What If the Car I Bought Wasn’t Safe?

ELI5: Negligence

Many people will be buying used cars in the next few months. But, if you’re injured due to undisclosed defects with the car, who’s liable for your injuries? If you buy a car from a person instead of a corporation, would you be able to sue them for the injuries you’ve sustained due to the undisclosed defects?

What Are Sellers Obligated to Disclose? 

Unless the seller expressly states they are selling the product “as is,” sellers are obligated to disclose a lot of information. Whether it’s a home, car, animal, or something else, sellers generally have a duty to make buyers aware of potential dangers associated with a product which the buyer may not otherwise be aware of. Obviously, sellers need to disclose more than just potential dangers. For example, when you purchase a home, the previous owner is legally obligated to tell you of any hazards or defects that the property has, such as mold, insect infestations, or other hazardous conditions. So if you have a car, and the car isn’t safe for whatever reason, you probably have a duty to notify the person you’re selling the car to—especially if you know that the car isn’t safe. 

Negligent Misrepresentation

When a person makes claims like, “this car is in perfect working order,” but they don’t know for a fact that those claims are true, that could be negligent misrepresentation. Let’s say you buy a car from your neighbor. The car belonged to your neighbor’s late mother. You ask him if there’s anything wrong with the car and he assures you that the car is in perfect condition. However, the car was just towed from his mother’s house in Idaho to his house in Utah. He’s never driven it before, therefore he doesn’t really know that there’s nothing wrong with the car, he’s just assuming that there’s nothing wrong with the car. Well, it turns out that there is something wrong with the car. In fact, there’s something very wrong with the car: the gas pedal sticks at speeds over 55 miles per hour. If you purchase the car, and the sticking gas pedal causes you to become injured, your neighbor could be liable for your injuries.

Fraudulent Misrepresentation

When a person makes claims that they know are not true, that may be considered to be a fraudulent misrepresentation. Let’s go back to the example where you’re buying a car from your neighbor. However, this time, he knows that the gas pedal sticks at speeds of over 55 miles per hour. He’s gone to the mechanic to get it fixed, but the fix is worth more than the cost of the car. If your neighbor conveniently leaves this information out and you’re injured when you get on the freeway due to the sticking gas pedal,  your neighbor may be liable for your injuries. One more thing about fraudulent misrepresentation: in the aforementioned scenario, your neighbor doesn’t necessarily need to know exactly why the gas pedal sticks in order to have committed fraud. Simply knowing that something isn’t working the way it should, yet advertising it as working, may still be fraud. If you can prove that your neighbor’s conduct meets the standard of fraud, there’s an even higher likelihood that your neighbor will be liable for your injuries. In order to prove fraud, you have to clearly identify what statements were made, and in what way they are fraudulent, so be sure to write down what was said, when, and by whom.

Due Diligence or Ordinary Prudence

However, this doesn’t mean that you can purchase a death trap on wheels and claim that the seller is liable for your injuries. Let’s say you purchase a car that has no mirrors at all: no rear-view mirrors, or side-view mirrors. As a result of the lack of mirrors, you’re injured in a car accident in Lehi. In that case, it will be more difficult to sue the seller. Though they may not have mentioned that the car didn’t have any mirrors, they shouldn’t have needed to tell you that it didn’t have any mirrors—it should have been obvious to you when you saw the car. Buyers are expected to take reasonable precautions as well. If there are defects that aren’t hidden and are “open and obvious,” a buyer may be assuming the risk of injury by purchasing the vehicle.

What Does a Lawsuit Do?

If you weren’t injured, it may be difficult for a Lehi personal injury attorney to help you get compensation. Fraudulent misrepresentation and negligent misrepresentation don’t just apply to personal injury cases. So if you purchased a product that wasn’t quite what the seller said it was, you may still have a claim, just not a personal injury claim. When you file a personal injury claim against someone, you’re attempting to get compensation for the injuries you’ve sustained due to their negligence. However, most personal injury clients would rather that the incident never happened in the first place. If you’re planning on purchasing a used car, it’s always a good idea to make sure that you’re taking reasonable precautions before making such a large purchase.

Precautions You Can Take

Don’t buy a car you haven’t touched. With so many online services out there, scammers are ready to sell you a car that doesn’t exist—or is in a vastly different condition. Make sure you run the VIN number too. This can help you determine whether or not there are liens against the car, or if the car has been reported as stolen. You may also want to check the CARFAX as well to see if the car has been in any accidents. You may even see if you can take it to a mechanic before committing to the purchase of the vehicle.

When You’ve Been Injured in Utah

If you have been injured and you need legal representation, Moxie Law Group is here for you. Our firm is dedicated to ensuring that our clients aren’t overwhelmed by medical bills due to the negligence of others. If you’ve been injured in a car crash, you need a Lehi personal injury attorney who can get you the compensation you deserve. Don’t wait to file your personal injury claim. If you have been injured, Moxie Law Group is here for you.

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