Damaged Before Signing

UPDATED: Oct 1, 2022

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Damaged Before Signing

I leased a vehicle 2 years ago. I noticed a few days after signing that the hood was not flush with the front of the car on one side. It seemed like a small deal so I thought nothing of it at the time huge mistake, I’m an idiot, alright then. New Link Destination
day I brought my car in because my turn signal has been shorting out. Turned out the entire headlight assembly was loose. The guys at the service desk noticed how my hood was not flush and also noticed a bend in the passenger fender at the top of the wheel well and assumed there was an accident. Obviously Im freaking out because now because the vehicle has never been in an accident since I have had possession of it and it was brand new when I leased it. Thankfully I took a photo of the vehicle before I leased it and the damage they identified is clearly visible. I am awaiting their response to see what next steps are. Since this vehicle was damaged before I signed the lease can I use this to any advantage, from a legal stantdpoint, if I am trying to distance myself from this questionable vehicle?

Asked on February 14, 2018 under Accident Law, California


SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 4 years ago | Contributor

IF you can prove they sold you a damaged vehicle under the guise that it had never been in an accident, you might have recourse against the dealer based on breach of contract (violating the agreement, which was effectively to lease you an undamaged vehicle) and/or fraud (misrepresenting the condition of vehicle). You may be able to get compensation from the dealer, such as the cost of repairs, or the difference monthly leasing price between an undamaged and damaged vehicle, for the term of the lease. If they won't voluntarily provide you some acceptable compensation, you'd have to sue the dealership and prove that the damage was pre-existing. Bear in mind that you only have up to 3 years to sue (if necessary) in your state for fraud and 4 years based on breach or violation of contract--that's how long the respective statutes of limitation (time to file lawsuits) for each potential cause of action are.

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