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Used Car Dealers and Liability

By Allen Flatt Ballidis & Leslie on July 28, 2020

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Parents and new drivers may be tempted to shop for a used car to save on the cost of a vehicle. This can cost you quite a bit of time as you search through reviews, ratings, consumer reports, and dealership payment plans before finding the right vehicle. You will always hope that you are purchasing a safe and reliable vehicle. But what if the used car you buy has been damaged or has a recalled or defective part?

While we are trained to worry about negligent drivers, faulty components in our own vehicles can also cause catastrophic car accidents. In these cases, could the used car dealership be held liable for your damages?

Used Cars and Defects

All Californians know just how badly our vehicles are damaged in our day-to-day commute. Whether you have a short drive to work around Orange County or must contend with a chaotic drive along the PCH or I-5, your vehicle probably needs consistent maintenance. The same can be said about used cars, which bear the mileage and damages of other drivers.

But another major issue with older vehicles is the quality of the components. We have all heard reports of catastrophic brake failures and have spoken to our mechanics about recalls on old tires. If not caught early, several defective auto parts can lead to a crash, including:

  • Faulty brakes
  • Faulty tires
  • Faulty suspensions
  • Airbags that fail to deploy
  • Airbags that deploy too forcefully, causing injuries
  • Sticky gas pedals
  • Defective steering system
  • Faulty seat belts

After being involved in an accident, you are likely wondering how it occurred and who you can hold at fault. You may assume it was another driver or, if you were involved in a single-vehicle accident, you might blame yourself. However, there is still the possibility that the fault lies with a negligent auto manufacturer or retailer, and you may have a viable product liability claim.

How Do Auto Defects Come About?

Before we drive our cars, they are touched by multiple hands. There is the manufacturer who developed the original design, individual companies that handle unique components such as engines or brakes, the transportation company that shipped the car to a dealership, the dealership themselves who are responsible for storing and maintaining vehicles, and repair shops that handle any damage along the way or recalls. It is possible that somewhere in that chain of events a defective component or design became a part of the vehicle.

Determine who caused you accident can be a complicated matter, but there are a few common parties to investigate.

Manufacturer Defects

In the early stages of the auto manufacturing stage, different companies work together to complete a new car. While the name-brand manufacturer handles the bulk of the engineering and design process, some parts and components will be outsourced to various specialists. If at any stage of this process a part is improperly designed or is shown to be defective, the manufacturers have a responsibility to repair or replace the component to maximize the vehicle’s safety. Failing to do so can lead to deadly car accidents, as seen in the various Toyota class action lawsuits over the past two decades.


If at a later state an auto manufacturer realizes a part is defective, they will issue a recall and provide a replacement component. Dealerships are then notified of these recalls and must schedule maintenance to have the parts replaced in all vehicles. This is also true for used car dealers who must have a vehicle inspected before selling it to a customer. A dealer who fails to deal with a recall and sells the vehicle “as is” may be liable for damages sustained in an accident caused by a defective, recalled part.

Damage Caused by the Dealer

Not only are dealers responsible for handling recalls, but they must also provide consistent upkeep on the vehicles. Damage while storing or transporting a vehicle should be identified and repaired before a car goes to market. In some cases, used car dealers may also use parts from one vehicle to sell on another vehicle, such as rims or tires. If the replacement parts are defective, or the repairs performed incorrectly, it could result in equipment malfunction and a crash. In this case, the dealer may be held liable for resulting injuries, provided you can prove that alterations made in the repair shop caused the accident.

Filing a Claim Against a Used Auto Dealership

It can be challenging to prove that a defective used car part caused your accident and injuries. You will need to fully investigate every aspect of your case, from the specific part that caused the accident to the dealership to the manufacturer. In some cases, you may not be aware there is any issue until you research similar cases with other models or contact accident victims who shopped at the same dealership. To ensure not a single detail is missed, you need the aid of a knowledgeable Orange County car accident attorney.

At Allen Flatt Ballidis & Leslie, our legal team has over 40 years of experience investigating and litigating car accident claims on behalf of Orange County residents. We know not only how to run an in-depth investigation but also how to hold negligent parties at-fault for costly injuries. We prepare every case as if we are going to court and will aggressively advocate for proper compensation. If you have been hurt in an accident you believe was caused by a defective used car part, call us at (949) 752-7474 to arrange a time to speak with us about your situation.

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Posted in: Car Accidents


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