Were you ripped off on an auto purchase? You may have recourse under West Virginia and/or federal lemon laws. Auto fraud comes in many forms, from the classic lemon with mechanical problems which continually elude repair to a wide variety of deception involving failure to disclose a vehicle’s undesirable history or condition which would affect its value. You do not have to sit back and live with the problem. Consumer fraud attorney Jeff Mehalic can help you hold the dealership accountable and get the fair compensation you deserve.
If you have been a victim of auto fraud, you may be able to recover the money you lost on the deal as well as compensation for money you had to spend on replacement transportation and other associated expenses, but you have a limited amount of time to take action. Attorney Jeff Mehalic is here to help. He will tenaciously pursue your claim.
Please call us at 304-346-3462 to schedule your free consultation and learn more. Jeff Mehalic helps clients from Morgantown, Wheeling, Martinsburg and nearby areas in West Virginia.
Read more in the following sections:
- What Are Lemon and Auto Fraud Laws?
- Auto Fraud
- Broken Beyond Repair – Classic Lemon
- Damages for Auto Fraud in West Virginia
- Time Limits
- Getting on Your Way to Compensation
Lemon laws include West Virginia state law and federal laws including the Magnuson-Moss Warranty Act. The laws are designed to protect consumers from auto fraud and purchases of vehicles that are not useable or that are dangerously defective. Lemon laws also make it possible for consumers like you to hire an attorney at no cost.
While lemon laws primarily apply to new vehicles, state and federal laws also protect consumers from a wide variety of intentional auto fraud involving used vehicles. Additionally, consumer protection laws, not specific to autos, may apply in your case depending on the type of fraud involved.
Auto fraud is a serious money-maker for used car dealers, at the expense of unsuspecting consumers. Although there are a wide range of circumstances that constitute auto fraud, the most common are those in which there is something wrong with the vehicle which the dealer failed to disclose that would not be obvious to the average consumer, but over time begins causing very serious problems. Very often the person who purchased the vehicle only finds out about the deception when they take the vehicle to a mechanic who digs into the vehicle and discovers that it has suffered previous damage of some sort, such as having been in a wreck or a flood.
How do used car lots make money off of hiding a history of damage and other conditions? They purchase the vehicles cheap and represent them as having a much higher value. In the end they can make huge profits, even when selling the vehicle for a “deep discount”.
Examples of auto fraud include failure to disclose:
- Damage to a new vehicle
- Accident history
- That the vehicle has been in a flood
- Frame damage
- Failure to disclose odometer rollback
- Full repair history
- That the vehicle was part of a fleet
- That is was used as a rental vehicle
- That major parts need to be replaced, such as the engine or transmission
- That the vehicle cannot pass a required inspection
Auto fraud involving sales also includes:
- Misrepresenting a vehicle as being in excellent or good condition
- Lemon laundering – reselling a car that has been returned as a lemon
- Failure to properly title a vehicle as salvage
- Selling a vehicle as certified per-owned when it has been in an accident
- Adding undisclosed charges to the auto loan
- Misrepresenting coverage of an extended warranty
- Telling the buyer that financing was approved before the results come in, then taking the vehicle back when financing is not ultimately approved
- Threatening to repossess a vehicle when the buyer has been approved for financing and refuses to agree to a change in financing terms
- Adding improper insurance to payments
Auto fraud can occur on the repair end as well. Examples include:
- Creating fraudulent diagnostics to trick owners to pay for unneeded repairs
- Charging for unnecessary labor
- Installing used parts and claiming they are new
- Failure to perform adequate or safe repairs
Buying a new vehicle can be a stressful process, but the end result is exciting, unless that shiny new car quickly breaks down and leaves you stranded or winds up spending more time in the shop than it does on the road. You have heard all the horror stories, but you never expected it to happen to you. You bought a lemon. Do not despair. You are not stuck with this vehicle or the bill.
Under state law, you are protected if you purchased a personal vehicle that has a defect or condition that:
- Substantially lowers its value or your ability to use the vehicle
- The problem occurs within 12 months of purchase
- Is not repaired after three attempts by an authorized manufacturer’s dealership
West Virginia law also applies in either of the following circumstances:
- A vehicle spends 30 or more days in the shop during the first year after purchase
- There has been one failed attempt to repair a defect that could cause serious injury or death
If the problem occurred more than one year after purchase, you may still be covered by federal law, if the vehicle was under warranty.
Auto fraud can cost you in many ways. Purchasing a vehicle requires an investment beyond the purchase price itself. Sales tax, registration and inspections are typically part of your initial costs. You may spend substantial amounts on repairs, trying to correct the problem with the vehicle, before you realize that the seller is responsible or because you cannot get the seller to perform or pay for the repairs. And, if the vehicle is not drivable or is always in the shop, you still have to do something for transportation. That could mean renting a car, buying another vehicle, or paying for taxi cabs and other transportation services.
When you pursue a lemon law or auto fraud claim, there are several potential remedies.
- In some cases, you will be able to return the vehicle and get your money back for the purchase price, as well as the other associated expenses including registration fee, sales tax, and other money that you had to spend.
- In lieu of returning the vehicle and getting your money back, you may receive compensation for the diminished value of the vehicle.
- If the vehicle can be repaired, you may receive compensation for the cost of repairs.
- In addition to any of the remedies above, you can also receive compensation for the expense of alternative transportation you had to pay for while the vehicle was unusable or in the shop.
- You may also be compensated for your inconvenience associated with the defect or condition of the vehicle.
Your attorneys’ fees will be paid by your settlement or award. West Virginia lemon law includes a fee-shifting provision for the benefit of consumers, which requires the auto seller to pay your attorneys’ fees if you win. Other consumer protection laws contain similar provisions.
As with all types of claims, there are time limits for filing your lemon law or auto fraud claim. This is called the statute of limitations and if your let the deadline pass, you lose your legal right to pursue compensation no matter how much you deserve it.
The statute of limitations in your case will depend on what type of claim you are filing and whether you are pursuing a claim under state or federal law. In fraud cases, you typically have only one year. In lemon law cases you may have two or three years. When you meet with Jeff Mehalic about your case, he will be able to determine how much time you have left based on the facts in your case. Of course, we recommend getting started right away so that you do not run out of time.
If you believe that you have been a victim of auto fraud or have purchased a “lemon”, we urge you to act quickly. Of course you want to reach a resolution as soon as possible, and receive your compensation, so that you can get on with your life. You also need to protect your right to compensation be acting before the statute of limitations runs out on your case.
If you are unsure if you have a case, that is OK. Your initial consultation is free, and Jeff Mehalic can determine if you really have a claim. If you do, he will aggressively pursue compensation for you, and you do not pay for his services. The fee is charged to the seller who took advantage of your in the first place, and that is how it should be.
To learn more and get on your way to resolving your auto fraud case, contact Mehalic Law PLLC today by calling 304-346-3462 or completing the form on this page to schedule your free consultation. Jeff Mehalic represents clients from Morgantown, Wheeling, Martinsburg and throughout West Virginia.