Used Cars

Beware Oregon Car Buyers! Hurricane Season Means Flood Car Season

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.

Ross Law Filed 2 Lawsuits Last Month Against The Same Car Dealer

May was a busy month for Ross Law PDX.  We filed multiple lawsuits on behalf of personal injury clients and auto fraud and consumer clients.  It is rare to file multiple lawsuits against a single car dealer in a month, but it happened. We filed two lawsuits against Cascade Auto Inc alleging violations of Oregon's Unlawful Trade Practices Act and other statutory violations arising out of the purchase and sale of two separate motor vehicles.  Both of the lawsuits allege Cascade Auto Inc. sold a vehicle with a material defect that the dealer knew or should have known about.   One client was forced to file a lawsuit because Cascade Auto Inc. refused to honor the arbitration agreement they directed our client sign at the time of the vehicle purchase.   

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If you or someone you know was ripped off by an Oregon Car dealer call auto fraud and lemon law lawyer Jeremiah Ross.  Ross Law PDX represents consumers who have purchased lemons or vehicles with material defects, have been victims of yo-yo sales or other car financing schemes, and other cases involving the purchase and sale of a motor vehicle from an Oregon Car dealer.

12 Things Car Buyers Should Know

Dealing with car dealers is usually at the bottom of everyone's list of fun things to do.  Depending on where you are purchasing the vehicle from it can be a miserable experience or a tolerable experience.  It is rarely a great experience.   However, you can have a better experience if you follow some of the tips below. This list is not exhaustive.  It may not work in every situation, but these are some tips I have learned over years of representing clients that have been ripped off by car dealers or people that have bought a Lemon. It is my hope, these tips may assist you in getting a good deal and prevent you from buying a jalopy. 

1) Research the Vehicle Price before going to the dealership:  If you are thinking of buying a new or used vehicle you should be able to price the vehicle through various internet sources.  You can use the Kelly Blue Book or Edmunds guide online to compare prices of vehicles.  You can also compare prices of similar vehicles on Craigslist or Auto-Trader.  If you do this before ever setting foot on the car lot, you will know whether or not the vehicle is over-priced. Once you have a price in mind you stick to it no matter what. If the dealer refuses to accept your offer, then WALK AWAY.  If you are shopping using the "monthly payment" as the maximum amount you will pay then use a payment calculator.  That will tell you the maximum amount of the price you can pay based on the monthly payment and the likely interest rate.

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2)  You Don't Have to Tell The Dealer The "Payment Amount" You Are Looking For or Other Information:  Many people end up paying too much for vehicles because they shop for a vehicle based on the payment amount.  The way this typically occurs is the consumer goes to the lot with a price and vehicle in mind.  Most people finance vehicles, so the dealer asks, "What are you looking at keeping your payments at?" The consumer then responds with a number. That number then becomes the starting point.  The dealer knows that if you say you want to keep your payments at $200.00 a month then you will probably agree to a $275.00 a month payment.  Also, the dealer knows that they can tweak the financing and add-ons (see below) in order to keep you at your payment.  For example, they may extend the loan term for a few years at a higher interest rate.  On paper, your payments are what you want, but you end up paying thousands of dollars in interest and you may get locked into a loan on a vehicle for seven or eight years on a used car.   The bottom line is that you can tell the dealer you don't want to discuss financing until after you have agreed on a final price of the vehicle.  If the dealer refuses, then you can walk.  You may also be able to obtain financing from your bank or a local credit union.  If you get pre-approved financing for a certain amount of money, you can focus solely on the price of the vehicle.  This enables you to steer clear of dealer shenanigans. 

