Generally speaking when you buy a new car, and it has defects, we turn to the Pennsylvania Lemon Law. However, sometimes the Lemon Law does not apply. The New Motor Vehicle Damage Disclosure Act (73 P.S. 1970.1 et seq.) protects car buyers when damage was done to the vehicle prior to sale. The vehicle may run without a problem, but then you find out that before you bought it, the vehicle was rear-ended and the dealership had to fix it before selling the vehicle to you. Often times, the vehicle will be repaired and sold without disclosing the repair. This is the exact type of fraud that the Pennsylvania New Motor Vehicle Damage Disclosure Act is there to prevent.
How do I know if the Act Applies to my Vehicle?
The Act does not apply to just any presale damage, just as the Lemon Law does not apply to all new vehicles. You must fit within a set of parameters.
1. You must be the first person to buy the car from the dealership;
2. The damage repair must exceed $500 or 3% of the manufacturer’s suggested retail price, whichever is greater.
If your vehicle falls within both of the requirements, the dealership must present you with a New Vehicle Damage Disclosure Notice BEFORE you buy the vehicle. If the dealership does not give you the Notice about the damage prior to sale, you may have a claim against the dealership. You could even get your money back.
How do I find this New Vehicle Damage?
You are correct in assuming that this can be a difficult task. Often times, the pre-sale damage goes undetected, and the dealership knows this. It can be very difficult to find pre-sale damage without a full inspection of the vehicle by an expert prior to sale. That can be time consuming, expensive, and the dealership isn’t likely to let you do it. One way to discover this issue is to check a CarFax or Autocheck prior to purchase. If damage was done, it SHOULD have been disclosed to an insurance company. If it was, then it should show up on a background history.
The most common way to detect new vehicle damage arises after the purchase. For example, you buy a new Nissan and take it home. After a month of washing the car, small spots start to appear on the hood and roof. When you take it back to the dealership, the mechanic tells you that it looks like acid rain erosion. That is clue #1. Now we are able to have the vehicle inspected by a paint expert who will likely tell us that the paint was damaged by acid rain. Through further research, we will likely find dealership work orders showing a sanding, painting, and clear coating of the car. If this work order shows a total for work that exceeds $500 or 3%, you may likely have a case.
There are countless of ways to track down new vehicle damage. The best thing you can do is contact our firm once you suspect something. Often times, we are able to take these cases with little, or no, money from you up front. On rare occasions, you may have to cover the filing and service fees assessed by the court. But, we don’t get paid until we win. Under Pennsylvania law, a violations of the New Vehicle Damage Disclosure Act is considered a violation of Pennsylvania’s Unfair Trade Practices Act. That means we are able to ask for 3 times the damages. We can also ask the court to order the dealership to pay for your attorney. Once you contact our office, our investigation begins immediately. We are able to run a background check on your vehicle, order prior work orders, and have the vehicle inspected by an expert.