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Lemon Laws/Grace Periods and Car Accidents

by Brad
(Austin, Texas)

I have a bit of a weird situation/question. A friend of mine who lives in another state (Idaho) purchased a used vehicle last week.

She initially tried to get her mechanic to check out the car prior to her purchasing it, but he wasn't able to get to it immediately. Since she needed a vehicle quickly she went ahead and purchased the car without the mechanic's approval.

The mechanic was able to examine it a couple days later and he discovered that the rear wheel bearings needed to be replaced. She notified the dealership and they told her they would do the work and only charger her half (around $250) for the repairs.

The dealership told her there was no immediate need to replace the bearings and she decided to postpone the repairs for a week or so until after Christmas. Then, a couple nights later, she's sitting at a stop light a few cars back.

The light turns green, traffic begins moving forward, but then a pedestrian runs across the street against the light and everyone has to slam on their brakes.

Unfortunately, my friend was unable to stop in time and she struck the truck (with trailer hitch) in front of her. His vehicle sustained no damage but her front end got crumpled up pretty bad. The initial estimate for the repair is around $3K (I don't know the original value of the vehicle or even the make and model).

I don't know if this is a federal law or a state law, but under normal circumstances, if you purchase a vehicle, don't you legally have the right to return the vehicle to the dealership for any reason at all within 30 days? But what happens if you have an accident during that time period? Is that legal right nullified?

Yes, the car is significantly damaged, but my concern is that the vehicle was sold to her in poor condition in the first place, which, as they had their mechanics, the dealership either knew or should've known. I know this is a kind of a weird situation, but in your experience, what do you think her best recourse is?

She does have insurance, but she's concerned that her rates will jack up and the amount covered for a rental while this car is being repaired is going to add a lot of hardship to her situation (she's on a very limited budget).

Thanks in advance for any perspective you can bring to the situation.


Hello Brad,

Well, you need a lawyer for this. She is NOT in a strong position. Lemon Laws apply to brand new vehicles and NOT used vehicles, thus, there is no legal right there (unless the car we are talking about is brand new).

It is very hard to know if she was a breach of contract claim against the dealer without looking at the documents she signed; however, it’s likely that the dealer made her sign an AS IS clause. If this is the case, she took the car AS IS, with problems and everything. In other words, the law allows dealers to sell cars on that condition (even if that condition is not optimal).

If a buyer wants to purchase a car without a mechanic’s review, the buyer assumes that risk, unless the buyer expressly makes the purchase contingent upon the mechanics approval. If your friend failed to make that express provision (in writing), she will likely not have much of an argument there.

It’s a good thing she has insurance because she will need it. She will have to file a claim and have them investigate the entire thing. Her rates will be affected for sure.

There is really little recourse here. She caused the accident (she rear ended a car) and this is irrelevant of who and how the car was purchased.

Have her contact a lawyer before she makes any decisions on her claim.

Good Luck

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Dec 20, 2009
Thanks for the Quick Response
by: Brad

Thanks for the quick response, Hector. I appreciate it. I'll send my friend the URL of this page.

Take care,


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