In September 2015, the EPA informed Volkswagen that it was in violation of the Clean Air Act since the automaker intentionally and deceptively programmed certain diesel engines to selectively circumvent emissions controls. During testing, engines meet or exceed standards; however, on the road they spew out up to 40 times the nitrogen oxide (NOx) output.
What does this mean for someone who owns a VW?
It means you’ve got a car that performs nicely, but is wildly out of step with acceptable standards and has taken a massive hit in value.
VW is in the process of recalling the affected cars. A fun fact is that many owners of VW diesels don’t want to return the vehicle for correction. The owner bought the vehicle for higher performance, value and better fuel mileage. In other words, why would they agree to a recall service that will lower performance and gas mileage?
Is VW going just going to graciously offer VW owners cash? This week the company announced that it would offer $1,000 gift cards to affected owners. But half of that amount has to be spent at a VW dealer, which is like getting credit at a restaurant that just gave you food poisoning. There are a couple of issues with this. First, the VW owners I’ve talked to are insulted by this and see it as a slap in the face. Second, we need to talk about how these gift cards may affect your standing in the one good shot you have at recouping some value: a class action lawsuit.
What is a class action lawsuit?
In a class action, lead plaintiffs file a suit on behalf of a class of “imaginary” people out there who have suffered similar injuries, among other factors—those imaginary people, together with the actual plaintiffs, put the “class” in “class action.”
The judge then decides whether to “certify” the class. This turns the imaginary people out there into real people to be included in the class. In this case, the class should be pretty easy to certify since the same software apparently caused the issue across the board, everyone affected is having an identical experience and it can also be verified via their VIN number.
Should I join in a class action suit?
If you have an affected car, you’re probably hearing from a lot of attorneys inviting you to join their suit against VW. Most likely, these are invitations to be an initial plaintiff in the case, or maybe they’re looking for more plaintiffs or witnesses. As the suits get going, you can be involved in multiple suits prior to the class certification. The general rule is you only get to prosecute your rights once.
Rewards don’t come quickly. Large-scale class action litigation can take years. Take that into account when you’re deciding to hold onto your VW or sell it.
If I had an affected VW, I’d certainly want to be a part of a class action suit. Really, it’s the only affordable action against Volkswagen available to private citizens. True, there may be fines or judgment down the road on the federal or state level that could be passed through to you—but don’t count on that.
Be smart, do some research and submit your information to a qualified VW class action attorney who can help you get the compensation you deserve.