Hurricane Florence is currently pummeling the Carolina Coast. Buckets of rain have fallen and are expected to continue to fall over the next couple of days. Major cities are predicted to flood. People have left their homes in search of safety until the rain and flooding subsides. Once the rain stops the clean up will begin. Katrina and Sandy have taught us that clean up can take years. There are entire industries dedicated to natural disaster clean up. Of particular concern is the industry that has evolved to remove and resell the hundreds of thousands of flood vehicles that will eventually be sold to unwary Oregonians.
“Flood vehicles” are vehicles that have been in flood areas and the vast majority of them have been partially submerged for a period of time. Flood vehicles can develop terrible mechanical and electrical issues even though they may look great. I have litigated cases involving Hurricane Sandy cars being sold in, or through, Oregon. Throughout that litigation, I learned how thousands of cars get out of the flood zone and are resold throughout the country.
First, an insurance company representative typically will go through neighborhoods seeking out homes and vehicles that are insured by their insurance company. The insurance company employee, or subcontractor, then briefly inspects the vehicle. The insurance company often renders the vehicle a total loss on the spot. Then the insurance company immediately initiates the process to total the vehicle and title it as a Flood Vehicle. The vehicles are then transported from the neighborhood to a large holding area. Thousands of vehicles are then auctioned off and sold around the Country and the world. Some of the vehicles will wind up in Oregon.
Prior to coming to Oregon, some of the titles may be washed. Title Washing is a process where a vehicle with a branded title, such as a Flood Vehicle, will be titled in a state that may issue a clean title to that vehicle. Then the vehicle is re-sold and may wind up at your local used car dealer. The new Title will not be a "branded" or a "Flood" title, so consumers will not be alerted the vehicle will likely have serious electrical or mechanical issues.
Some dealers will rip consumers off in a more brazen fashion. These dealers simply take the consumer's money and then provide the branded title after the funds have cleared. Then the dealer claims they informed the buyer that the vehicle was a flood vehicle. Dealers often have unwary consumers sign a piece of paper noting the vehicle maybe a flood or salvaged vehicle, However, the dealer will simply state this is a standard form. Then once the salvaged title is provided to the consumer, the dealer uses the document as a defense to claim the consumer knew of the branded title.
Buyers need to beware of flood vehicles over the next few years. If a consumer unknowingly purchases a flood vehicle, then the seller may be liable for the violations of various State or Federal Laws.
What you Can Do To Try And Ensure You Do Not Purchase a Flood Damaged Car: It is important for Oregon Consumers to inspect any vehicle they may buy. That great deal on Craigslist may actually be a terrible deal for a car that is plagued with electrical issues. Oregonians should inspect the vehicle. Consumers should examine underneath the vehicle to ensure there are not any mineral deposits, a "silt line," or significant mud. The headlights may have mud or debris lines inside of them. The interior and trunk should be inspected for any discoloration that indicates flooding. If the vehicle smells funny (either of mold or heavy chemicals) that may be an indication of flooding. The consumer should turn on and off all of the lights and radio, and operate any electrical features (windows, sunroof, rear windshield wiper)to ensure they all function properly.
The consumer should also pull a title history report from Carfax or AutoCheck to determine: 1) if the vehicle has a branded title, and 2) to determine if the vehicle is from the North Carolina, South Carolina, or Virginia. However, these reports are not always accurate so they shouldn't solely be relied upon. If the vehicle was bought or sold at a "Copart" auction yard that is a big red flag that the vehicle may have had a salvaged title, or had previously been total. These tips may assist consumers in protecting themselves from buying a flood car, but it may not completely protect car buyers.
If you, or someone you know, purchased a vehicle that you believe is a flood vehicle, lemon, or has a salvaged title, then call Jeremiah Ross for your free case evaluation. Call Oregon Lemon Law and dealer fraud lawyer Ross Law PDX at 503.224.1658.
Please remember this is attorney advertising. Please do not solely rely on this post to obtain information to ensure you are not purchasing a flood vehicle. Have the vehicle checked by a mechanic and take other steps to ensure the vehicle is not a flood damaged vehicle. These are merely some steps that may protect Oregon car buyers.