3) Research the Vehicle's History Before Going to the Dealer:  In Oregon, the dealer should have the vehicle's identification number (VIN) on the online advertisement.  This allows you to run a carfax or auto check before you ever meet with the dealer.  The vehicle history report may show the vehicle's maintenance history, if it was a fleet vehicle or rental car, and if it has a clean title.  This is invaluable information.   However, be careful and do not rely solely on these vehicle history reports.  Many times it takes the reports a few months to obtain relevant data to include in the reports.  The reports are also not always complete. Dealers know this.  As a result, it is common for a dealer to give a "clean carfax" report and then later a crash shows up that pre-dates the sale to you.  That is why you should have a mechanic inspect the vehicle. 

4) You Can and Should Have the Vehicle Inspected By an Independent Mechanic:  The best way to prevent from buying a used vehicle that is a piece of junk (aka a Lemon), is to have an independent mechanic inspect the vehicle BEFORE you purchase the vehicle. Mechanics can tell you what you are getting into if you are buying a used car.   There are a few different inspection services here in Portland that will actually drive to the vehicle (PDX Inspections, PDX Autoworks, Portland Motor Cars, Etc.)  I don't recommend or endorse any particular mechanic or inspector, but you can contact them.  Also, most dealers will let you drive the vehicle to a mechanic's shop for the inspection.  If you have a mechanic you trust, take the vehicle there.  Be Careful:  Do not use a mechanic recommended by the dealer! 

5) Dealers Are Not Required to do a Thorough Vehicle Inspection:  I often get calls from people that purchased a vehicle that broke down shortly after the purchase.   They often say "the dealer was supposed to do a [insert number here] point inspection."  There is no requirement in Oregon for a dealer to conduct a thorough inspection of the vehicle.  Unless the dealer agrees to do an inspection or advertises one, The Oregon Administrative Rules and other laws dictate the dealer's obligations.  That is why YOU should have the vehicle inspected.

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6)  Dealers Make Most of their Money on Add-Ons, So Be Careful:  If you did your homework on the price of the vehicle, then you know the maximum amount you are willing to pay before you go into the dealer.  Once you have that number in mind you have to stick to it.  Dealers are masterful at convincing people to go over that number by adding on various things that are financed into the price of the vehicle.  Common Add-Ons are warranties, service contracts, paint protection, door edge guards, glass etching.  The dealer maximizes profits on these items by marking them up as high as they can.  If you feel it is necessary to purchase an add-on, remember you can negotiate the price of it.  The dealer should tell you what the actual cost of the add-on is to the dealer.  Also, Oregon law prohibits the dealer from conditioning the sale of the car on buying an add-on.  For example, "the dealer cannot say I won't sell you the car unless you buy the warranty."  You should not negotiate add-ons until AFTER you agreed on the final purchase price of the vehicle.

7)  Dealers May Try and Fudge the Financing, So Review the Documents:   Usually once a dealer has you in a car they turn things over to the F&I manager.  This is the person in the "back room" that is unreasonable on price and financing.   Many times at this point you have been at the dealership for hours and just want to get out of there.  Dealers know this.  That is why they will throw dozens of documents in front of you and tell you where to sign.  I have had dealers admit under oath that they are trained to make it difficult for the customer to take the documents off of the table and read them.  They do this by holding the document as it is laying on the table, pointing out where to sign, and then flipping the document over immediately after it is signed. They do this so you have no idea what you are signing.  To prevent this, you have some options.  You can ask the dealer to leave you alone with the documents so you can read them.  You can also have the dealer hand you the documents prior to signing them.  If they refuse, then you should walk out.  You want to review the documents to ensure the purchase price is correct, the trade-in, if any, the amount is correct, the add-ons are things you actually agreed to purchase,  the financing amount is correct, the interest rate is what you agreed on, the term of the loan (number of payments) is correct, and you agree with all of the terms.  Click here to learn more about The Retail Installment Contract.  

