Accident damaged vehicle

Dealer sold me a car that was in an accident | What rights do I have?

This article will help you understand how dealers can sell you a car with structural damage, frame damage, or other substantial accident damage without disclosing it to you, and how we can help you pursue your claims and receive a compensation for your damages.

This article will try to answer the frequently asked questions: dealer sold me a car with structural damage, dealer sold me a car with frame damage, dealer sold me a car with an accident damage, what are my legal rights?

How can a dealership sell you a previously damaged car?

According to California Department of Motor Vehicles’ statistics, about 400,000 automobile collisions  occur per year in the State of California alone. A lot of these collisions result in a structural damage, frame damage, or substantial accident damage. Some of these vehicles are scrapped or shipped overseas, but the vast majority are resold within the United States.

These vehicles are a prime target for used car dealerships that look to increase their profit margins. By acquiring damaged and repaired used vehicles that have only been in an accident recently, used car dealers can sell you a car that has been in an accident without disclosing it to you. The trick is to sell you a previously damaged car before the accident report is obtained by CarFax or AutoCheck vehicle history reporting companies.

When the dealer manages to sell you a car with a prior damage within 5-6 months after the accident occurs, chances are they will be able to give you a “clean CarFax” because CarFax does not have the accident report yet. In these cases you pay premium for a car with a “clean history,” but you receive one that will be stamped with “damage reported,” “accident reported,” “frame damage,” or “structural damage”  in its history report a few months after the date of your purchase.

When a dealer sells you a car that was in an accident, has a frame damage or a structural damage, and does not disclose this information to you or straight up lies and says that the vehicle was never involved in an accident you will most likely have a dealer fraud claim. We invite you to contact a dealer fraud attorney to assess your matter.

If a dealer sold you a car with structural damage, frame damage, or a prior accident, you have rights

When a car dealer doesn’t disclose a prior accident, or goes so far as to tell you that the vehicle never had any accidents knowing that it was in fact involved in one, you will more likely than not have a dealer fraud claim. California laws give consumers a very high level of protection from fraud. California law, applied correctly, can make the dealer not only buyback your car and issue you a refund, but also make the dealer pay your attorney’s fees.

Our law firm has successfully obtained complete refunds in dealer fraud cases, where our clients have received their down payment, all monthly payments, and registration fee payments back from the dealer. Moreover, we have successfully obtained our attorney’s fees from dealers without charging anything out-of-pocket from our clients so that our representation ends up completely free for dealer fraud victims.

What Clients Say

This is possible because of statutes such as California Consumer Legal Remedies Act and the Unfair Competition Law. These statutes contain fee shifting provisions that allow consumers to receive their attorney’s fees from the dealers that are engaged in unfair, unlawful, or fraudulent acts or practices. We, in turn, do not charge our clients out-of-pocket and rely on our ability to obtain our fee from the dealer upon completion of the case.

It is important to pursue your rights

Some consumers are hesitant to pursue their rights or delay doing so for one reason or another. This may only cause problems in the future. Once you learn that a dealer sold you a car that was in an accident, you must act fast. There are several reasons for not delaying your claim:

First, what some consumers do not realize is that they have paid premium for a used car with a ‘clean history.’ Since most people do not want to buy cars with a prior accident damage, used cars that have been involved in an accident are universally worth less than those without prior accident damage. This only becomes apparent when the consumer wants to resell the car or to trade it in for another car. A dealer considering your vehicle for a trade-in will check your car’s history and will thoroughly inspect your car for any prior damage. Once they learn that your vehicle had a prior accident they will only pay the fraction of the price you intended to sell it for.

Consequently, when you buy a previously damaged vehicle from the dealer without knowing about it, you immediately lose money, since once you sign the purchase contract and leave the lot, you agree to paying a higher amount than what the vehicle was worth at that moment because of the diminution in value attributed to the prior accident damage.

Second, the statute of limitations will place a complete bar on your recovery if you delay making your claim and filing a lawsuit against the dealer. Once you miss the statutory period to sue the dealer for lying to you, you will not be able to obtain a compensation.

Third, a previously damaged car may be unsafe to drive. By driving a previously damaged vehicle you are not only putting yourself at danger, but are also giving the dealer an opportunity to argue that you in fact did not care if the vehicle was previously involved in an accident, because you continued to drive it without making a claim after you learned about that fact.

Forth, if you continue driving a previously damaged vehicle for an extended period of time without making a claim, it will be very hard for you to convince the jury that you would have never bought that vehicle had you known that the vehicle was involved in an accident.

To sum up, do not delay hiring an experienced counsel. Because you do not have to pay anything out-of-pocket, there is no reason to not have your claim reviewed by a lawyer.

FAQs about pursuing your dealer fraud claim

Will making a dealer fraud claim affect my credit score?

Making a dealer fraud claim will not have a negative impact on your credit score if you continue making payments on your vehicle on time. Since the financing company is usually a different entity than the dealer, we advise our clients to continue making timely finance payments on their vehicle while their case is pending. If the dealer agrees to buyback the car, your credit report will show that the loan on that vehicle was paid off, just like in case of a trade-in.

Can I sue a dealer for lying if I signed a paper that says the car was involved in an accident at the time of sale?

Dealers usually disclose whether the car was involved in an accident in a document called “Buyer’s Guide.” If the Buyer’s Guide or other documents provided to you prior to purchase disclosed the fact that the vehicle was involved in an accident, according to our research and experience you will not have a claim.

Can I sue a private party for selling me a previously damaged car?

You will most likely have a claim against a private party for selling you a previously damaged car, but unfortunately the laws that allow us to recover attorney’s fees from the dealer do not apply to private transactions. Because of this, we do not handle cases against private parties.

Can a Certified Preowned Vehicle have a prior accident damage history?

Yes. Even though according to the policies of most manufacturers and distributors certified preowned vehicles are not supposed to have a prior accident history, in practice some dealers manage to sell previously damaged vehicles as certified preowned. If you purchased a certified preowned vehicle with a prior accident history, feel free to call us for a free consultation.


Legal matters are subject to various outcomes. Call us at 747-777-2977 to discuss your specific matter. Initial consultations are FREE.