How to Sue a Car Dealership Service Department – Step-by-Step Guide


When you purchase a car from a dealership, you expect it to come with quality service and maintenance. However, this is not always the case. There are times when the dealership’s service department fails to meet your expectations, resulting in unsatisfactory repairs, unrepaired issues, or even damage to your car.

If you find yourself in this situation, you may wonder what your options are. The good news is that you can sue a car dealership’s service department for any breach of contract, negligence, or fraudulent activity. However, this process can be complex and challenging, which is why it’s essential to understand your legal rights and obligations before heading to court.

In this blog, we will explore the process of suing a car dealership’s service department. We will discuss the legal options available to you and provide you with some tips and strategies to help you litigate your claim. We will also discuss some common issues that arise with car dealership service departments and how to handle them.

If you are considering filing a lawsuit against a car dealership’s service department, this blog will provide you with the necessary information to make an informed decision. With the right legal strategy, you can hold the dealership accountable for their negligent or fraudulent actions and obtain the compensation you deserve. Let’s get started!

Step 1: Gather Evidence

When attempting to sue a car dealership service department, the most important thing you can do is gather evidence for your case. This will provide you with the necessary ammunition to prove that the dealership acted inappropriately or violated your rights as a consumer. There are a few specific steps you should take in order to document the issue and obtain any relevant paperwork.

Documenting the Issue

The first thing you should do is carefully document the issue at hand. This means taking notes on what happened, when it happened, and who was involved. If possible, try to collect any physical evidence that supports your claim, such as photos or videos of the problem you experienced. If other people witnessed the issue, try to get their contact information so you can call on them as witnesses if necessary. Recording all of this information will allow you to build a strong case and make a compelling argument in court.

Collecting Any Relevant Paperwork

In addition to documenting the issue itself, it’s also crucial to gather any relevant paperwork that might help your case. This includes things like receipts for repairs or maintenance, work orders, and service records. If you’ve been communicating with the dealership via email or text message, be sure to save and print out those conversations as well. All of this paperwork can be incredibly useful in proving that you’ve been wronged by the dealership. You may also want to consider obtaining a written opinion from an independent mechanic or other expert in the field, as this can provide valuable perspective and establish your case even more strongly.

Step 2: Research and Understand Your State’s Lemon Law

Before suing a car dealership service department, it is important to research and understand your state’s lemon law. Lemon laws are designed to protect customers who have purchased or leased a defective vehicle that cannot be repaired satisfactorily. Each state has its own version of the lemon law, and the requirements and limitations can vary. Understanding the details of your state’s lemon law is crucial before pursuing legal action.

Determining if Your Car Qualifies

To determine if your car qualifies as a lemon under your state’s lemon law, there are typically several criteria that must be met. These may include the number of times the vehicle has been brought in for repairs, the duration of time it has been in the shop, and the severity of the defect. Some states have a minimum number of repair attempts or days in the shop before a vehicle can be considered a lemon. It is important to gather all necessary documentation, such as repair invoices or work orders, to support your case.

It is worth noting that there are certain circumstances that may disqualify your vehicle from being considered a lemon. These may include damage caused by misuse or neglect, accidents, or modifications made by the owner. Understanding these limitations is important before pursuing legal action.

Knowing Your Rights Under the Law

Once you have determined that your vehicle qualifies as a lemon under your state’s lemon law, it is important to understand your rights. Most states require the dealership to either replace the vehicle or refund the purchase price if the vehicle cannot be repaired after a reasonable number of attempts. Some states may also require the manufacturer to pay for any legal fees or other expenses incurred by the customer. It is important to understand the specifics of your state’s lemon law to ensure you are pursuing legal action properly.

It is also important to note that some states have a statute of limitations for bringing legal action under the lemon law. This means that there is a specific period of time after the initial purchase or lease agreement during which a customer can pursue legal action. Understanding this timeframe is important to ensure you do not miss any deadlines and forfeit your rights under the law.

Step 3: Attempt to Resolve the Issue with the Dealership

Before proceeding with legal action, it is important to attempt to resolve the issue with the dealership. This can be done through communicating with the service department or filing a complaint with the dealership.

