Can I Sue A Dealership For Negligence


When you buy a car from a dealership or have it serviced there, you expect competent, careful service. But mistakes and oversights happen. If the dealership’s

negligence leads to damages for you, you may be able to take legal action and sue. Let’s look at what constitutes negligence by a car dealership and how to build a case.

What Qualifies as Negligence?

Negligence means the dealership failed to act with reasonable care or caution under the circumstances. For example, negligence could include:

  • Selling a car they know has serious defects without disclosure
  • Failing to properly inspect and fix issues during service and repairs
  • Not providing promised services like cleaning the car before delivery
  • Allowing untrained staff to perform repairs leading to mistakes
  • Providing inaccurate information about a vehicle
  • Forgetting to tighten bolts or properly secure components after repairs
  • Damaging a car due to careless handling or driving
  • Failing to secure vehicles leading to theft
  • Misplacing or losing keys to customer cars

Generally, negligence occurs when the dealership doesn’t exercise the amount of care expected from a professional in the auto sales and service industry. All businesses and professionals have a duty of care.

Proving Dealership Negligence

To successfully sue for negligence and receive compensation for your losses and damages, you must prove:

  • The dealership owed you a duty of care – This duty comes from the business relationship as a seller and servicer of vehicles.
  • The dealership breached their duty through negligence – This means failing to exercise reasonable care as described above.
  • The breach of duty directly caused harm – The damages must clearly result from the dealership’s negligent actions.
  • The damages are quantifiable – You must be able to show clear monetary losses from the negligence.
  • Compensation would make you whole – Financial compensation from the dealership should cover the losses.

You will need documentation like repair invoices, purchase paperwork, correspondence with the dealer, and evidence of damages to build a compelling case for negligence.

Proving Dealership Negligence
Proving Dealership Negligence

Common Grounds for Suing a Dealership

While each negligence case depends on its facts, some common situations that could warrant legal action include:

Selling a “Lemon” Vehicle

If the dealership fails to disclose known defects or misrepresents the condition of a used vehicle, you may have a “lemon law” case against the dealer. Thoroughly documenting the issues shortly after purchase is key.

Improper Auto Repairs

Mistakes during dealership service like failing to fix issues, further damaging your car, overlooking problems, and poor workmanship could mean negligence occurred. Get second opinions showing their errors.

Failure to Secure Vehicles

If the dealership fails to properly secure inventory vehicles and your car is damaged or stolen, their negligence led to the losses. Security camera footage proving lack of care can help.

Car Theft Due to Unreturned Keys

If dealership employees misplace or inadvertently keep your car keys after repairs or test drives, their carelessness could enable theft. Proving the stolen car keys came from the dealer is important.

Misrepresenting the Vehicle’s Condition

If the dealership knowingly covers up scratches, fails to disclose prior damage or inaccurate odometer readings, this negligent misrepresentation could be grounds for legal action.

Violating Lending Laws

Dealers must follow fair lending rules and truth in lending laws. Discrimination, predatory lending, or failing to honor advertised terms could lead to lawsuits.

Damaging Cars in Service Bays

Careless handling and driving of customer cars in the service area could cause dents, scratches and mechanical damage. Documentation of new damage occurring onsite aids negligence claims.

Negligent hiring and supervision

If dealership employees damage cars due to incompetence, the dealer may be liable for negligent hiring and oversight. Proving they failed to train, monitor and hire qualified staff helps build a case.

Damages you may be able to recover through a negligence lawsuit include:

  • Repair costs to fix the issues caused
  • Diminished value due to the dealership’s errors
  • Money paid on a fraudulent contract
  • Financial losses like rental car fees while repairs are done
  • The reduced resale value if selling a defective car
  • Loss of car use and transportation costs
  • Compensation for pain and suffering

An attorney can help determine what damages apply in your specific situation. They can also handle negotiations with the dealership and take the case to court if needed.

Protecting Yourself from Negligence

To minimize the need for lawsuits, protect yourself by:

  • Getting all promises and representations in writing, like services to be done before delivery
  • Reviewing paperwork carefully before signing contracts
  • Inspecting vehicles inside and out before purchase
  • Asking directly about any prior damage or defects
  • Testing and photographing cars right away if issues arise
  • Using mechanics unrelated to the dealer for second opinions
  • Reporting problems immediately and keeping detailed records
  • Following up in writing if repairs are unsatisfactory
  • Consulting a lawyer early about your rights and options

With diligence upfront and swift action when negligence occurs, you can either resolve issues faster or build a stronger legal case down the road.

Suing a dealership for negligence takes time and effort, but holding them accountable for losses caused by carelessness provides important consumer protections. With evidence of the dealership’s breach of duty and your resulting damages, you can successfully recover your losses through legal action.

