How To Sue a Car Dealership in California

How To Sue a Car Dealership in California

Falling victim to a California car dealership’s deceptive practices can be an incredibly frustrating experience. It’s unfortunate how many car dealerships conduct their business dishonestly. After spending your hard-earned money on a car that turns out to be far from what was advertised, you may be wondering where to turn next. You may be asking yourself what legal recourse is available and how to sue a car dealership.

Fortunately, California law has robust protections in place designed to safeguard consumer rights when it comes to car purchases. You have many avenues by which you can take action against these car dealerships and their dishonest practices. With the help of an experienced California consumer law attorney, you can get real compensation for the hardships you’ve faced.

Understanding Your Rights

The next logical question is, “How can I sue a car dealership?”

First, you need to understand your rights as a consumer under California law, which establishes the basis for how to sue a dealership. California has comprehensive laws protecting consumers, including the California Lemon Law, which is specific to consumers who buy a defective vehicle. These laws give consumers several rights and safeguards to ensure that their interests are protected from predatory car dealers.

Some of the key rights that consumers have include:

  1. Accurate and truthful information about the vehicle’s condition, history, features, and warranties
  2. Fair and truthful advertising
  3. Cancellation of the contract within a specific cooling-off period
  4. A warranty, during which time repairs should be made at no cost to the consumer
  5. Accurate disclosures, specifically regarding the vehicle’s history of accidents and damage, which can affect the vehicle’s value and safety
  6. Clear and accurate information on financing
  7. Fair and non-predatory or discriminatory lending practices
  8. The right to file a lawsuit or make a claim under the California Lemon Law
  9. The right to legal representation

It’s important to discuss your case with an experienced consumer law attorney who can advise you as to which rights were violated and what the next step is as far as how to file a lawsuit against a car dealership.

Identifying Grounds for a Lawsuit

So, how do you sue a car dealership? The key factor is identifying whether you have grounds for a lawsuit, meaning whether your rights were violated in a way that gives you an avenue for legal action. In terms of how to sue a car dealer or used car dealer, you must evaluate the specific circumstances that may warrant compensation for your losses. An experienced consumer protection attorney can guide you through this process and help you understand the grounds for filing a lawsuit.

Some common grounds for lawsuits against car dealerships include:

  • Misrepresentation
  • Breach of contract
  • Negligence
  • Fraud, including deceptive practices and forgery
  • Violations of California’s Lemon Law
  • A failure to honor a warranty
  • Unfair or deceptive trade practices, often violating consumer protection laws
  • Discriminatory sales practices
  • Failure to disclose required information about the vehicle
  • Predatory and exploitative lending practices, including excessive interest rates and hidden fees

A warranty is a key basis for a lawsuit. Almost every car sale involves a warranty of some sort, which provides assurances as to the vehicle’s quality, reliability, and resale value. Warranties also protect the consumer from unexpected repair costs, as they shift the responsibility for paying for repairs from the buyer to the dealer or manufacturer. When a warranty isn’t honored, the buyer has grounds for legal action in enforcing the warranty.

How to Sue a Car Dealership for Misrepresentation and Fraud

There are many avenues to explore when it comes to how to sue a car dealer for misrepresentation and how to sue a car dealership for fraud. Before taking legal action, it’s important to understand what these terms mean in the context of car sales.

Misrepresentation commonly occurs when a car dealer provides false or misleading information about a vehicle or the sales transaction. This includes inaccurate statements about the car’s condition, accident history, age, mileage, or warranty coverage. That means the dealer must offer factually untrue information that is not necessarily intended to deceive the consumer.

Similar to misrepresentation, fraud takes this a step further and involves a car dealer using deceptive practices with the intent to deceive or take advantage of the consumer. This encompasses many schemes, such as false advertising, a bait-and-switch tactic, identity theft, and document forgery, to name a few. The key point is that the dealer intended to mislead or cheat the consumer.

In cases of misrepresentation and fraud, the most important step is to ensure that you document as much of the sale and interaction as possible, as your lawsuit will rely on this evidence. From there, you will need to consult an experienced consumer attorney, who will help you gather more evidence to make the strongest possible case for a lawsuit.

How to Sue a Car Dealership for Negligence

Negligence occurs when the dealership fails to exercise reasonable care and diligence, resulting in harm, damages, or losses to the consumer. Negligence can manifest in different forms, but most commonly, a car dealer is negligent when:

  • They perform inadequate repairs.
  • They do not properly maintain their inventory.
  • They fail to disclose known defects of the vehicle.
  • They engage in unsafe practices such as selling vehicles with safety issues, not addressing safety recalls, or providing inadequate or incorrect safety information.
  • They fail to honor warranties.
  • They misrepresent information about the vehicle by providing misleading information, presenting false information, or outright falsifying information.
  • They commit odometer fraud, meaning tampering with a vehicle’s displayed mileage.
  • They engage in deceptive practices such as bait-and-switch schemes, dishonest sales strategies, or saddling the consumer with hidden fees.

