Used car dealers & duty of care

Owners wanting to sell their vehicle privately need obtain only a roadworthy certificate from their respective traffic authority before they sell. Whilst this has been the approved system for some time it has its failings and whether intentionally or not, structurally compromised unsafe collision repaired vehicles are being sold to unsuspecting purchasers.

It is possible that a vendor may not be aware that the vehicle they have owned for many years has concealed previous collision repairs and compromised engineering tolerance points. If that vehicle is later involved in a collision where the new purchaser and or others sustained injury or death, and it can be determined the cause of the collision and injuries were from defective or compromised components, the previous owner could be deemed to be partly responsible. (The law says ‘ignorance is no excuse’)

The same notion applies to dealers selling used vehicles. It is no longer prudent for used car dealers to hide behind roadside inspection certificates issued by the various motoring bodies (RACV, NRMA or similar) to absolve their negligence. In a litigiously developing society, motor vehicle dealers are now more than ever required to uphold their duty of care and also disclose any likely problems when selling vehicles to the public. Any deviation (knowingly or not) is not an excuse and contributing negligence implications might apply.

Vehicles offered for sale or purchased through dealer yards usually pass the regular state government transport roadworthy inspections (tyres, brakes lights etc), however these inspections are conducted by parties with little more than a ‘mechanics ticket’ using no other equipment than possibly a hoist. However inspections offered by motoring body groups or government traffic authorities for that matter do not provide a ‘crashworthy’ or ‘structural tolerance’ inspection which is the fundamental component of roadworthiness.

It has been acknowledged by transport authorities and legislators that the roadside type of inspections are scant and may soon no longer be acceptable. Consequently legislative amendments are afoot to introduce new inspection and reporting procedures.

IVIC intends to raise the awareness of used motor vehicle dealers to help protect them better by promoting a new standard of ‘safety and responsibility’ within the industry. To that end, vehicle dealers should commence insisting vendors provide a current IVIC ‘Structural Tolerance Report’ on the vehicles they buy and sell.

There are volumes of case law in our courts today with already determined precedent cases referring to contributing negligence issues, used car dealers need more than ever to sever this link. Having the seller furnish an IVIC ‘Structural Tolerance Report’ can protect the dealer from future litigious action.