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Your Rights: Vehicle Defects and Repairs

Vehicle owners hope their cars will last for years, but sometimes they don't. The last thing we expect is the manufacturer to recall our car, truck, motorhome, or motorcycle. Sometimes, motor vehicles have defects that put the safety of the vehicle into question.

When this happens, the auto manufacturer or dealership may issue a recall. You can take your vehicle to the service center for repairs. Other times, you may need to hire a product liability attorney to pursue a lemon law claim. It all depends on the nature and severity of the defect.

Read on for advice on what to do if your car seems to spend more time in the shop than on the road.

Check for Recalls

Sadly, most of us don't realize our new car has a defect until we're involved in an accident. Your brakes may fail in bumper-to-bumper traffic. Or your engine may overheat while on a long-distance trip for work.

Regardless of how you discover the defect, there are things you can do to protect your rights. For example, you can go online and research the vehicle's safety. You can also search for recent auto recalls to determine if your car has a known defect.

When drivers or vehicle manufacturers discover a defect, the manufacturer or the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) may issue a recall.

Some state laws require dealerships to notify owners of these recalls. Many car manufacturers notify consumers regardless of the state of registration. The problem is that many car owners never receive notice of pending recalls. It's a good idea to check the NHTSA list of pending recalls periodically.

If the manufacturer, dealership, or NHTSA recalls your vehicle, they must repair your car free of charge. If repair attempts don't fix the problem, you can demand a full refund of the purchase price.

If a dealership or a mechanic refuses to perform a remedy, complain to the manufacturer or NHTSA. Correcting the defect may be necessary for the safe operation of your vehicle or to prevent personal injury.

Does It Matter if You Own a Used Car?

If you drive a used vehicle, you still have rights. You'll be eligible for recall remedies if you bought a defective motor vehicle from an authorized dealer. Once you receive the recall notice, contact the repair shop at your local dealership.

You should also check the manufacturer's warranty. If your vehicle is still under warranty, it should cover any repairs.

Let them know you have the notice and want to schedule a time to fix the defective parts. If your car suffers from a design defect, there is little the dealer's mechanic can do, regardless of any vehicle warranty. Your only option may be to talk to an attorney to see if the lemon law covers your vehicle.

How Do You Know if the Lemon Law Applies to Your Vehicle?

Some cars always seem to require repairs. The number of repair attempts can seem endless. If your new motor vehicle was problematic from the start, you may have a lemon law claim.

lemon is a car with a defect that substantially impairs your ability to operate the vehicle. To qualify as a lemon, it must meet the following conditions:

  1. The defect was present when you bought the car; and
  2. The defect continues to make the vehicle inoperable despite a reasonable number of attempts to repair it

What qualifies as a "lemon" varies from state to state. Check the laws of your state to determine whether your car qualifies as a lemon.

Once you determine your car is a lemon, you can demand a refund or a replacement vehicle. If the dealership refuses to replace your vehicle, speak with an attorney. An attorney can help you pursue your claim with the dealership and explain your options for a liability claim.

Do You Need to File a Product Liability Lawsuit?

Ideally, the auto dealership can fix any defects in your car, truck, or SUV. Unfortunately, this isn't always the case. You may consider filing a product liability suit against the car manufacturer.

In your lawsuit, your product liability lawyer will claim the following:

There is no need to prove the manufacturer was negligent.

If you decide to sue the car manufacturer, consult with an attorney as soon as possible. Most states have time limits for bringing lawsuits. These are known as statutes of limitations.

Talk to a Lawyer to Learn More About Your Rights

Manufacturers don't intentionally market defective products. If this happens with your car, you have rights. The automaker usually only learns of the defect long after the vehicle hits the market.

Contact a qualified local product liability attorney today to discuss your case and learn your options.

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