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8)   You Can Cross Things Out and Refuse to Sign Certain Documents:  We live in a world of pre-printed forms.  Many times people sign things without reading them.  If you reviewed the documents then you will see language that you don't understand or you don't want to agree to.  This is where you can use your phone to look up any terms you don't understand, and you can cross out the conditions and terms you don't want to agree to. For example, you should ALWAYS cross out any language saying you are agreeing to binding arbitration and/or forfeiting your right to a Jury trial.  This is often buried in the "fine print," but you should always cross it out or refuse to sign any clause or stand-alone document that is forcing you into arbitration.   Click here to find out why Arbitration is bad for Oregon consumers. 

9) Negative Equity in Your Trade-In WIll Make Your Payments Much Higher:  Assume you did your homework on vehicle price, you refused the add-ons, and are sticking to your bottom line and you have a trade-in that is worth less than the amount you owe on it.  Dealers have a difficult time rolling in negative equity into a new loan because many finance companies are leery of extending credit to folks in this situation.  This is due to the fact that the collateral on the loan for the new vehicle won't cover the full cost of the loan in the event of a default. However, dealers are crafty and can usually get financing if needed. They may get a co-signer, fudge numbers, claiming non-existent down payments, or other schemes to get the negative equity rolled into the new loan.  If the negative equity is rolled into the new loan then most likely your payments are going to be MUCH higher than you anticipated.  I get calls from many people that get home and review their paperwork only to find out that they have agreed to a $400.00 car payment when they thought they were only agreeing to a $250.00 car payment.  Many times the reason for this is the consumer agreed to roll in the negative equity into the new loan.  

10)  There is No Automatic Right to Return a Vehicle In Oregon: There is a myth that many consumers propagate that if you buy a car you automatically have [insert number here] number of days to return a vehicle.  I have heard people say it is 3 days, 7 days, 14 days, 30 days, and 60 days.  Under Oregon law, there is no automatic right to return a vehicle that you purchased at a dealership.  However, your contract or agreement with the dealer may allow you to do so.  

11) The Dealer May Have 14 Days to Complete Financing for the Vehicle:  Many people drive off of the lot in their new or used vehicle and then get a call from the dealer a week later.  The dealer says financing fell through so they need to come back and agree to new financing terms.  Usually, the dealer wants more money for the down payment or may want to increase the interest rate. This is called a Yo-Yo Scam or a bushing scam.  This is legal, but only if, the dealer follows the law to the letter.  This includes, but is not limited to, telling you that you have the right to immediately receive your trade-in back and/or your downpayment back. At the dealership, the dealer should have the trade-in ready for you to pick up and your downpayment ready for you to get if you do not agree to the new financing terms. Click here for more information on Yo-Yo Scams.  If you review the documents (see above) you will know exactly what the dealer is doing and prevent the dealer from sneaking in new additional terms.

12)  If It Isn't In Writing It Doesn't Count:  Dealers make a lot of promises.  Many dealers will tell a consumer that they will fix something on the car, or make an oral agreement about when the downpayment is actually due.  These agreements typically are not binding, because the Purchase Agreement or the Retail Installment Contract has a clause that says that those documents contain the entire agreement.  The bottom line is if the dealer promises something then get it in writing.  If they refuse, then walk out. 

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The list above is not complete and everyone's situation varies.  You MIGHT STILL GET RIPPED OFF even if you follow the recommendations above. Also,  please keep in mind I do not advise clients who are in the middle of purchasing a car.  I am a lawyer that represents Oregon Consumers, I am not a car buying advisor.  This blog could be considered Attorney Advertising.  If you think you have been ripped off by an Oregon Car Dealer or were sold a Lemon then call Ross Law PDX at 503.224.1658.  Jeremiah Ross represents Oregonians in consumer cases, personal injury cases, and other cases where people are harmed by the negligence or intentional acts of others.

 

Three Things To Know About Oregon's Lemon Law and Motor Homes:

Oregon recently changed its lemon law to protect consumers who purchased motorhomes.   However, consumers should be aware of its limitations and applicability.  Consumers should take note of the limitations prior to contacting an Oregon Lemon Law Lawyer or Auto Fraud Lawyer.  If you have general questions about Oregon's lemon law click here.

