When you purchase a new or used car under warranty, and the vehicle ends up having a persistent mechanical or safety problem, it can be highly frustrating. The good news is that federal and state “lemon laws” exist to ensure that manufactures of faulty automobiles are held liable. As a consumer, you can initiate a lemon law case against an automaker without paying legal fees, as the manufacturer would pay your lemon car attorney’s fees when it is found liable.
How do you know if your car is a lemon? And if it is, what steps should you take to ensure that you receive proper compensation (either a replacement vehicle or a buyback of the lemon vehicle)? Below is what you need to know to pursue your claim and what to expect during the process.
Is My Car A Lemon?
Both federal and state law define a lemon as a vehicle which has a serious mechanical or safety problem that is covered under a warranty, but has not been repaired after a “reasonable number of attempts,” or has been in the shop for a significant number of days in a short period of time, without the problem being resolved.
The phrase “reasonable number of attempts” can be open to legal interpretation. Consequently, the assistance of an experienced lemon car attorney can be indispensable for determining whether your car qualifies for lemon status. In general, if you have tried to have the automobile repaired three to four times and it still doesn’t run properly, there is a good chance you have a lemon vehicle on your hands.
Supporting Your Claim
Ensuring the viability of your lemon claim begins with documentation. When you take your vehicle to the dealership or one of the manufacturer’s authorized repair facilities for repairs, be sure to document the repair history.
Most dealerships will provide you with accurate service records, but some dealerships are known to misrecord repair records, so that it looks as if your car is experiencing a new or different problem. Always check your repair documents for accuracy, and keep copies of the records. While the dealership is required to keep copies, and alemon car attorney can help you procure them, the process can be time-consuming and annoying.
Contact The Manufacturer
Whether you live in a state that requires mediation or arbitration with the manufacturer before you pursue a lawsuit, or your state allows you to file suit immediately after it is determined that you have a lemon, you’ll need to notify the automaker of your car’s lemon status. Alemon car attorney can help you draft a certified letter that asks the manufacturer to either buy backyour vehicle or offer a “substantially identical” replacement vehicle.
If you must go through arbitration, the end result of the process does not have to be the end of your case. Arbitration decisions, which tend to favor automakers, are not binding on you, the consumer, but they are binding on the manufacturer. This means that if you get a favorable decision you are happy with, it is the end of the process. But often, people get less than they deserve. When this happens, a lemon law attorney can help you pursue proper compensation.
The Automaker Denied My Claim. Now What?
Regardless of whether you must pursue arbitration, after you notify the manufacturer about your defective vehicle, they are required to respond to you. When the response or arbitration decision is not in your favor, consider contacting a lawyer to file a lawsuit. Your lemon car attorney can help you decide whether to file under federal or state law. Once you hire a lawyer, he or she will handle all correspondence with the automaker and complete necessary paperwork for the court.
When choosing a lawyer, look for someone who has a strong background in lemon law and consumer advocacy, and a record of winning lemon cases. As your legal fees and trial costs will be paid by the manufacturer if you win your case, focus on hiring a highly experienced lemon car attorneyinstead of choosing an attorney with the lowest fees. This can dramatically increase the likelihood of a favorable outcome for your case.
Do I Have To Go To Court?
The short answer is no. A significant percentage of lemon law cases end in settlement. Your lawyer will analyze your case and develop the best strategy based on what you want and the details of your situation. After the automaker is informed about the merits of your claim, the company may decide to settle right away, as it is often less expensive and better for publicity for automakers to settle. If this doesn’t happen, your lemon car attorney will prepare for trial.
I Won! When Do I Get Paid?
Nobody likes losing, and automakers are no different. Whether you settled before going to court, started litigation and then settled, or went through a trial and won, you can reasonably expect to receive compensation sometime between three months and a year after your case concludes. When the auto manufacturer compensates you, it will also pay yourlemon car attorney’s fees.
If you were to lose the case, you would be responsible for your lawyer’s fees. However, most lemon law cases are successful, as attorneys naturally accept cases that they feel they can win.
When Life Gives You Lemons…
If your vehicle is a lemon, the law gives you recourse. Manufacturers are responsible for ensuring the proper operation and safety of the products they sell, including automobiles. Don’t settle for less than what you deserve. Instead, use the services of a lemon lawyer to pursue acceptable compensation in the form of a replacement vehicle or lemon vehicle buyback.
Written by Katie McDaniel