Thursday, June 19, 2014

Lemon Law Myths: What You Should Know

If you find yourself with a motor vehicle with defects, whether major or minor, that are irreparable, you may have entitlements under the lemon law.  There exists many myths that surround the lemon law and many have a mistaken perception when it comes to their own state’s lemon law.

It is our duty as consumer advocates to dispel any myths that may hold buyers back from entering into a lemon law recourse.  A motor vehicle is a fairly major investment; you deserve the quality for what you paid the big manufacturer.

Here are some of the most common myths we have heard from consumers:

The car dealership can make the decision to replace my lemon with a new car.
The truth:
Manufacturers are held responsible for lemons, rather than dealerships. The dealership does not have the authority to take the car back and offer a replacement or refund.   I often hear alarming stories from frustrated consumers who have gone to the dealership and threatened to sue their reps for not giving them their money back.  The dealerships are there to make commission off the vehicle purchase and that is it. 

I cannot afford to hire a lemon law attorney.
The truth:
If free is not affordable, then I don’t know what is.  Under the lemon law statutes, there is a fee-shifting provision that states the manufacturer is required to pay your attorneys’ fees if you are able to prove your claim.  With the Davis Consumer Law Firm, we work under this contingency fee basis, and charge no upfront or retainer fees. [Read “Why is it free?”]

I have a used car and cannot sue for lemon law.
The truth:
Even if you purchased a used vehicle, you may still be able to file a lawsuit if the vehicle had a warranty attached to it or if there was a guarantee on some type of repair.  The lemon law is actually triggered by the warranty that came with the vehicle - if your car came with an extended warranty, certified pre-owned warranty or service contract, you may have rights under the lemon law.   Although some states’ lemon laws apply only to “new” vehicles, there are other state and federal statutes that exist that allow you to carry out a claim if the defective vehicle has a warranty on it.  If this is the case, an attorney can apply a breach of warranty if the dealership fails to make the repair after a reasonable number of attemptsComputer Technology Articles.

My car will need at least 4 repair attempts to be legally deemed as a “lemon.”
The truth:
The fundamental issue in a matter involving a lemon is the question of whether a reasonable amount of repairs were attempted. In general, by law, the manufacturer is entitled to an opportunity at reasonable number of attempts to repair a vehicle.  Several considerations besides the state’s lemon law requirements are taken into account when defining what number of repair attempts is “reasonable” such as the vehicle’s manufacturer, the warranty and other factors.  Furthermore, the severity of the defect can impact the argument of how many repair attempts are considered reasonable. We’ve had cases where serious, life-threatening defects came into play which endangered the drivers and passengers, calling for fewer repair attempts and in a few cases, immediate buybacks from the manufacturer.

I can return my car 3 days later after purchasing it.
The truth:
Unfortunately, the three-day right to cancel a contract does not apply to vehicle sales. Generally, this statute or “cooling-off period” pertains to cash or credit transactions of at least $25 initiated through face-to-face contact (think door-to-door salesmen) at a location other than its regular place of business.  Once you sign the sales contract, the vehicle is yours.  If you end up with a lemon after leaving a dealership, it is best to speak with an attorney to discuss your options.

Only cars and trucks are covered under the lemon law.
The truth:
It is a popular myth of consumer’s that their state lemon law only applies to automobiles.  While state lemon laws vary, lemon law can also apply to motor vehicles with warranties such as motorcycles, trucks, SUVs, ATVs, RV’s and mopeds.  Basically, consumer goods with attached warranties costing over $10.00 such as computers, home appliances, cameras are also covered under the lemon law.  There is even a puppy lemon law.

My car is fixed now.  My lemon law rights no longer apply.
The truth:
If your vehicle is now fixed, it does not mean you do not have a valid lemon law claim. While your vehicle may not qualify for a repurchase under your state’s lemon law, there may be cash value to your case.  You still may be able to file a lemon law claim depending on the circumstances.  The problems you have experienced in the past may recur later down the road, especially if your vehicle has been subject to multiple repair attempts.  If this should happen, having your repairs on record will make your case stronger. Your interests would still be protected under the lemon law.   If a new set of defects should arise, you are probably still covered under your state’s lemon law.

Lemon Law states that the manufacturer must fix the defect within a reasonable number of attempts; in Pennsylvania it is three. If the manufacturer or dealer cannot repair the defect after three tries, then you have a lemon law claim, regardless. If the dealer fixes the defect on the fourth or later attempt, you still have the ability to proceed with your lemon law claim.

I do not have any of the repair orders or invoices. There goes my chances of winning lemon law.
The truth:
If the manufacturer had multiple repair attempts, you may be entitled to relief even without having any supporting paperwork. Although repair invoices can strengthen a lemon law claim, if you are able to provide a detailed list of all complaints made and a log of written/spoken correspondence with the dealer and manufacturer, this may be sufficient to commence the lemon law process.

Since my car is over a year old and has more than 10,000 miles on it, I have no lemon law rights.
The truth:
Lemon law mostly pertains to the manufacturer’s warranty rather than the amount of time you own the car. The first year or 10,000 miles, or in the case of Pennsylvania’s lemon law, the first year or 12,000 miles, creates a “presumption” that your car is a lemon if it was subjected to multiple repairs during this period. If this occurs, the burden then shifts to the manufacturer to prove that your car is not a lemon.  It should be noted that many cars qualify under the lemon law due to repairs made AFTER the first year and after the first 12,000 miles.

I cannot bring a lemon law claim if my warranty is expired.
The truth:
Though the warranty is expired, you may still be able to sue for lemon law against the manufacturer if the defects were discovered while the warranty was still active.
I think my car is a lemon. I can stop making payments.
The truth:
Even though it sounds fair to stop making payments on a purchased vehicle that is not working properly, refusing to make to payments is a default under most financing contracts which in many cases, can result in a repossession by the creditor.  If you find yourself paying for rental cars, taxi services or other expenses, try to negotiate with your loan company.  Some understanding lenders are willing to put your loan on hold or allow you to pay only the interest while your lemon issues get resolved.  Be sure to save your receipts in case the lender asks for copies.  If the lender is not accommodating, contact an experienced lemon law attorney.

The dealer cannot find a problem with my vehicle, so there is no case.
The truth:
False. A majority of the lemon law cases we take on involve problems that are intermittent, or occur randomly. To strengthen your lemon law claim, take your car in to the dealership or notify the manufacturer as soon as the problem occurs and give them an opportunity to repair the vehicle. If they are unsuccessful at making the repair or are unable to diagnose the problem, you may have a lemon on your hands. Keep all paperwork and keep taking your car to the dealership until the problem gets resolved.