At The Law Offices of Douglas D. Law, Esq.
, a California consumer protection law firm located in San Diego, California, we provide legal representation to individuals who have purchased or leased a new or used motor vehicle, including cars, trucks, motor homes, motorcycles, all-terrain vehicles (ATVs), boats, and other watercraft.
For over a combined 50 years, our lawyer has been helping clients throughout California get justice and compensation when it comes to defective vehicles, bad dealerships, and vehicle warranties.
Our Motor Vehicle Fraud & Lemon Law Practice Areas
Our firm is well-regarded in the legal community for successfully handling thousands of claims dealing with legal issues like:
- Lemon Law. Lemon Law in California is based on the idea that if a manufacturer can’t repair a defective vehicle in a reasonable number of attempts, as stated under the warranty, they must repurchase or replace the vehicle. Generally, a California vehicle buyer has 18 months or 18,000 miles to report that their car is a lemon and has malfunctioned repeatedly despite repair attempts. Lemon laws are complex and vary by state, so be sure to speak to an experienced lawyer about your case if you have been struggling with repeat vehicle repairs and a stubborn manufacturer.
- RV/Recreational Vehicles/Motorhome Lemon Law. Many people share the misconception that only cars and trucks are covered under the California Lemon Law, but this is not the case. Recreational vehicles (RVs) and motorhomes also fall under the lemon law, along with any other motorized vehicles. RVs and motorhomes can be very expensive – and they may also serve as one of your places of residence. If your RV or motorhome is malfunctioning soon after you purchased it, and if repeated repairs aren’t solving the issue, you may have a lemon law case. If so, you could get your RV reimbursed or replaced, and continue your adventures on the road.
- Auto Fraud. While there are many honest and good car dealerships in California, there are also a significant number of vehicle dealers across the state that commit fraud in order to increase profits. If you have been sold a lemon, a vehicle with undisclosed prior accidents, or an undisclosed history – you may wish to seek justice through the legal system. You may also wish to seek legal action if a dealership engaged in unlawful acts in relation to your down payment agreement, contract, credit application, or vehicle warranty. Filing a lawsuit related to auto fraud will not only get you justice but will also prevent the auto dealership from engaging in the same behavior with future customers.
- Odometer/Rollback Fraud. Odometer fraud is the act of disconnecting, resetting, altering, replacing or tampering with a vehicle odometer in any way. This type of fraud is a felony since those who purchase the vehicle may lose thousands of dollars buying a car that is not what is advertised and that has many more miles on it than the purchaser has been told. Odometer fraud often goes hand in hand with other types of auto fraud, including altering the car’s title or replacing the title with a forged copy. You can help prevent becoming a victim of odometer fraud by closely examining the vehicle’s mileage on other documents, including the vehicle history report, maintenance records, and inspection records.
- Prior Accident Disclosure. Under the law in California, a used vehicle dealership must tell you if the car you are purchasing has been involved and damaged in a prior accident. This is true whether you are purchasing a car, truck, van, motorcycle, RV, or motorhome. You may be able to verify that the car has been in a prior accident by looking at the vehicle history report or maintenance records. To win these cases, you must be able to prove both that the vehicle had been involved in an accident and that the dealer knew about the accident when they sold you the vehicle.
- Prior History/Demonstrators/Rental Vehicles. Rental cars and demos often have rough histories: high mileage, bumps and scrapes, and a very long list of drivers who did not take care of the vehicle as if it were their own. For this reason, California law states that vehicle dealerships are required to disclose if a car was ever used as a demo or rental vehicle. Unfortunately, dealers still often buy rentals at low prices, hid their history, and resell them for more than the car is worth. Talk to an attorney if you were unknowingly sold a rental vehicle in California.
- Undisclosed Negative Equity / Upside Down on Trade-In Vehicles. Some vehicle dealerships will claim to pay off your trade-in no matter how much you owe on the car, even if your car is not worth as much as you owe. But this is often a case of false advertising where the dealer actually places the difference between your car is worth and what you owe onto the the loan on your new car. If you believe that a car dealership was not clear with you regarding negative equity deals or upside down trade-ins, you may be able to get justice and compensation for their shady dealings. Talk to a lawyer today.
