Groups » Lemon Laws – A Comprehensive Guide

Marco Marquez bought a new Mercedes-Benz E320 sedan in 2005 and later realized there were major issues with the vehicle. The dealer was unable to repair the vehicle even after many service calls. Marquez filed a lemon law claim which helped him win a $482,000 settlement to bear the damages and legal fees.

This is not the only case of a lemon or a defective car; thousands of cars bought every year prove to be lemons. Under U.S. laws, car owners are eligible to get compensation if the vehicles they bought prove to be a lemon.

How to Tell If Your Car is a Lemon

Lemons are cars that have one or several recurring problems or defects that affect its use, value, or safety within a specified time period. As a general rule of thumb, a car that has received service (for four or more times) for the same problem or defect within the warranty period is considered to be a lemon. The first thing that must be done if you believe your car to be a lemon is inform the dealer. If the dealer does not respond or fails to repair the recurrent problems, then you can invoke your rights as a consumer.

Every state has its own Lemon laws that define what constitutes a lemon and protects the owners from paying for recurring repairs. However, the laws differ from state to state, so you need to get assistance from an experienced lawyer in order to secure your rights as a consumer.

What are Lemon Laws?

Lemons laws are state and federal laws that protect the buyers who purchase cars (or other consumer products) that fail to meet the standard of quality and performance as advertised. ‘Lemon' generally refers to defective vehicles that include cars, vans, boats, trucks, etc.

The lemon laws can be invoked under the following criteria:

  • The problem started almost as soon as you bought the vehicle
  • The problem was reported to the dealer promptly and it was covered under the manufacturer's warranty
  • The problem persisted even after the dealer tried to repair it
  • The problem resulted in significant impairment of the vehicle's use, value, or safety

The lemon laws state that if you are unable to use a vehicle after repeated repairs (within the warranty period) then you might be entitled to compensation. However, problems with the air conditioner, stereo system, and other luxury features cannot be compensated under the lemon laws.

What to Do if You Have a Lemon?

If you have problems with a newly bought car, then the dealer must be informed right away. In most cases, the dealer would repair the defects for free under a warranty, but some defects cannot be repaired.

So what would you do, if the dealer fails to fix the problems? This is when you need to invoke your rights and take advantage of the lemon laws in your state. Here is what you need to do:

1. Know Your Rights

If your vehicle classifies as a lemon, you have a legal case. The manufacturer is required to replace the vehicle with a similar new vehicle. You also have the right to force the dealership or manufacturer to repurchase the vehicle at the original sale price. This will also include the finance charges, car registration fees, and the applicable taxes. If the dealership or manufacturer refuses to replace the vehicle or repurchase the vehicle, you have the right to drag them to court. In most cases, dealers would avoid such situations and act as per the laws.

2. Proper Documentation

It is a must that you document all the repairs performed on your vehicle. Also, keep a note of the exact dates when the car was sent for repair, the remarks from the manufacturer or dealer, and the exact date when the warranty expires. However, only substantial defects are covered under the lemon laws, so you can seek help from an attorney to determine whether you qualify for filing a lemon law claim or not.

Documents Required to File a Lemon Law Claim in Your State

In order to prove you have a lemon and that the defects could not be fixed, you need to provide the necessary documents. The documents you will require might differ from state to state, so it is recommended that you seek help from an attorney to know what documents must be submitted. For instance, if you want to file a lawsuit in California, you will need the following documents for California lemon law claims:

  • Copy of purchase contract (the invoice)
  • Copy of the warranty certificate
  • A document from the service adviser specifying the problems in details (get it signed by the adviser)
  • A document specifying what repairs were done, whether any part was replaced, etc.

In case you do not have the necessary documents, you can request to the arbitrator through writing to direct the other party/ parties to provide all the necessary documents and information. An experienced attorney may also help you to gather the required documents by utilizing the network.

3. Hire an Attorney

It might seem quite easy to make a claim under the lemon law, but remember the dealers or manufacturers would try hard not to give in. They will use all their networks and strength to prove that there was no fault on their part. An experienced attorney will know how to handle the defense and prove that the car was indeed a lemon, which needs to be replaced or refunded.

You can expect an uphill battle in case you bought a used car. Lemon laws cover used cars that were/ are under some kind of warranty. Since used cars are more likely to be ‘lemons,' federal laws do not cover used cars until they are provided with an express written warranty. However, there is some good news for the consumers – owing to the severity of problems with used cars, some states have passed new laws to protect used car purchasers. So, it is necessary that you consult with your lawyer about the specific lemon laws of your state.

No matter how well you research or long you spend to buy a new car, you may be faced with unexpected problems. In such a case, you must first inform the dealer or manufacturer and provide them with an opportunity to repair the defect. If nothing can be done, then you can invoke your consumer rights and take advantage of the lemon laws. No matter how severe or minor the claim might seem, it is always recommended to hire an experienced attorney.
If you believe you have a lemon, get in touch with an attorney at once.

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