Lemon Law Basics – An Attorney’s Perspective

Most states have lemon laws and the federal Magnuson-Moss Warranty Act, which protects consumers who purchase defective products. Specifically, these laws cover defective vehicles and other consumer products like home appliances.

An experienced California lemon law lawyer can level the playing field against the manufacturer’s legal team, which often uses tactics such as delaying a buyback and requesting a lower cash settlement than what you are entitled to under the law.

What is a Lemon Law?

Lemon law is a consumer protection statute compensates consumers who buy or lease defective cars, trucks, motorcycles, and other vehicles and products. Lemon Law and the federal Magnuson-Moss Warranty Act provide a variety of remedies, including refunds, replacements, or cash compensation. These laws apply to new and used vehicles and other products such as boats, computers, and household appliances.

Manufacturers are obligated to correct or replace a defective product, issue a refund under these laws, and abide by other types of warranties, such as an express warranty and an implied warranty. These laws also give consumers a mechanism to enforce these obligations.

Winning a lemon law case can be difficult, but it is possible with careful record-keeping and the help of an experienced attorney. Many lemon law firms specialize in these cases and will work on a contingency basis to minimize out-of-pocket costs for their clients.

To qualify for a claim under a state or federal lemon law, a vehicle must generally undergo multiple repair attempts within a specified period. For a car, this generally means four repairs or 30 days out of service for all defects in the aggregate, but each state’s lemon laws have some variation. In addition, the vehicle must be purchased or leased for personal, family, or household use.

How Does a Lemon Law Case Work?

Each state has laws, but the general concept is that if you have a new car that fails to perform as advertised and cannot be fixed after a reasonable number of attempts, it may qualify as a lemon. You have the right to a replacement vehicle or a financial settlement. In most states, the manufacturer must also cover any expenses you have incurred due to your lemon. These include rental car costs, towing fees, car storage costs, and other related expenses.

Generally, before you can file a lawsuit, you must first participate in an arbitration program administered by the state. Your attorney can help you apply to the program and submit your claim. During the arbitration process, you will be able to present evidence of the failure of your car to meet its specifications. Arbitrators are not judges; they will usually be more receptive to your claim than the manufacturer.

In addition, the law states that the manufacturer must pay your attorney’s fees if you successfully obtain compensation. For this reason, an experienced lemon law attorney is a great asset to have on your side. Many of our clients cannot afford a private attorney, but they can often use their settlement money to pay off their auto loan, freeing them up to obtain a new car that is not a lemon.

What Are the Statute of Limitations for Lemon Law Cases?

Lemon laws provide consumers with legal protections when they purchase defective products covered by a manufacturer’s warranty. In the case of cars and other vehicles, these laws protect buyers and lessees whose cars turn out to be “lemons.” If your vehicle fails to meet the manufacturer’s standards after a reasonable number of repair attempts, it could qualify as a lemon, and you may be entitled to a refund or replacement.

The law defines a “lemon” as a new or used car that has not been returned to the manufacturer for repair within a specific period or reaches a specified mileage offset amount. In most states, this is either four repairs or 30 days of non-use for a single defect or two years or 18,000 miles from the date of purchase or lease.

To qualify for a refund or replacement, you must demonstrate that the defect has significantly diminished the value of your vehicle. This can be proved by showing that your vehicle’s resale value is lower than the average resale value of similar cars.

It takes an attorney with extensive experience in prosecuting lemon laws, deceptive trade practices, and consumer claims to get a manufacturer or car dealership to give you your money back. An old adage says, “he who represents himself has a fool for a client.” The only way to maximize your chances of getting your money back is to have an experienced attorney in your corner.

What are the Remedies for Lemon Law Cases?

There is an adage in the law that “he who represents himself has a fool for a client.” Anyone considering pursuing a lemon, fraud, or consumer claim on their own should strongly consider hiring a firm with substantial experience assisting such clients. Choosing a lemon law attorney with local offices is also highly preferable because of their familiarity with the state’s specific lemon laws.

Typically, lemon law cases will be resolved through an arbitration process free to the consumer and conducted by a third party. This is much more efficient than going to court and, in many instances, will result in a substantially better outcome for the consumer. Depending on the particular state’s lemon law, the consumer may either select the manufacturer’s certified procedure for arbitration or, if available, they can apply directly to the division for an independent dispute resolution hearing.

While the exact criteria vary from state to state, most states will require the auto manufacturer to repurchase a vehicle that cannot be fixed within a certain number of days as defined by the statute. In addition, lemon laws typically provide for the recovery of attorney’s fees if a case is successful. This is known as fee-shifting and is similar to how contingency fees are handled in personal injury cases.