Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Buying a Used Car - STEP 10

Step 10 - Avoid Jury Waivers and Arbitration Clauses

Many car dealers put put arbitration clauses, jury waivers, and class action waivers in their form sales contract or in a separate form document that is included in your sales paperwork. Don't sign away your legal rights!

What is an arbitration clause and why shouldn't you sign one?  By signing an arbitration clause, you are agreeing with the car dealer that if you have problems with your vehicle, you will not file a lawsuit in Court, but you will instead file your claims with a private arbitration company.  This means that instead of having your case decided by a jury in a courtroom, your case will be decided in a conference room by an arbitrator paid for by the business.  In fact, many arbitration clauses actually require you to pay the arbitration fees and sometimes the attorney fees of the dealership if you lose.  Worst yet, the arbitrator is not required to apply the rules of evidence, or Ohio law, and the arbitrator's decision will likely be enforced in most cases whether or not the arbitrator actually followed the law.  In the end, the arbitration process can actually take longer and cost you more money than if you had simply filed your claims in Court.  So, even if you win the arbitration and eventually get it enforced in Court, you are likely to have a long, hard fight to get from point A to point B.  This means more time with a defective vehicle. 

What is a jury waiver and why shouldn't you sign one?  By signing a jury waiver, you are agreeing with the car dealer that if you have problems with your vehicle, you can file a  lawsuit but that a judge and no a jury will decide your case.  While juries can be unpredictable, they are often your best bet in auto fraud cases involving concealed defects and / or frame damage, because they can relate to you and the situation that you were placed in by the car dealer.
 
What is a class action waiver and why shouldn't you sign one?  By signing a class action waiver, you are agreeing with the car dealer that if you have problems with your vehicle, you cannot file your case in Court or in an arbitration proceeding as a class action.  Often, car dealers violate the law over and over in the same way.  This means that, in some cases, if you have a problem with the dealer or the car you purchase, then you may be able to file a case as a representative of a class in a class action.  But, signing the class action waiver means you give up those rights.        
In the end, the best way to avoid an arbitration clause, jury waiver, or class action waiver is not to sign one.  Most car dealers will agree to cross these clauses out of the sales agreement or not include them in the sales documents if you press them.  They would rather sell you a car without these clauses that lose out on the sale.  
On the other hand, if you are about to purchase a used vehicle, then beware!  Pay attention to all of the documents that you sign, because you could be signing away your legal rights without even knowing it.  

Beth Wells
Helping Consumers Get Rid of Lemons, 9 Years Running

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