The price was excellent, and it looked great. So you bought it and shortly thereafter took it to your mechanic for routine service. The mechanic tells you that the car has obviously been in an accident. Because it is illegal to sell a vehicle that has been in an accident without disclosing this fact to the buyer, you may be entitled to some relief.
Work With the Dealer
Start the process by meeting with the general manager of the dealership or with the dealer principal. Most dealers do not become successful by having unsatisfied customers, and they probably want to help. You should approach such a meeting with an open mind and be willing to work with the dealer. Do not be confrontational. If you mention lawyer or lawsuit at this stage, all talks between you and the dealer will probably end immediately. Ask for the dealer's help in solving the problem.
You can sue a dealer who sells you a vehicle that has been in an accident without disclosing this fact to you. You may be able to pursue the case in small claims court, where you wouldn't need a lawyer, or you might need to hire a lawyer to sue in superior court depending on the small claims court limits in your state. If you are successful, you will probably be able to recover attorney's fees, but your lawyer will probably want you to pay him in advance. A lawsuit could involve a trial, with witnesses, and could become very expensive, especially if you lose.
The State Attorney General
You may report this problem to your state attorney general's office, which will likely have a form on which you detail the transaction. You should provide a copy of all of the documents that you received from the car dealer at the time of sale. Many states have established arbitration to settle disputes between car dealers and manufacturers on one side and consumers on the other. Pursuing the matter in this way could cost much less for everyone and is more likely to lead to a favorable settlement.
If the fundamental operation of the vehicle is not affected, it is also possible that this car could drive many miles trouble- free and that you truly received a good deal on a good car that was repaired correctly.
Remember, it is also illegal for a private owner to sell or trade in a vehicle without disclosing damage to the buyer, including a dealer. If the dealer did not know that the car had been in an accident when he purchased the car or accepted the trade, it could affect his responsibility in this matter. He may be a victim like you in this case, but will probably still work toward a good solution for you.
Craig Woodman began writing professionally in 2007. Woodman's articles have been published in "Professional Distributor" magazine and in various online publications. He has written extensively on automotive issues, business, personal finance and recreational vehicles. Woodman is pursuing a Bachelor of Science in finance through online education.