Protecting Yourself From Negligence
Protecting Yourself from Negligence

Finding the Right Attorney for Your Dealership Negligence Lawsuit

Pursuing a negligence lawsuit against a car dealership requires an experienced legal advocate in your corner. Here are strategies to identify qualified attorneys:

  • Check directories of state bar associations for lawyers specializing in auto fraud, consumer protection, and personal injury law. These practice areas align with dealership negligence cases.
  • Contact your state consumer protection agency for referrals or a list of lawyers known for handling car dealership issues.
  • Search legal databases like Martindale-Hubbell and Avvo to find attorneys with relevant specializations and read client reviews.
  • Look for lawyers mentioning dealership lawsuits specifically as an area of expertise in their marketing.
  • Ask colleagues, friends and family for referrals of attorneys who have pursued dealer cases successfully.

top consumer protection agencies in the United States

Better Business Bureau (BBB) – Non-profit organization that facilitates dispute resolution between consumers and businesses. BBB helps investigate complaints against dealerships and works to get issues resolved.

  • Federal Trade Commission (FTC) – Federal agency that enforces consumer protection laws and regulations. You can file complaints about deceptive or unfair dealer practices with the FTC.
  • State Attorney General’s Office – Each state has a Consumer Protection Bureau/Division as part of the Attorney General’s office. They investigate violations of consumer laws within the state.
  • State Department of Motor Vehicles – State DMVs have enforcement divisions that oversee regulation of car dealerships and licensees. Complaints about violations can prompt investigations.
  • State Bar Associations – Most state bars have lawyer referral services that can help connect consumers with attorneys that handle cases against auto dealerships.
Top Consumer Protection Agencies In The United States
top consumer protection agencies in the United States

Consumer Action – National non-profit consumer education and advocacy organization with state chapters across the US. They provide guidance on consumer rights. Consumers for Auto Reliability and Safety (CARS) – National consumer auto safety and advocacy organization that works to advance consumer protections relating to dealers.

I’d recommend starting by filing a complaint with your state Attorney General’s consumer protection bureau or the BBB to prompt an investigation into an issue with a dealership. Hope this helps provide some starting points to consider! Let me know if you need any other specifics.


Q: What are examples of dealer negligence that could lead to a lawsuit?

A: Selling cars with hidden defects, damaging vehicles, performing faulty repairs, selling salvaged cars, and repeated failure to successfully fix issues under warranty are some examples.

Q: What has to be proven to win a negligence lawsuit against a dealer?

A: Key elements are proving the dealer owed a duty of care, breached that duty through negligence, caused damages as a result, and that the damages were a foreseeable outcome of the breach.

Q: What evidence is needed when suing a dealership?

A: Documentation like repair invoices, medical reports, written correspondence with the dealer, cost estimates, and expert testimony are crucial for proving negligence and damages.

Q: Can I sue a dealership without a lawyer?

A: You can, but having an attorney experienced with dealer lawsuits is highly recommended given the complex legal burden of proof required.

Q: How much time do I have to sue a dealership for negligence?

A: Time limits vary by state, but often negligence lawsuits must be filed within 2-6 years of the incident occurring, depending on the circumstances.

Q: What types of damages can I seek when suing?

A: You may be able to seek compensation for economic losses, property damage, loss of vehicle use, pain and suffering, punitive damages, and recovery of legal costs in some cases.

Q: What steps should I take before considering a lawsuit?

A: First gather evidence and document damages thoroughly. Send a formal demand letter to the dealer. Negotiate reasonably for a settlement. If they deny liability or the offer is inadequate, a lawsuit may be appropriate.

Q: What should I look for when choosing a lawyer?

A: Find an attorney experienced with auto dealer negligence cases. Carefully vet their track record, reputation, trial experience, and commitment to aggressively advocating your interests.


In summary, lawsuits against auto dealerships for negligent conduct should only be pursued after careful consideration, given the time and costs involved. First document evidence and damages thoroughly, send a demand letter, and make reasonable efforts to negotiate an equitable settlement.

If the dealership denies responsibility or makes an unsatisfactory offer, consult with attorneys who specialize in negligence cases against dealers. Have them assess the merits of your potential claim. To win a negligence lawsuit, you must conclusively establish the dealer’s duty, breach, causation of damages, and foreseeability of harm.

An competent lawyer can help construct a compelling argument and guide you through the litigation process. Lawsuits should not be taken lightly or initiated frivolously. But when dealership negligence leads to significant injury or economic loss, legal action can be justified for accountability.

Do your diligence in choosing legal counsel wisely. While suing a dealership is inherently a headache, it remains an option if negligence is clear and substantial harm has occurred. In some cases, pursuing litigation is the most effective method for recovering justified compensation.

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