Three Things You Should Know: 

Oregon's Lemon Law DOES apply to "Motor Homes" but not "Living Components:"  Oregon recently changed the lemon law to allow it to apply to new Motor Homes.  I don't know how many calls I get from folks who have purchased Motor Homes that have non-conformities.  This new change in the law is likely to result in a new arena of litigation.   Some New Motorhomes are plagued with water leaks, electrical issues, and issues with the living facility components (think flooring, plumbing fixtures, appliances, water heater, fabrics, door and furniture hardware, lighting fixtures, generators, airconditioning units, cabinets, furniture, etc.)   The Lemon Law only applies to some of these non-conformities. The law does NOT apply to any of the living facility components.  If your fridge doesn't keep the fish cold, the lemon law doesn't apply.  If your water heater explodes they day after purchase, the lemon law doesn't apply.  If the plumbing backs up the day after purchase the lemon law doesn't apply.  You get the point.  However, if the engine fails then it would apply.  If the roof Leaks, Oregon's lemon law may apply.    

Oregon's Lemon Law Does NOT Apply to Travel Trailers:  Oregon's lemon law only applies to "Motor Vehicles."  The law specifically excludes:  "a trailer, a camper, van or vehicle manufactured by an entity that primarily manufactures motor vehicles other than motor homes as defined by this subsection." 

The Prevailing Party May Be Awarded Costs Expert Fees, and Attorney Fees:  Oregon's lemon law allows for the prevailing party of a case involving a motor-home to be awarded costs, expert costs, and attorney fees.  This is important to note, because if a consumer loses their lemon law case they may be ordered to pay the manufacturer's costs and fees. This is different than a case involving a car or a truck. 

If you have questions about Oregon's Lemon Law or RV Dealer fraud call Jeremiah Ross at 503.224.1658.  Ross Law PDX handles RV and Motorhome Lemon Law cases throughout Oregon.   Please remember this post is for informational purposes only and is not to be considered advice.  If you have any questions contact a lawyer and do not rely solely on this post.  This post can be considered attorney advertising. 

 

Can an Oregon Dealer Sell a Vehicle with the "Service Engine Soon" light illuminated?

 I frequently receive calls from people asking about whether or not an Oregon car dealer can lawfully sell a vehicle that has a "Service Engine Soon" light illuminated.    As with many legal issues there is not a clear cut answer to this question.   Typically it is unlawful for a vehicle dealer to sell a vehicle that has the service engine soon light illuminated to a person that will be registering the vehicle in the Portland or Medford Metro Region.  In other words, in most cases if a dealer sells a vehicle to a person living in certain places then the vehicle cannot have a service engine soon light illuminated.   If the purchased vehicle has a service engine soon light illuminated then it is most likely a violation of the Unlawful Trade Practices Act if the vehicle will be registered in the Portland or Medford Metro Region. (ORS 646.608 (1)(u) via Oregon Administrative Rule (OAR) 137-020-0020 (3) (o) see Commentary)

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Here is a breakdown of the law:

The Law:  OAR 137-020-0020 (3) (o)'s Official Commentary states: "When a dealer sells a vehicle to an individual that is registering the vehicle in a metro area that requires that the vehicle pass DEQ emissions testing to be roadworthy, the dealer must ensure that the vehicle can pass the DEQ emissions test at the time of sale."

The DEQ Inspection:   The Oregon DEQ operates a Vehicle Inspection Program in the Portland and Rogue Valley areas of Oregon. In these areas, an emissions test is required when registering or renewing a vehicle with Oregon DMV. (ORS 803.350 (4)) The DEQ notes vehicles are the number one source of air pollution in Oregon. Emissions can lead to high smog levels and contain air toxics, carbon monoxide and greenhouse gasses, which can have a variety of effects on Oregonians. The DEQ claims the vehicle Inspection Program is a successful, cost-effective way to reduce air pollution and maintain good air quality.    

