How Can I Spot Flood Damaged Cars?

NC Consumer Fraud Attorney Explains Flood Car Dangers After Hurricanes

Flood Damaged Cars in North CarolinaWhile it may be possible to repair buildings and homes after a flood or hurricane, it is next to impossible to completely refurbish flood damaged cars. When a car submerges in water, even just part way, the moisture can corrode and destroy electronic systems, engine parts and virtually every metal component. Additionally, toxic mold and bacteria can take hold in the vehicle’s upholstery. As a result, car dealers and manufacturers may have to write off thousands of cars as a total loss after a flood. However, sometimes dealers clean and repair flood damaged cars, and sell them anyway. If you are in the market for a car, especially after a hurricane, then you should take the steps outlined below to avoid buying a flood car. Alternatively, if you find out that you bought a used car with flood damage, then you may have grounds for a consumer fraud lawsuit.

North Carolina suffered the devastation of Hurricane Matthew in 2016 and then Hurricane Irma in 2017. One side effect of these storms has been an increased risk of fraud in the auto market. As attorneys and residents of North Carolina, the lawyers at Riddle & Brantley, LLP share a commitment to helping our neighbors avoid common auto fraud scams. If you have questions about buying a car after a hurricane, then contact our consumer fraud lawyers today. We offer free consultations so that you can learn your legal rights according to state consumer protection laws.

How to Avoid Buying a Flood Damaged Car

After flooding, like the destruction seen after Hurricane Harvey and Hurricane Irma in 2017, cars with water damage may show up at dealerships across the U.S. In some cases, dealers may move cars across several states to sell them, especially as some states have much more lenient vehicle history disclosure requirements. In North Carolina, consumer protection laws require car dealers to disclose, in writing, whether a vehicle was in a flood. However, it is possible for dealers to make unlawful alterations to the title, concealing the truth about flood damaged cars. Therefore, to avoid purchasing a car that was in a flood, you should:

  • Always ask the dealer directly whether the car sustained any damage, especially in hurricanes or floods. Unlike North Carolina, many states require dealers do not require dealers to disclose flood damage; however, according to federal law, a seller must be truthful about the car’s condition, so direct questions are best.
  • Get a complete vehicle history report from an approved provider listed by vehiclehistory.gov.
  • Get a copy of the title for any used car you buy and look for dates and transfers. See if the vehicle came from a state or area that recently experienced widespread flooding.
  • Get an independent inspection before purchase. A trusted mechanic can inform you of any signs of flood damage.
  • Look for rust, mud and/or sand in the trunk, glovebox and dashboard as well as under the seats.
  • Test all electric systems, including power windows, headlights, windshield wipers, turn signals, radio and power outlets. When you run the heat and air conditioning, look for water and/or mud in the vents.
  • Test all dashboard gauges to ensure they work properly.
  • Note if the upholstery seems new, and check for a musty smell on the seats and in the trunk.

What Can I Do If I Bought a Flood Damaged Car?

It can take weeks or months for flood damaged cars to start showing signs of trouble. Initially, a car may run as normal, especially if a dealer replaces certain parts. However, as rust and corrosion from water exposure spread, the vehicle’s systems may start to malfunction. Often, the electrical systems are first to go, as the delicate wiring is easily damaged. This can cost thousands of dollars to fix, especially as most modern vehicles have complex onboard computer systems.

If you find out that you bought a car that was submerged in a flood, then you may have grounds for a consumer fraud lawsuit against the dealer. The attorneys at Riddle & Brantley, LLP can assist you in investigating this claim so that you can hold the liable party accountable. Sometimes, the dealer may shift blame to another party, especially if someone else sold the damaged vehicle to the dealership. However, a lawyer can help you defend against these deflections.

Additionally, if you found out that you bought a water damaged car, then you can file a consumer complaint at ncdoj.gov and/or contact the North Carolina Consumer Protection Division toll-free at 1-877-5-NO-SCAM.

Questions? Contact Our North Carolina Consumer Fraud Lawyers

If you have concerns about water damaged cars of believe you may have purchased one, then contact the consumer fraud attorneys at Riddle & Brantley, LLP. We can explain your rights according to North Carolina consumer protection laws. Additionally, we may be able to help you file a claim if you bought a water-damaged car.

Our attorneys have offices throughout North Carolina, including locations in Goldsboro, Kinston, Jacksonville and Raleigh. Call (800) 525-7111 or contact us online today to schedule a free initial consultation.