Lemon Laws and How They Protect Consumers

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A lemon vehicle is any car with an unserviceable defect, or multiple defects, that significantly impacts the driver’s safety or undermines the overall value of the car. Laws vary by state, but generally, if you’ve tried to repair the same defect in your car 4 or more times, or have repaired multiple defects in the same car within the manufacturer’s warranty period, and the vehicle remains unfixed, you probably have a lemon. Laws that protect you against the purchase of defective cars are known as lemon laws.

The Federal Magnuson-Moss Warranty Act is known as the federal lemon law and makes it illegal for manufacturers to not meet the terms of their warranty. This law applies to a broad range of consumer goods, including automobiles. All 50 states have additional state lemon laws to protect consumers, many of which apply specifically to automobiles.

Did I Buy a Lemon?

State by state, the conditions of Lemon Laws vary widely, so it is important to become familiar with your state’s definition. Minor defects, such as annoying rattles or scratched upholstery do not qualify as lemons. Major defects that affect safety and value, such as faulty brakes, slipping transmissions and seat belts that don’t retract, can constitute a lemon. If you’ve had the same problem repaired over and over and the problem still persists, it’s time to start building your case.

If you suspect you have a lemon, it is essential that you keep accurate records:

  • Document the frequency of repairs, including date of repairs, mechanic or repair shop who performed repairs, and service performed. Keep your paperwork.
  • Allow the manufacturer an opportunity to fix the problem.
  • Have proof of the beginning and end date of your manufacturer’s warranty.

These actions will be required in all states, regardless of their definition of a lemon.

What If I Bought a Used Car?

Once again, laws affecting used cars vary by state. Some states include used cars in their existing lemon laws. Other states will have different statutes written specifically for used cars. Other states will not cover used cars at all.

If you’ve bought a used car, and are not covered by lemon laws, you still may have legal recourse if you’ve been a victim of consumer fraud. A consumer rights lawyer will be qualified to advise you on this matter.

How Can a Lawyer Help?

If you successfully prove you have purchased a lemon, you are entitled to a refund or replacement of the vehicle. In some states, if you have properly documented all requirements, you may be able to file a complaint and receive your refund or replacement. But in most states, and for most lemon situations, it is a good idea to seek the advice of a legal expert.

A consumer rights lawyer can make sure you have all necessary documentation, can handle complaints with the manufacturer and state for you, and make sure you receive the full compensation that you are entitled to. An attorney can also handle arbitration with the manufacturer if required by your state’s laws. Depending on your state’s lemon laws, and whether or not your attorney sues under the Federal Magnuson-Moss Warranty Act, you may be entitled to recover all or some of your attorney fees.

This article is provided for informational purposes only. If you need legal advice or representation,
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