Lemon Law & Auto Related Issues

Update: Due to the pandemic and the economy, we are offering only limited services in this area of law in order to focus our resources on clients requiring debt defense, bankruptcy, and foreclosure defense. Our apologies for any inconvenience.

We will not be taking:

  • Auto repair fraud, dealer fraud
  • “As is” warranty cases
  • Lemon law cases

We will still be taking:

  • Collection defense cases against repossession, tow, and collection


Lemon Law & Auto Issues

Lemon Law is a term like the word Kleenex.  It had an original meaning but is used interchangeably for many different services.  We divide down the services we offer as shown below.  We have experience dealing with the underside of the auto sales, repair, and collection industry.  We are not focused on personal injury, rather, we focus on fraud at the point of sale, during repairs, and procedural violations during tow, impound, and auction.  We also focus on defending against collection issues relating to your vehicle.  Call us today to see how we can help.

Scheduling a Free Initial Consultation

  1. Go to our Scheduling page for more information, free forms, and intake sheet
  2. Make sure your case fits into the type of cases that we take (see the auto section on our scheduling page)
  3. Complete the auto & vehicle intake form and email it to info@wadebtlaw.com
  4. If you have been sued and have 20 days to respond, download and send a notice of appearance to the creditor and court.

Auto Dealer Fraud, Scams, & Finance Issues

We can litigate scams that unscrupulous dealers will try to take advantage of you with.  RCW 46.70 can be applied to punish dealers that violate the law.  Below is a list of common dealer scams:

  • Bait and Switch: Lying about the price or availability of cars they did not have available in the first place.
  • Bushing, Spot Delivery, or Yo-Yo Financing: This classic “your financing fell through” story where they sold your trade in already and need you to come back in an pay more or get sued.
  • Curbstoning: A private party tries to pose as a dealer.
  • Financing Fraud: A dealer lies about your credit score, tries to claim they won’t accept your financing, illegal terms in the financing, etc.
  • Forgot to Pay Off your Trade In: The dealer claims to have forgotten to pay off your trade in, leaving you on the hook for the loan on your trade in.
  • “Mistakes” in the Contract: The contract you sign does not match the terms you agreed to.
  • Odometer Fraud: Illegally rolling back the odometer
  • Packing or Loading the Loan: Hidden terms or amounts in the contract that you did not agree to.
  • Resigning Paperwork Scam: A dealer tries to convince you to come back in and re-sign the paperwork (usually with changed terms)
  • Title Washing, Sold “As Is”: A dealer attempts to hide a car that was wrecked or a lemon and convince you to buy a car “as is”

Auto Repair Issues

This type of litigation can be challenging.  It often requires an expert, who must be paid, to establish if there is some sort of fraudulent issue.  In general, the easiest type of case to win is when the quote does not match or required signage is not displayed.  RCW 46.71 covers a repair shops duties.

Tickets After You Sold the Car

Releasing liability in a vehicle that you have sold requires you to comply with RCW 46.12.650 and RCW 46.12.655.  If you report your sale within 5 days of the sale, then you will be released from liability generally.  If you reported it afterward, you are likely on the hook but there are legal arguments that you might not be.  If you did not report the sale at all and instead relied on the buyer to report and they did not, you are liable.

Tow Truck & Impound Issues

Tow truck drivers and companies, as well as Impound lots, have rules they must follow.  See RCW 46.55 and WAC 204-91A.  This includes required notice after the vehicle is towed, notices prior to auction, and that your vehicle should be towed to the nearest impound (not the one the tow truck driver is friendly with or owns).

One of the most common questions we get is if you have an old car sold at auction and you do not want to redeem it, how much can the tow/impound lot charge?  Generally they are limited to no more than $500.00 plus fees/costs for private tows.  See RCW 46.55.140.  If the tow was ordered by the police (public tow) then that limit does not apply.

The time frame of notification (see RCW 46.55.130) is:

If the time frame is suspiciously long, it is possible that the tow truck company is racking up yard fees impermissibly and it might constitute a consumer protection violation.

Tow fees are regulated.

Washington State Patrol Tow Fee Schedule

To understand more about the process, the Washington Department of Licensing has published a manual for tow truck operators.  This lays out the process they are supposed to go through when towing your vehicle.

WA DOL Tow Truck Manual

True Lemon Law Basics

Dealers often try to pass off sub par vehicles onto unsuspecting consumers.  However, as a consumer in Washington state, you have both state and federal rights that can protect you from such unscrupulous dealers.  Under Washington State Law, you have RCW 19.118, RCW 48.110, WAC 44-10, and other consumer protection laws.  Under Federal Law, you have the Magnuson-Moss Consumer Warranty Act codified as 15 U.S.C. § 2301.  If you feel that you may have purchased a car that has experienced repeated malfunctions or warranty issues, call us to see how we can help.

While it is best to consult with an attorney to determine if your vehicle qualifies as a lemon, here are a few guidelines to help you pre-screen your vehicle’s situation:

If you feel any of the above conditions apply, please call our office for a free initial phone consultation.

Used Car and “As Is” Car Warranty of Merchantability

Even if you buy a car used and in particular if you buy it “as is”, the vehicle must meet the warranty of merchantability.  There are ways dealers can disclaim this but you may have a case under RCW 62A.2-314.  Depending upon the contract and the defect, you may or may not have a case.  We encourage most people to contact the Washington Attorney General, Consumer protection division first to see if a complaint can resolve the issue.

Free Phone Constultation!  Call Today To See How We Can Help: (206) 535-2559

If you believe that you may have purchased a “lemon”, that a dealer has scammed you, or that your car has a significant defect that should be covered under warranty, we can help.  We start with a free phone consultation to screen your situation.  If it appears that there is a legal remedy for your situation, we typically are able to help you on a contingency basis.  Also, under state and federal law, if you are the prevailing party any attorney fees are paid by the other side.  Call today to schedule an appointment.