Communicating With the Service Department

If you have a problem with the service provided by a dealership, the first step to take is to communicate with the service department. It is important to calmly explain the issue you are having and provide any relevant documentation that may support your claim. Be polite and respectful, as this can often help in resolving the issue in a more timely and efficient manner. If the service department is not able to resolve your issue to your satisfaction, you may need to escalate the matter to the dealership manager.

When communicating with the service department, it is important to keep a detailed record of all communication. This may include notes from phone conversations, emails, and any other written communication. This can be helpful if you need to provide evidence of the attempts you made to resolve the issue with the dealership.

Filing a Complaint With the Dealership

If your attempts to resolve the issue directly with the service department are unsuccessful, you may need to file a complaint with the dealership. This can often be done through the dealership’s website, by email or phone. When filing a complaint, it is important to be clear and concise about the issue you are having and what you would like the dealership to do to resolve the issue.

Again, it is important to keep a record of all communication related to the complaint. This may include any response you receive from the dealership, as well as any additional steps you take to resolve the issue.

Remember to be patient throughout the process of attempting to resolve the issue with the dealership. It may take some time to reach a resolution, but it is important to remain calm and persistent. If you are unable to reach a satisfactory resolution with the dealership, you may need to consider pursuing legal action.

Step 4: Contacting a Consumer Advocate or Attorney

If you have taken all reasonable steps to try and resolve the issue with the car dealership service department but have not received a satisfactory response, it may be time to consider taking legal action. In this step, we will discuss how to find a consumer advocate or a lawyer to help you with your case.

Finding a Consumer Advocate or Lawyer

A consumer advocate is a professional who represents consumers who have been victims of unfair or illegal business practices, such as false advertising or defective products. Consumer advocates are often employed by nonprofit organizations, such as the National Consumer Law Center or the Consumer Federation of America. They can provide you with information on your legal rights and help you prepare your case.

If you decide to hire a lawyer, it is important to choose someone who has experience dealing with car dealership service department issues. You can start by looking for lawyers in your area who specialize in consumer law or car dealership fraud. You can also ask friends or family members if they have any recommendations. Once you have a list of potential candidates, it is a good idea to check their credentials, such as their education and experience. You can also check online reviews and ratings to get an idea of their reputation.

Discussing Your Options With the Advocate/Lawyer

Once you have found a consumer advocate or lawyer, you should schedule a consultation to discuss your case and your legal options. During the consultation, you should be prepared to provide the advocate or lawyer with all relevant information regarding your situation, such as the make and model of your car, the specific issues you have experienced with the service department, and any correspondence you have had with the dealership.

The advocate or lawyer will be able to advise you on the merits of your case and the best course of action to take. They may recommend filing a complaint with a government agency, such as the Federal Trade Commission or the Better Business Bureau, or they may suggest taking legal action. If you decide to pursue legal action, the advocate or lawyer will guide you through the process, which may include filing a lawsuit, negotiating a settlement, or going to trial. Remember, it is important to follow the advocate or lawyer’s advice and to keep all relevant documentation, such as repair invoices and communication with the dealership, as evidence.

Step 5: Preparing for Court

Gathering More Evidence

When it comes to taking legal action against a dealership service department, evidence is crucial. The more evidence you have to support your case, the stronger your chances of winning in court. Here are some additional steps you can take to gather more evidence:

  • Review any receipts or invoices you received from the dealership service department.
  • Take photos of any damage caused by the dealership service department or any repairs that were not done properly.
  • Get written statements from any witnesses who observed the dealership service department’s actions or the condition of your vehicle.
  • Retrieve any communications you had with the dealership service department, including emails or text messages.

By gathering more evidence, you can paint a clearer picture of the problems you experienced with the dealership service department and strengthen your case in court.