The Service Engine Soon Light:  The "Service Engine Soon" light or "Check Engine Soon Light" are lights that are intended to alert drivers there is a problem with the vehicle's On Board Diagnostics (OBD). Sometimes the warning light is simply an illuminated engine symbol. These lights often illuminate when there is an issue with a key engine component or the emissions system.   That is why they are called Malfunction Indicator Lights (MIL). If MIL lights blink or flash then it may indicate a serious engine malfunction.  Some of these issues are quick fixes, but many times they are not.    When there is a problem then the vehicle will issue a "Diagnostic Trouble Code" (DCT) and store it in the vehicle's computer memory.  This code aids a qualified service technician in diagnosing and repairing the problem.  

The DEQ Inspection and The Service Engine Soon Light:  The DEQ will not issue a certificate to a vehicle that has a Malfunction Indicator Light (MIL) illuminated. This is due to the fact the DEQ tests the vehicle's On Board Diagnostics (OBD) on vehicles that are 1996 or newer.  The OBD is a Computer that tracks if the vehicle has any issues. The OBD monitors misfires, the fuel system, certain engine components, the catalytic converter, the oxygen sensor and heater, and EGR valves.  The OBD will trigger the MIL if any of these systems have a problem.   As a result, the vehicle cannot pass DEQ if the MIL is illuminated because the MIL indicates there is a problem with the vehicle's key components or emissions systems.  Therefore, a vehicle with a MIL light illuminated is not "roadworthy" as mandated by (OAR) 137-020-0020 (3) (o).    

Where are the Metro Regions requiring a DEQ Emissions Test:  The DEQ has specific boundaries for the Metro Regions requiring testing.  The Metro Regions requiring DEQ inspections are areas surrounding Portland and Medford (aka Rogue Valley Area).  If you live inside those boundaries and will be registering your newly purchased vehicle then your vehicle must pass a DEQ inspection in order to be "roadworthy."  

Click on the Image To See If You Are In A Metro Region requiring a DEQ Inspection 

Not All Vehicles Need to Pass DEQ In Order to Be Registered:  Some vehicles do not need to pass the DEQ inspection due to the vehicle's age, type, or where the vehicle will be registered. For more information see DEQ Web-Site or OAR 340-256-0300.

What if The Service Engine Soon Light Illuminates Shortly After Purchase:  A service engine soon light that illuminates shortly after purchase is often indicative of a recent "reset" of the OBD.   Sometimes a vehicle's OBD can be reset by simply removing the battery.   Also   "diagnostic trouble codes" can be reset.  If that is done the MIL will often be turned off once the battery is reconnected.  The vehicle then needs to drive through a driving cycle to determine if there is a problem.  Sometimes this may take a few miles, other times it may take a week or so.  The vehicle's OBD will indicate it is "not ready" if the vehicle is re-diagnosing any issues and is in a drive cycle.  If the vehicle's OBD indicates "not ready" at the DEQ then this is a good indication the vehicle's OBD has been reset recently and prior to the sale. This may be a violation of ORS 646.608 (1), OAR 137-020-0020 (3),  ORS 815.305, and other state and federal regulations.   

The Law Prohibits Disconnecting or Altering Pollution Control Equipment:   If a person disconnects the battery in an effort to reset the OBD then they may be breaking the law.   It is against the law for a person to disconnect or permit someone to disconnect vehicle air pollution devices.  It is also against the law for a person to modify or alter factory installed pollution control systems in a manner that reduces its efficiency or effectiveness.  There are some exemptions to this law.  (See ORS 815.305 for details)

There are many issues that can arise if a vehicle is sold with a service engine soon light illuminated.  Sometimes it is not illegal for a dealer to sell a vehicle with a MIL illuminated, while other times it is.  It is best to consult with a lawyer at 503.224.1658 if you think you were sold a vehicle unlawfully.  At Ross Law LLC we regularly represent consumers that have issues with vehicles being sold with service engine soon lights illuminated.  Also, please remember this post is not considered legal advice, call a lawyer for legal advice.  Furthermore, the law is constantly changing, so please do not rely solely on this post.  Rely on the text of the actual laws, regulations, and rules that apply to your situation.  

