage and defective differentials.  Transmissions are a huge part of your car and cost a lot.  If the car seems to be slipping in and out of gear, there is a constant burning smell, or your check engine light comes on, you may have transmission problems.  The differential controls the spinning of your tires.  You will know if you have differential problems if your car has a whining or clunking noise while coasting.  A final major issue that must be disclosed by the car dealership is flood damage.  Although this is not a huge problem around Pennsylvania, or at least not one we see often, it does happen.  If your car was in a flood before you bought it, and the dealership knew or should have known about the flood damage, they have to tell you about it before you buy the car.  The most common way to determine flood damage is by smelling the car.  If it has a musty smell, get the car checked out.  Also, if the under side of the car is highly rusted, it might have been flooded at one time.

We Can Help With Prior Damage

If you bought a used car that has undisclosed prior damage, we can help.  Pennsylvania Automobile law provides a lot of protection when it comes to prior damage.  You may be able to receive up to 3 times your purchase price.  Also, the law permits the Court to force the dealership to pay for your attorney.  That means you can take the dealership to court for little or no cost to you.  Give us a call before you do anything else.  It is imperative that we start our case review with the vehicle in its current condition before it gets any worse.

The law in Pennsylvania states that repossession companies are allowed to take your car as long as it does not disturb the peace in the process.  “Disturbing the peace” can mean a lot of things.  A good repossession would involve the repossession company coming to your house, explaining why it is there, asking for the keys, and driving the car away.  Disturbing the peace involves yelling, screaming, threatening, any kind of touching, destroying property, moving objects, or entering a closed garage.  Also, if a repossession company comes to your house, and you tell the repossession man to get off of your property and do not take the car, he is supposed to leave immediately and come back with a court order.  However, again, the repossession company does not get paid unless it takes your car, so the repossession man will do everything he can to take the car.

Once your vehicle is repossessed, the bank must send you a “Notice of Repossession.”  This Notice will tell you where the car is located, give you a chance to come retrieve your personal belongings from the car, and quote a reinstatement fee to get your car back and reinstate the loan.

If you voluntarily give your vehicle back to the bank because you are unable to continue payments, you have undergone a “Voluntary Repossession.”  You cannot sue the bank for a bad repossession if you voluntarily repossessed the vehicle.  The bank will simply note the repossession and this will appear on your credit report.  Voluntary repossession is rarely a good idea because it will make it difficult to receive a loan for another car in the future.  Every car dealership from that day forward will see that you failed to pay on a previous loan and voluntarily gave up the vehicle.

If your car has been repossessed recently give us a call.  You may not know that the repossession violated the law until you talk with one of our auto fraud/lemon law attorneys.  We are often able to handle your matter for little to no money from you.  The most common result is to get you money in your pocket.  Rarely are we able to retrieve the vehicle because repossession companies and banks sell them at auto auctions quickly after repossession.  The law also provides the ability to handle your case at little to no cost and we are only be paid once we win you money.  Don’t let the bank bully you.  Give us a call today for a free no obligation consultation.