Knowing What to Expect in Court

If you decide to take legal action against a dealership service department, it’s important to have realistic expectations of what may happen in court. Here are a few things to keep in mind:

  • It’s possible that the dealership service department may offer a settlement before the court date. Consider the offer carefully and weigh the benefits against the potential outcome in court.
  • If you do go to court, be prepared to present your evidence, including any documentation or witness statements you gathered.
  • The judge will listen to both sides and make a ruling based on the evidence presented and the law.
  • Depending on the outcome, you may be awarded money for damages or have your case dismissed.

Remember that every case is different and there are no guarantees. However, by preparing thoroughly and knowing what to expect, you can increase your chances of a successful outcome.


What are the reasons to sue a car dealership service department?

There could be various reasons to sue a car dealership service department, including the following:

  • The service department performed unnecessary repairs or services on your vehicle, charging you for them.
  • The service department failed to diagnose or repair a problem with your vehicle despite their best efforts.
  • The service department overcharged you for repairs or services, or charged you for services that were never performed.
  • The service department sold you a faulty or defective vehicle, either knowingly or unknowingly.
  • The service department engaged in fraudulent or deceptive practices, such as lying to you about the condition of your vehicle or hiding information from you.

If you believe that a car dealership service department has engaged in any of these practices and you have suffered damages as a result, you may be able to sue them for compensation.

What evidence do I need to have to sue a car dealership service department?

To have a strong case against a car dealership service department, you will need to gather as much evidence as possible. This may include:

  • Copies of all invoices and receipts related to the repairs or services performed on your vehicle.
  • Documentation of any conversations or interactions you had with the service department staff, including the names of the individuals you spoke with and the dates and times of the interactions.
  • Photographs or videos of your vehicle and any damage or issues you are experiencing.
  • Expert opinions from independent mechanics or technicians regarding the quality of the repairs or services performed by the dealership service department.
  • Any other relevant documentation or information that may support your case, such as warranties, service agreements, or written communications with the dealership.

It is also important to keep careful records of any expenses you have incurred as a result of the dealership’s actions, such as the cost of repairs from a different mechanic or the cost of rental vehicles while your car was in the shop. By gathering all of this evidence and documentation, you will be in a stronger position to make your case in court.

What is the process of suing a car dealership service department?

The process of suing a car dealership service department can be complex, and it is recommended that you work with an experienced attorney who specializes in consumer protection and auto law. However, the general steps involved in the process may include:

  1. Gathering evidence and documentation to support your case.
  2. Filing a complaint with the dealership’s corporate office or with the state attorney general’s office (depending on the nature of the dispute).
  3. Initiating a small claims court action or filing a lawsuit against the dealership and/or its employees.
  4. Participating in discovery, which is the process of exchanging information and evidence with the other side in the case.
  5. Negotiating a settlement or going to trial, depending on the outcome of the case.
  6. Collecting any damages awarded by the court or settlement agreement.

Each step in the process can be complex and require specific legal knowledge and expertise, which is why it is important to work with a skilled attorney throughout the entire process.

How long does it take to sue a car dealership service department?

The length of time it takes to sue a car dealership service department can vary widely depending on the complexity of the case, the specific legal issues involved, and the court or jurisdiction in which you are filing the lawsuit. In some cases, a small claims court action can be resolved in a matter of weeks or months, while a more complex lawsuit may take a year or more to reach a resolution. Additionally, the process can be prolonged if the other side files a counterclaim or if there are any appeals or other forms of legal challenges. Your attorney can help you understand the specific timeline and potential obstacles to your case.

What damages can I recover if I sue a car dealership service department?

The damages you can recover if you sue a car dealership service department will depend on the specific nature of your case and the outcome of the lawsuit or settlement negotiations. Some of the damages that may be recoverable include:

  • The cost of repairs or services that were incorrectly performed or charged for.
  • The cost of repairs or services that were never performed, or expenses associated with correcting those issues.
  • The difference in value between a faulty vehicle and a properly functioning vehicle of the same make and model.
  • The cost of any additional expenses you incurred as a result of the dealership’s actions, such as the cost of rental vehicles or alternate modes of transportation.

Your attorney can help you understand the specific damages that may be recoverable in your case and work to ensure that you receive fair compensation for your losses.