How to sue a dealership for negligence depends on what you can prove. It’s incredibly important to document the negligence as much as possible, to collect any available evidence, and to bring this negligence to light by filing a lawsuit. An experienced consumer protection attorney can be an invaluable resource at this step.

Filing a Lawsuit Against a Car Dealership

You’re probably wondering, “How do I file a lawsuit against a car dealership?” Thankfully, the process isn’t too complex, especially with the help of an experienced consumer attorney. The process of suing a used car dealership can be broken down into a few steps.

  1. Gather evidence, specifically concerning dishonest practices. This may include contracts, advertisements, written communications, service records, and repair invoices.
  2. Consult an experienced consumer attorney who can evaluate the strength of your case, guide you through the process, and ensure you’re meeting all legal requirements.
  3. Issue a formal legal notice to the dealership explaining the process and your intent to sue if the issue persists. This is vital to demonstrate that you have made good-faith efforts to resolve the issues.
  4. Draft a complaint to be filed in court with the help of your attorney. This will outline the dealership’s wrongdoings, the harm you have suffered, and the damages you are seeking.
  5. Negotiations. A staggeringly low number of cases actually make it to trial. Most cases are resolved outside of court through negotiations, mediation, or arbitration. This is your attorney’s chance to try to reach a settlement with the dealership. If an agreement cannot be reached, the case will proceed to trial.

The California Lemon Law and How it Can Help You

One of the most powerful pieces of legislation regarding how to sue a car dealership for bad cars is the California Lemon Law. This law protects consumers who purchase vehicles that have significant defects that can’t be repaired after a reasonable number of attempts, colloquially referred to as “lemons.” This law allows consumers to bring legal action against dealers and manufacturers for selling defective vehicles. If a claim is successful, the dealer or manufacturer must refund the purchase price or replace the car.

Seeking Damages: What Compensation Can You Expect?

Damages are the court’s power to remedy a situation, almost always in the form of financial compensation. When it comes to how much you can sue a car dealership for, it depends greatly on the individual circumstances of your case, as no two cases are alike. Damages tend to reflect two things: the extent of your losses and how egregious the other party’s conduct was.

Generally speaking, there are three kinds of damages available under California law: economic, noneconomic, and punitive. Economic damages are something that’s easy to quantify and assign a dollar to. In terms of suing car dealerships, common economic damages include things like the cost of the vehicle, any repairs you paid for, and any money you put into the vehicle to keep it running. This can also include any costs you paid because the vehicle was faulty, such as fees for public transport, rental cars, or rideshare services, and compensation for the vehicle’s diminished value. There is also a high probability of being awarded the cost of attorney’s fees.

Noneconomic damages refer to things you can’t quite assign a dollar value to, such as pain and suffering. Those are usually reserved for lawsuits where a physical injury occurred. In rare cases, punitive damages may be awarded, which is not as a reflection of your losses, but to punish the dealership. Punitive damages are reserved for incredibly egregious conduct that the court feels warrants additional punishment beyond making you whole for the ordeal you suffered, and they are never a guarantee. Under the California Lemon Law, you are entitled to a refund or replacement vehicle if your case meets the requirements set forth.

Statute of Limitations: Timing Your Lawsuit

Every legal action is governed by a deadline for the lawsuit to be filed, known as a statute of limitations. This clock starts running as soon as the purchase is made. You cannot bring forth a claim once this deadline has passed, so you need to act quickly. Even if you’re hoping to resolve the case through negotiations, without the potential for a valid lawsuit, you’ve lost your bargaining power.

Broadly, under California law, the statute of limitations for most consumer protection claims is somewhere between one to four years, but this can vary depending on the grounds for your claim. It’s critical to consult an experienced consumer protection attorney to understand your specific timeline. It’s advisable to do so as early as possible, ideally less than one year from when the car was purchased, to ensure you don’t miss a filing deadline.

Working with a Consumer Attorney

If you’re asking yourself, “How do I sue a car dealership?” you should contact an experienced consumer attorney. An expert California consumer lawyer knows how to navigate the nuances and complexities of consumer protection laws. They can leverage their legal expertise to build a strategy tailored to your unique circumstances, giving you the strongest possible case. From there, your attorney will fight for you and your best interests in negotiations and will represent you in court if necessary. Having a skilled consumer attorney by your side will greatly increase your chances of seeing results.

If you or a loved one have fallen victim to a car dealership’s deceptive trade practices, you have the right to fight back and be compensated for your losses. Turn to a team of expert consumer advocates that you can trust. The experienced team at Conn Law, PC, has devoted its careers to protecting the rights of California consumers. Whether you want to learn more about the process, understand if your circumstances qualify for a lawsuit, or, if you’re ready to jump right into filing a lawsuit, we’re always here to help. Contact us or call us at 1-(877)-421-9759 today for a free consultation.

September 27, 2023