Oregon Consumers Beware-Flooded Cars from Louisiana May Flood Into Oregon

Louisiana has recently suffered some of the worst flooding in the Nation's history.   At least 60,000 homes have been damaged and it is estimated at least 13 people died as a result of the flooding.  These are staggering numbers, and the destruction is anticipated to take months or years to clean up.  

It is difficult for us in Oregon to imagine how this flood could possibly affect us.  However, car buyer's need to beware because the numerous Louisiana cars that were flooded may be heading to Oregon.  These cars usually suffer from numerous electrical issues, power-train issues, and can often be plagued with mildew problems.  These issues can create a dangerous situation when the vehicle loses power and this can result in the injury or death to the driver and others on the road.

It is unknown how many flooded cars may be entering the markets, but there could be tens of thousands of vehicles flooding into the used car markets. Dealers can buy these cars at a reduced price, clean them up, and sell them to unknowing consumers.  Vehicles without a  "branded title" ( Branded Titles are basically titles that note"water damaged vehicle" or a "Salvaged Title") may be sold to an unknowing customer even though it has been in a flood.  This occurs when the dealer's attempts to conceal any water damage and sell the vehicle without disclosing the fact the vehicle is a flood car.

If the vehicle's title is "branded" or notes the vehicle is a water-damaged vehicle then the dealer may attempt to "wash" the title.  Louisiana Law notes that if a vehicle's electrical system or power train is damaged by flood damage and totaled by an insurance company as a result, then it will receive the "water damaged" brand on the title.  

 

Title washing can occur when a person purchases a vehicle with a salvaged title or a water-damaged title and registers it in a state that does not recognize that particular "brand" on the title.  The new state then issues a clear title and the vehicle can be sold anywhere in the United States and passed off as a clean title.   Some states make it easy to "wash" a title.  For instance some states will not issue a branded title to a vehicle that is more than 7 years old.  What that means is that a purchaser can buy an 8 year old vehicle with a water-damaged title in Louisiana and then register in the new state an receive an unbranded title.  Once the vehicle has an unbranded title it can be sold anywhere in the US as a "clean title" vehicle.  

Title washing can also take place when a person actually physically alters the title in an effort to conceal the "brand" on the title (think photo-shop or white-out).  This is more difficult to do, but it does occur.   This is big problem if the title is held by the bank, as the bank employee may not scrutinize the title as closely as they should. 

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.  They 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 Louisiana.  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 had a salvaged title. These tips may assist consumer's in protecting themselves from buying a flood car, but it may not completely protect you.

If you or someone you know unknowingly purchased a "flood car" or a car with a branded title in Oregon then please call Ross Law LLC at 503.224.1658.  Jeremiah Ross may be able to assist you with your consumer case in Oregon. 

 

 

 

 

Buy Here Pay Here-Questionable Auto Loans

As an Oregon Consumer Lawyer I regularly represent Oregonians who are ripped off by car dealers.  I regularly receive calls from consumers who has issues with Auto lenders.  These issues can relate to the interest rate being charged, yo-yo scams, issues with the financing disclosures, or dealers trying to make consumers provide false information in order to obtain financing.  Sometimes, in their effort to get the car off of the lot, dealers will flagrantly violate the various laws that apply to them.  Other times, the dealer's conduct is legal, but morally questionable.

I have seen this as a growing issue in Oregon.  I am not alone with my concerns.  It appears there is a national trend in providing questionable auto-loans to consumers.  These questionable loans are sometimes written with very high interest rates (29% APR) and for extremely long terms (7 years).  What this means is consumers buying an $8,000.00 car may end up paying almost $15,000.00 for the car after the interest is added into the price of the cars.

