Education

How To Settle Your Lemon Law Claim

posted by Chris Valentine

Lemon laws are in effect to protect consumers from manufacturers who make products with poor quality. Usually lemon laws are most commonly found in cars, but can be common for other types of products, such as ATVs, motorcycles, boats, motor homes, trucks, trains, and airplanes. Basically lemon laws are for vehicles that have a large number of defects which affect their safety, value, or utility. The federal lemon law is called the Magnuson-Moss Warranty Act which was enacted in 1975. However, different states have their own type and variations of lemon laws. In general, federal lemon laws cover mechanical defects but a lot of states also cover lawyer fees and car rental fees while the car was at the mechanic. Most of the time lemon laws exceed the protections of car warranties, which require the manufacturer or dealership to promptly correct any defects or be exposed to liabilities from the owner.

Time Factor

Time is an important factor in enforcing liability which can vary depending on the state the vehicle was purchased. The time in which lemon laws are in effect are relatively short compared to the time in which a vehicle can stay in use. This of course makes sense because it is expected that over time any consumer good will naturally deteriorate, thus time periods are usually up to 90 days or up to the time that warranty expires. In order to win a lemon law case, the vehicle purchased must still be under warranty. The vehicle should experience defects that affect its safety, value or usability. Immediately once the defect is noticed the owner needs to properly document and accurately describe it to the manufacturer or dealership’s mechanic. The mechanic needs to be allowed time to attempt at repairing the problem. If this problem still persists and the vehicle has been taken back to the mechanic to fix and the issue is still not fixed then the owner has recourse to their lemon law case. At this point it is advisable to hire an attorney from the specific state of purchase to guide you through this process. What happens when you win a lemon law case is that you either get a replacement vehicle or a refund plus associated fees from the manufacturer. Additionally, lemon cars in used vehicles can be avoided by taking the car to a competent mechanic and ensuring they do a full inspection before purchase. The owner should do their research before buying a car so that they do not buy a car that is known for having a lot of problems.

As-Is Laws

It is also important to know that vehicles sold ‘as is’ counts as an agreement between the buyer and seller in which a buyer assumes all risks and accepts responsibility of defects that may occur towards the vehicle. Usually, ‘as is’ transactions occur on a private sale, meaning one single buyer and a single owner agree to exchange a vehicle for money or trade. However, lemon laws can be applied to used vehicles still under warranty or sold under a ‘used vehicle certification’. Therefore, most vehicles bought from a dealership are subject to lemon laws.

Refund or Replacement As Compensation

After winning your lemon law case the choices include to get a brand new replacement car or receive a full refund. However, in both of these cases depending on the milage drive before the defect occurred, the manufacturer could be entitled to an offset dollar amount for that period of use. Therefore, choosing whether to get a replacement or repurchase might be a tough decision. However, being informed is always the right remedy for making the appropriate choice based on your circumstances. In cases where an owner has totally lost their confidence in a car brand after their traumatic experience, then the best option might be to get a refund. A refund means you should receive the full contract price of the car, taxes, license, title, finance charges, interest rates, and dealer fees back. On the other hand, an owner can opt in for a replacement vehicle. However, they have to keep in mind that the law does not necessarily state that the vehicle has to be the same make and model. The last states that the vehicle is new and also within a similar price as the original vehicle purchased. When this exchange is made, an owner must remember that they should not be paying anything out of pocket unless the replacement vehicle is termed to be an upgrade. The ‘offset for use’ rule will be calculated for both remedies. For a replacement vehicle, you might be asked to pay a premium and for a refund, the amount might be lowered from the amount of money you receive.

Expense Reimbursements

If a case is won, the owner should not worry about lawyer bills because the manufacturer or dealership is required to pay them on top of the remedy they receive. Depending on the jurisdiction, the manufacturer must immediately repurchase or replace the car but also pay for out of pocket repairs or potentially pay a civil penalty damage, which can be up to two times the price of the car. In addition, owner’s could be eligible to receive reimbursements for things like rental cars, vehicle towing, and lodging if necessary. Most of the times, manufacturers or dealerships are given only 30 days to either repair, replace, or refund the vehicle experiencing defects. If they do not abide by this time limit they may face harsh penalties. Hence, it is important for owners to know and understand that many manufacturers will drag the process as long as possible in hopes of scaring the owner to drop the case.

Hiring a proper attorney in your state who is familiar with lemon laws will make a huge difference in getting an owner through a complex situation and stressful time. However, most importantly owner’s need to know their basic lemon law rights. These are to know the dates and deadlines of lemon laws, properly document defects, and allow manufacturers to rectify these defects more than once. If the problem persists then they will have an easy case at winning a lemon law case.

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