The Time for an Auto Fraud Claim

For those who read our Auto Fraud Page, you know that Pennsylvania’s Auto Fraud Laws protect those who purchase used cars.  Under Pennsylvania Law, a used car is anything that is more than a year old and/or has more than 12,000 miles.  Those are the two main criteria for the application of Pennsylvania’s Lemon Law.  Those who purchase used cars actually have a lot of protection under Pennsylvania Law.  Auto Fraud applies to the advertising, selling, and repairing of a used car.  However, what is limited is the timing involved in Auto Fraud Claims.  Generally speaking, the further you get from the date of purchase, the harder it is to prove Auto Fraud.

This is best illustrated with a common example.  You go to a local dealership and buy a used car.  You drive the car around for a week and the check engine light comes on.  You take the car to your mechanic who tells you that the transmission is bad and will cost over a thousand dollars to repair.  You only had the car for a week.  It is unlikely that the transmission went bad in a week.  So, it was probably bad at the time of sale.  Pennsylvania Auto Fraud Law requires the dealership to tell you that the transmission is bad prior to sale.

Let’s change this example to illustrate the importance of timing.  Assume you buy the used car and drive it around for two months.  Then you discover the bad transmission.  This puts you in a tough spot.  It is completely possible for the transmission to go bad in two months.  Therefore, it may not have been bad at the time of sale.  This timeline makes your Auto Fraud claim almost impossible.  However, it leaves you with the burden of paying for the repair.

Recently, we had to reluctantly turn away a potential client because the timing of her claim prevented us from suing the dealership.  She bought a used car.  At the time, the vehicle had a valid inspection.  However, 6 months later, when the inspection was up for renewal, the vehicle wouldn’t pass inspection because of major defects.  If the defects existed at the time of sale, then she would have had a claim because the Law prevents a dealership from selling a vehicle that won’t pass inspection.  However, because the mechanic was unable to relate the defects back to the time of sale (6 months ago), it is almost impossible to say that the defects existed at the time of sale.

So, how to do you avoid this timing problem?  The easiest way is to have a good mechanic friend who will look at a used car either before you buy it or right after you buy it.  We always advise that you never buy a used car without having an independent review of the vehicle first.  Unfortunately, dealerships are not always willing to let you take the vehicle for that independent review.  If you take the car to a mechanic right after purchase, and a problem is discovered, you may have a great case.

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