 

The dealer's justify the high interest and lengthy terms of the loan by asserting that the consumer is a huge credit risk.  Most of the consumers that obtain these loans have horrible credit and are likely to default on the loan.  I have litigated cases where the dealers have stated that my client's credit was terrible and that my clients were fortunate enough to have someone like the dealer take the chance to finance the vehicle. 

From the consumer's perspective, these loans set them up for failure.   The high interest rate for lengthy terms sets the consumer up for failure.  The dealer knows that most people need a car for transportation.  Vehicles are almost necessities in many cities.  Additionally, the dealer already knows the consumer has issues with paying creditors, because the consumer has terrible credit.  Despite that, the dealer piles on more debt in an effort to get the car off of the lot.  Then when the foreseeable missed payment happens then the dealer repossesses the car and can re-sell it to another customer.   

 The dealer makes money on the transaction by: 1) getting to keep the trade-in or down payment the consumer made on the car and, 2) keeping the interest on the loan from payments already made on the loan before missing a payment, 3) sometimes dealers will attempt to re-finance the purchased vehicle or agree to take the vehicle back if the consumer purchases another vehicle from the lot (this usually re-starts the cycle), 4) the dealer gets to re-sell the purchased vehicle to another consumer and make money on that transaction. 

Additionally, the dealer's risk is much more manageable than the dealer leads people to believe. Dealer's can place devices in the vehicles that allows the dealer to track the vehicle.  If a consumer misses a payment then the device can shut the vehicle down until a payment is made.  If the consumer fails to make a payment the dealer uses the device to locate the vehicle and repossess it.   I believe these devices are one thing that is allowing these bad loans to become more prevalent. 

The Comedian Jon Oliver recently did a great piece on Auto Lending and how these sub-prime loans are affecting consumers.  The piece has some shocking statistics and stories of people being ripped off by Auto Lenders.  

If you or someone you know has been ripped off or scammed by an Auto Dealer, please call Jeremiah Ross.  Please call Ross Law LLC at 503.224.1658 .   Please remember there are some reputable and honest car dealers, and just because you have a questionable loan that does not mean the dealer broke any laws or you have a case against them.   

Jeremiah Ross Prevails in lawsuit against Portland RV Wholesale

I recently prevailed in a Lawsuit against another vehicle dealer on Portland's 82nd Ave.  On behalf of Ross Law, I represented a couple that purchased a motor-home from Portland RV Wholesale.   During the purchase the couple had questions about the motor-home and whether or not it would be inspected.  Portland RV wholesale's sales person informed the couple the motor home had been thoroughly inspected by Portland RV Wholesale.  

The couple later discovered the motor-home's  rear end and rear brakes were malfunctioning and needed to be replaced.  A mechanic noted it was obvious the rear end and brakes had been submerged in water for a period of time.  However, the couple never had submerged the vehicle in water, so the vehicle would have had to have been submerged in water prior to the sale.  If Portland RV would have inspected the vehicle they should have known that the vehicle was submerged and had defective rear brakes and a defective rear end.  

I relied on the Oregon Administrative Rules that apply to car dealers to show Portland RV Wholesale had engaged in unlawful trade practices.  The case was heard in court annexed arbitration.   The Arbitrator awarded also awarded my clients costs and their attorney fees under ORS 646.638.  However, this may be the beginning of a future battle. Portland RV Wholesale may request a trial de novo, and force my clients to put on the case again in front of a Jury.  Only time will tell what Portland RV Wholesale chooses to do. 

If you have been injured or ripped off, or a crime victim in Oregon please call Portland Attorney Jeremiah Ross at 503.224.1658.  Please remember that all outcomes vary and Jeremiah Ross does not guarantee you can prevail in your lawsuit.  Also, please note that this post is about a Court Arbitration, and Portland RV Wholesale has the right to appeal the matter and request a Jury Trial.   The outcome may be different at a Jury Trial.