Sometimes, you can't make lemonade out of a lemon. You won't get much juice if your dealer sells you a lemon car. Instead, you'll get a lot of headaches and repair bills. Fortunately, all states have lemon laws. They may not sweeten the deal, but they will give you some satisfaction after buying a decidedly sour vehicle. Read on to learn how to make a lemon law claim and when you'll need a lawyer for your case.
Definition of Lemon Law
A lemon is a vehicle that is defective and cannot be repaired after a reasonable number of attempts. Each state has its own lemon laws and definitions of a defect. State lemon laws may cover motorcycles and RVs and may include used cars purchased at a dealership. All lemon laws require replacement or repurchase of the defective vehicle if repairs fail.
For example, California's lemon law covers problems that:
- Are included in the manufacturer's new-car warranty
- Substantially affect the use, safety, or value of the car
- Are not due to unreasonable or unauthorized use of the vehicle
That means the California law will not cover used vehicles. In addition, to make a claim under the law, the problem must:
- Have occurred within 18 months of purchase or delivery, or 18,000 miles, whichever is first
- Have been brought to the attention of the manufacturer, if required by the warranty
- Need four or more repairs (two or more for a serious problem) or cause the car to be out of service for more than 30 days
In some states, you or your attorney must write a demand letter notifying the auto manufacturer or dealership that you are making a lemon law claim. Others may require a recall notice on a new car or a tally of repair attempts.
The Magnuson-Moss Warranty Act is a federal law that covers all items that come with a full warranty. This act requires manufacturers to repair such products at no cost to the purchaser. The Magnuson-Moss Act prevents manufacturers from denying warranty claims because a motor vehicle contains aftermarket or recycled parts. It also prevents disclaimer of implied warranties during new vehicle sales.
Under lemon law rules, buyers must receive a refund or replacement if there is no way to fix the vehicle. A replacement vehicle must be identical to the original vehicle or one of the same value. In some states, the dealership must buy back the original vehicle.
Do You Need a Lemon Law Lawyer?
In most states, the dealership reviews all lemon law claims. You can imagine they are not anxious to find themselves at fault for selling you a defective car. In addition, lemon laws are state-specific and subject to change. An auto dealer may carry out a case review with good intentions but not understand the legal jargon in the laws. Your best bet is to get legal advice about your case before discussing a possible replacement with the dealer or manufacturer.
In states with large motor vehicle populations, like California, Texas, and Florida, lemon law firms specialize in breach of warranty claims. Many of these firms also handle fraud and deceptive sales. The Texas Deceptive Trade Practices Act (DTPA) allows consumers to sue for triple damages if they purchased a product due to withheld information. This is when you need an experienced lemon law attorney.
Most lemon laws use a provision from the Magnuson-Moss Warranty Act that makes hiring an attorney easier for you. Known as fee-shifting, it moves the cost of attorney's fees from the plaintiff to the manufacturer. As with contingency fees in a personal injury case, if you win, the attorney will bill your legal fees to the manufacturer.
If you feel like you've been stuck with a lemon vehicle, your lemon law case needs a local lemon law attorney. There is likely a lemon law office near you that can give you the legal help you need.