Lemon Laws

Lemon laws have nothing to do with citrus but can result in a bitter taste in your mouth. Lemon laws protect consumers like you and give you the right to seek damages when you buy a vehicle that does not meet specific standards.

This article provides an overview of lemon laws and the rights and protections they afford consumers. If you have a car you suspect might be a lemon, this article will give you the knowledge you need to make informed decisions about what you should do about it. Contact a lemon law lawyer who understands local consumer protection laws for legal advice about your case.

What Is a Lemon?

A car or truck with a problem that substantially reduces its value, safety, or usability is generally considered a lemon. Each state has its own lemon laws. Generally, if a mechanic cannot fix the same defect or problem after an excessive amount of attempts within a certain time period, or within a certain number of miles, the car may qualify as a lemon. If you bought a lemon vehicle, you may have a lemon law claim.

What Are Lemon Laws?

The federal Magnuson-Moss Warranty Act and state lemon laws protect consumers when they purchase defective vehicles. While these laws most often apply to new vehicles, some also cover used cars if the dealers give the purchasers written warranties.

A reasonable number of attempts to fix a motor vehicle is not always clearly defined. There is also a wide range of potential vehicle problems that can affect a car’s safety, driveability, reliability, and value. And every automaker is different. The repair of a Volkswagen will differ from that of a Chrysler or a Mercedes-Benz.

Making a Claim

Before filing a lawsuit under state or federal lemon law, you must first notify the vehicle’s seller or manufacturer so that they can try to repair the vehicle. You should make this notification in writing so there is a record of it. You can choose to take legal action after the manufacturer or seller’s unsuccessful repair attempts.

Lemon laws are generally designed to favor alternatives to formal lawsuits. State and federal laws may include options for arbitration or mediation between consumers and auto manufacturers. Mediation helps the two parties reach a mutual agreement. Arbitration involves a decision made by a neutral third party that is usually binding.

Making the Case for a Lemon Law Violation

To reach a favorable settlement or a verdict in a lemon law case, you should collect certain documents for evidence, including the following:

  • A copy of the claim notice that you sent to the seller or manufacturer
  • Copies of the service and repair records relating to the defect
  • A copy of the vehicle’s warranty
  • Brochures and advertisements about the vehicle

Successfully proving that your car is a lemon will typically involve showing that the defect significantly reduced the car’s usability and value. You also have to show you gave the seller enough chances to try to fix the problem. In some states, you have to go through arbitration under procedures established by the manufacturer. Many states also have time limits for how long manufacturers have to respond to claims.

Arbitration may involve going through your state’s consumer protection agency. Although this process is free of charge, the application may include numerous questions. You may want professional assistance. You can provide your lawyer’s information as a point of contact.

Potential Compensation

A buyer who agrees through arbitration or wins a lemon lawsuit will usually be entitled to a full refund of the purchase price or a replacement vehicle of similar value to a new car. You may also be able to recover attorney’s fees under the Magnuson-Moss Warranty Act and about half of the state lemon laws. That means if you are successful, the manufacturer or seller will have to pay your legal bills.

How a Lawyer May Help

This article serves as a starting point for those facing persistent vehicle issues. Talking with an experienced lemon law lawyer is the next step. A lemon law attorney will help determine whether your state’s lemon law statute covers your vehicle. The lawyer can contact the seller or manufacturer and negotiate to resolve the issue.

Car dealerships and manufacturers frequently respond to a letter from a lawyer more quickly than letters from regular consumers. If your lawyer is unable to reach a settlement with the dealer or manufacturer, they can file a civil lawsuit on your behalf. 

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