You suspect you have a lemon on your hands. It's a frustrating experience. Before you start the process of getting rid of your lemon, it is imperative to know what to expect, as well as what is expected of you. Here are some important tips to be aware of to help strengthen your case.
Document! Document! Document!
To ensure Lemon Law works in your favor, it is crucial to keep detailed records. They will serve as your "key witnesses" should your case go that far. Documenting conversations you have with the repair shop and manufacturer, along with keeping all repair records and correspondences is conducive to a successful Lemon Law case. Maintain an account of all repair attempts and how long your vehicle was out of service for each attempt. When you visit the dealer each time for repairs, submit a written, dated list of problems to the dealer, being sure to keep a copy for yourself. List the symptoms your car has, such as "a growling sound from under the hood" or "odd smell" rather than "alternator check". This sets up a record of what problem was looked into by the dealer, even though they may have worked on different parts in attempting to fix the problem.
There are times when a dealer will claim to not being able to duplicate or find the intermittent problem that the consumer has experienced with their vehicle. It is crucial and beneficial on the consumer's part to keep taking the vehicle back to the dealer for repairs and collecting the repair invoices to show that these issues were brought to the manufacturer's attention.
Do Your Research
A TSB or "Technical Service Bulletin" are issued by vehicle manufacturers to dealerships so that their service departments can be kept abreast on problems or known conditions that have come to the manufacturers' attention on certain vehicles. It is worthwhile to ask the service rep if any TSB's exist on your vehicle that are related to the current problem(s) on your vehicle. If there are, ask the service rep to notate that on your repair order. Visit the National Highway Traffic Administration's website to check on any recalls or service complaints on your vehicle.
Leave your car at the dealership for repairs as long as possible
Depending on what state your vehicle was purchased in, having it out of service for repairs for a certain number of consecutive days or for multiple repair attempts is a qualification for lemon law. On occasion, my clients are notified by the dealership that their complaint has been confirmed, and parts are on order. Some are also told that it is safe to continue driving the vehicle while they wait for the parts. Don't do it. Firstly, the vehicle might not be safe and secondly, the longer your car is in for repair, the stronger your lemon law claim. As inconvenient as this is, the more it will help out your case.
Know Your Rights and What You May Be Entitled To
There are state and federal Lemon Laws to protect consumers who have purchased defective vehicles. If your vehicle does not qualify as a lemon under state laws, it may qualify under federal law. Navigating your way through the claim process without a knowledgeable attorney can be nerve-wracking and exasperating. It is advisable to hire an experienced and qualified Lemon Law attorney who knows the current statutes and legal tactics on winning a case. A consultation is free of charge and our firm does not charge any out-of-pocket fees for Lemon Law legal representation. If your vehicle qualifies as a lemon, you may choose between demanding a replacement or a refund from the manufacturer, minus a small offset for the miles you drove before the first repair attempt which qualified you for Lemon Law.
If you opt for a refund, it usually includes the sales tax, registration and other fees at the time of purchase as well as reimbursement for any out-of-pocket expenses you paid during the time the lemon was in your possession, such as towing or rental car charges. If you opt for a replacement vehicle, you should not have to pay sales tax or any other fees associated with registering the new car. Any fees you shelled out during ownership of the lemon, such as towing and rental car charges, should be reimbursed by the manufacturer.
Be Aware of What is Expected of You
In order to preserve your Lemon Law rights and get what you are entitled to, there are a number of required actions you must take which are time-sensitive. Knowing these requirements in your state is important and skipping any of these steps may jeopardize your case. According to which state you are in, you may have to send a certified, return receipt demand letter stating your vehicle's need for repair to the manufacturer and to the nearest zone/regional office listed in your owner's manual or warranty booklet. Make sure you send this notice by the time you take the car in for the repair attempt that qualifies it as a lemon.
Other consumer responsibilities under the law are allowing the manufacturer a reasonable amount of repair attempts to fix the problem(s). The rules are different depending on which state's Lemon Law you are under. In Pennsylvania, your vehicle must have had at least 3 repair attempts or have been out of service for at least 30 days to be eligible for a replacement vehicle or refund. The problem must first occur (AND BE REPORTED) within the first 12 months or 12,000 miles, whichever comes first. Manufacturers have to repair any defect reported during that timeframe according to Pennsylvania's Lemon Law, although a lawsuit can be commenced at any time. The sooner you present your Lemon Law claim, the better the likelihood of getting a more positive result.
Don't Give Up
If your vehicle does not qualify under your state's Lemon Law, there are other laws which may help your case. Having a Lemon Law attorney fight on your behalf, you have a higher chance of attaining a settlement and being compensated for the trouble and repair expenses than going at it alone.