There are few things more frustrating to us than having to tell a consumer that they have a great claim against an auto dealer but that they waited too long to see a lawyer. Consumers frequently contact us about problems with their cars, and we handle many cases involving mechanical problems and prior wreck damage But, as part of our evaluation of every case, we also look at all aspects of the transaction, including the dealerships sales practices and the way in which the financing was handled. We often find that dealerships violated laws involving the sale or financing of motor vehicles, and sometimes those claims are even stronger than the claims for the original problem.
Unfortunately, many of these cases have a statute of limitations of just one year. That means that if a lawsuit is not filed within one year of the date of purchase, then the consumer has lost the right to bring the claim. So, any consumer who has a problem with a dealership should consult with a lawyer well before the one-year anniversary of their car purchase.
Other types of claims have longer limitation periods, so if the one-year deadline is missed, all is not lost. Most claims for dealership fraud or misrepresentation should be brought within three years, and claims relating to the condition of the vehicle must usually be brought within four years.
Most of the time, it does not matter if the consumer did not discover the problem until after the time period has run. There are exceptions to that general rule, however, and it may be worth checking with an attorney to see if those exceptions apply to you.
It is usually best to consult with a lawyer as soon as it is apparent that there is a problem. Most lawyers who handle auto dealer fraud and warranty claims do not charge for an initial assessment, and in many cases, a lawyer can guide a consumer on the best way to handle problems. Consumers should also keep in mind that lawyers will need some time - sometimes months - before the suit will be ready to bring. So, it is never a good idea to wait until the last minute!