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Buyer Beware

Posted on: April 1, 2015

In March of last year a man named John from Glen Burnie made a fairly standard purchase. John went to a used car dealer in Baltimore and had an average conversation regarding the value of his truck. John then traded his truck for the fair market value, and in exchange, John left with a 2011 Toyota. John believed that this was a completely average trade until he got home. It was then that John discovered that his car had been recalled a month earlier. The defect in the car could cause stalling. Not only had no one at the dealership repaired the defect, but no one at the dealership even mentioned to John that a defect existed. Unfortunately, this exchange is not as strange as you might think.

Caveat Emptor

In the legal world the problem John faced is known as caveat emptor, or buyer beware. It means that the risk of purchasing a faulty product is on the buyer and not the seller. Despite legislative attempts to protect consumers, the law in this situation protects the merchant. There is currently no legal requirement for a dealer or salesman to repair a defect prior to selling a car to a consumer. There is not even a requirement that a dealer inform the purchaser of a recall. This is true even if the manufacturer has recalled all or part of the car. Manufacturers are required to contact the original owner of the vehicle; however, that is the end of the line.

By the Number

In the last year alone automakers that sell cars in the United States recalled 64 million vehicles. This number is two times as many the previous record, which was set in 2004. In fact, in the past month alone there have been 65 recalls. There is no clear data on how many cars continue on in the chain of commerce after they are the subject of a recall. It is estimated that twenty-five percent of car owners do not do anything once they are alerted to a recall. If you consider this in combination with the number of used cars sold and the number of recalls each year, it is not difficult to imagine that the number of cars with defects on the road must be quite high.

Protecting Yourself

The biggest concern with defective cars out on the road is the risk of injury they pose to their drivers and passengers. If you are looking to purchase a new car, do your research. Start by checking a reputable company that sells vehicle history reports. Next, use a tool such as The National Highway Traffic and Safety Administration’s Vehicle Identification Number lookup. This tool will tell you whether the car you are looking to buy has a part that is the subject of a recall. Finally, buy from a reputable dealer. These few precautions could save your life or the lives of your passengers.

Justin Katz is a personal injury lawyer who represents injury victims in Maryland, Virginia and Washington DC
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