- Buyer’s Guide/Used Vehicles. According to federal law, a buyer’s guide must be attached to any used car at a dealership. It must clearly display important information about the particular vehicle – as well as buying used vehicles in general. For example, a buyer’s guide must include:
- major vehicle issues the buyer should look for;
- whether the vehicle has a warranty;
- information about how to get dealer promises in writing;
- a suggestion to get the car inspected by a mechanic;
- a suggestion to order a car history report; and
- the suggestion to keep the guide after the purchase of the vehicle.
- (The buyer’s guide should also be available in Spanish.)
- Payment Packing. Payment packing is one of the most common car dealership scams in California, likely because it can be difficult to prove. This scam takes place when a used vehicle dealer inflates the price of the car, adds in backend products like warranties, and increases the interest rate of the vehicle before calculating the customers’ payments. When the customer agrees, the finance manager is able to add in backend products and other “fluff” to raise your payments, increasing profits for everyone at the dealership. Payment packing is not legal in California!
- Copies of Signed Documents and Credit Applications. Car dealerships may blatantly change the information on your credit application in order to ensure that you can buy a vehicle off their lot – even if you can’t afford it. While entering information about your expenses, salary, or down payment, small changes may be made so that you are approved. This scam, which is similar to the scam that caused the 2008 housing crash, is sometimes only discovered when a person realizes that they cannot afford their car payments and finds themselves in a bind.
- Forgery. It’s shocking, but one common illegal activity that car dealerships engage in is a forgery. For example, a vehicle seller may have the customer sign a contract on a lease agreement only to change the agreement slightly and then forge the customer’s name. If you think you may have been the victim of a forgery during the purchase of your vehicle, you may call the bank involved and ask to see a copy of your contract. You may also speak with a lawyer.
- Spanish Translated Contracts and Guides. If you are primarily a Spanish speaker and if you negotiate a vehicle transaction primarily in Spanish, you should know your rights and you should know about the common scams that car dealerships use on Spanish speakers. For example, you have the right to a Spanish buyer’s guide as well as a Spanish translation of your contract. Dishonest car dealers will try to take advantage of any language barrier if they see the opportunity.
- Deferred Down Payments and Hold Check Agreements. Deferred down payments, also known as DIP notes, are a common way that vehicle dealerships will cheat customers out of money or put customers into a bad financial situation without their full knowledge. A deferred down payment takes place when a buyer can’t afford the entire down payment and the dealer allows them to write a series of checks to be cashed in the future for the remaining balance. Not only does this strategy often harm the buyer financially, but the details of the hold check agreement are also often not reflected in the contract. If you have been harmed by a deferred down payment plan, we invite you to speak with our legal team today.
- New Versus Used Vehicle Disclosures. You have a right under the law to know if the vehicle you are buying is new or used. While it sounds easy to tell whether your vehicle has been used, in some instances, dealerships will not disclose whether a vehicle has been bought and returned or whether a car has been used as a demo for test drives. Not disclosing that a new car has been used by other drivers can make dealers thousands of dollars (because the car is worth less than the asking price) – but it’s against the law.
- Pre-Sale Availability of Written Warranties. This law is as simple as it seems: those selling vehicle warranties need to make the warranties available to the buyer in full before the sale takes place. Buyers should take full advantage of this law by carefully and closely reading any warranties before purchasing a vehicle. Be wary of any warranty that is not available before the purchase is made. If you believe that you were sold a vehicle or warranty without having the full text made available to you, speak to a law firm about your case.
If you or someone you know has fallen victim to motor vehicle fraud and is in need of a California Lemon Law
Firm, contact us
to schedule a free initial consultation
or fill out the easy free case evaluation form to review your claim and evaluate your legal options. This service is free
. We take all cases on a contingency basis: you don’t pay unless we win your case.