Buying a used car can sometimes be treacherous because you’re not always sure about the car’s history. Some used car dealers may take advantage of customers by using deception or misrepresentation to sell a car. Such faulty car sales are known as used car scams and can involve:

  • Cloned vehicles: A cloned car has had its VIN (vehicle identification number) replaced with another VIN, often to hide the fact that it’s a stolen car
  • Defective titles: There may be some defect or misrepresentation concerning the car’s title (for instance, selling the same title to two different purchasers)
  • Misleading Brand History: The brand history describes the car’s previous or present condition, such as junked or salvaged
  • Faulty Parts: It can be hard to tell whether all the parts are in working order
  • Stolen Cars: If the car turns out to be stolen, you may not be able to register it with the DMV
  • Insurance Fraud: There may be problems with insurance

Therefore, you should be aware of these and other schemes when attempting to purchase a used car. Before buying a car, it also helps to search different automobile databases, such as the National Motor Vehicle Title Information System (NMVTIS).

What Is Fraudulent Misrepresentation?

Fraudulent misrepresentation is any false statement or lies used to mislead an individual into an agreement. The misrepresentation may happen in many ways, including:

  • Written words;
  • Spoken words;
  • Gestures or body motions, such as a nod, and
  • Through silence or inaction.

Fraudulent misrepresentation is often raised in connection with contract law issues. An example of fraudulent misrepresentation occurs when a party purposefully makes a statement that is false to the other party to induce them into signing the contract.

For instance, suppose an automobile dealer lies regarding the accident history of a used vehicle to get an individual to sign a purchase contract. In that case, it may be considered fraudulent misrepresentation.

How to Sue Your Car Dealer for Fraudulent Misrepresentation

Fraudulent misrepresentation includes six elements. A plaintiff or individual who files a lawsuit must prove all six elements to recover for fraudulent misrepresentation claims. The elements a plaintiff must prove to sue a car dealership include:

  • That the car dealer made a false representation;
  • The car dealer was aware that the representation was false or made the representation recklessly without knowing if it was true at the time;
  • The car dealer made the representation with the intent that the plaintiff would rely upon it;
  • The plaintiff, or person who purchased the vehicle, relied upon the representation;
  • It was reasonable for the plaintiff to rely upon the representation; and
  • The plaintiff suffered economic damages due to relying upon the false representation.

Establishing all of these elements in court may be difficult and requires the aid of a skilled attorney. A lawyer is best equipped to collect evidence of the car dealer’s dishonest trade practices, get witnesses to testify regarding the deception, and advocate for the plaintiff in court.

What Is Negligent Misrepresentation?

Negligent misrepresentation happens when an individual states a fact without verifying whether or not it is true.

Negligence involves an individual’s duty to act reasonably under a given set of circumstances. If an individual is a victim of negligent misrepresentation, they may be able to sue for money damages in a court of law.

To establish negligent misrepresentation, the plaintiff must show:

  • The defendant, or individual being sued, made a representation in a contract;
  • That representation was incorrect;
  • That representation was made either without reasonable grounds to think it was true or carelessly;
  • The plaintiff reasonably relied on that representation; and
  • The plaintiff’s reliance on that representation was the legal cause of the plaintiff sustaining damages.

A representation is a statement, such as “the brakes work just fine,” that can be proven true or false. Reasonable reliance is how an individual with normal intelligence and common sense would believe upon hearing or reading the representation. There was no reasonable reliance if the person did not believe the representation.

Although fraudulent and negligent misrepresentation may seem alike, they are slightly different. With fraudulent misrepresentation, an individual knowingly makes an incorrect or false statement intended to mislead or deceive.

On the other hand, a negligent misrepresentation only requires that the individual fails to exercise reasonable care or competence to obtain or communicate true information. In other words, they fail to verify information that an individual relies upon.

How to Sue Your Car Dealer for Negligent Misrepresentation

If an individual cannot establish the required elements for fraud, they may still have a claim against the car dealer for making negligent misrepresentations. The advantage of a negligent misrepresentation claim is that the plaintiff is not required to show that the seller was aware that the representation was false at the time it was made.

Rather, the plaintiff must only show that the car dealer made a representation or representations under circumstances that indicate a reckless disregard for the truth or that they ought to have known that their representations were not true. To establish a car dealer made negligent misrepresentations, the plaintiff must show:

  • The car dealer made a representation;
  • That representation was false;
  • The car dealer knew or should have known that the representation was false;
  • The plaintiff relied on the representation made by the car dealer;
  • It was reasonable for the plaintiff to rely on the representation made by the car dealer; and
  • The plaintiff suffered damages as a result of relying on that representation.

It is much easier to demonstrate that the car dealer should have known that the representation was false than to establish that the car dealer knew it was false. If an individual is a victim of negligent misrepresentation in a contract, they may sue for the recovery of damages caused by that misrepresentation.

What if I’ve Been a Victim of a Used Car Scam?

If you’ve been part of a used car scam, you may be able to file a claim against the party that sold you the car. You should take the following steps:

  • Keep and make copies of any receipts, documents, and forms that you may have signed in connection with the sales
  • Take note of the party that sold you the car, being sure to list contact info, addresses, and the business license, if possible
  • Compile any info or testimony from witnesses or other individuals who may have been scammed
  • Compile any records related to any injuries you may have suffered from a defective car

One of the problems with used car scams is that the buyer may be put on notice that the car isn’t in 100% condition. Therefore, you should beware of any language in a contract or document that sounds suspicious.

Another aspect of used car scams is that the perpetrator of the scam may be challenging to track down after the sale. For instance, the scammer may leave the community for a different one, or they may have been operating under a fictional name. Be sure to act quickly before these difficulties occur.

Do I Need a Lawyer if I Have Legal Issues Involving Used Car Scams?

Automobile laws can often be complex and may differ from state to state. If you suspect that you have been affected by a used car scam, you may wish to contact a consumer lawyer for advice.

An experienced lawyer in your region will be able to provide you with sound guidance and can help you file a claim in court. You may obtain a damages award to compensate you for your losses.