If your car has the same defects over and over again and hasn’t been fixed after a reasonable amount of time and repair attempts, there are several steps to pursuing a refund or replacement.
First, you have to provide written notice of the defects to your car’s manufacturer. In some states, you also have to give them one last chance to fix the car. In those states, giving sufficient written notice of the car’s defects to the manufacturer triggers what is called Final Repair Attention.
Giving written notice to the manufacturer redirects your claim. It goes from being a claim for repairs directed at the dealership where you bought your car to a claim for repairs (or, if that is not possible due to a defect, a claim for refund or replacement) from the manufacturer of the car. Since this might be the first time the manufacturer is hearing about your car troubles, many states mandate that you need to give them the opportunity to fix the car before pursuing a lemon law claim for refund or replacement.
Once you provide written notice to the manufacturer, they will usually get in touch to try to fix the vehicle. They may do this by sending you to one of their associated dealerships, or by sending in one of their field engineers or area managers to work with your dealer in an attempt to fix the vehicle. This is sometimes referred to as a Final Repair Attempt.
So, first you get in touch with the manufacturer through official written notice, and then you give the manufacturer sufficient opportunity to try to fix the car. If the car still has the same defect after the final repair attempt, then you can more forward with your lemon law claim for a refund or replacement. Importantly, this doesn’t mean you are guaranteed to win. Rather, it simply means that you are eligible to continue the process of pursuing your claim.
I often speak with clients who describe returning to the dealership for repairs four or five times for the same issue, and who conclude that therefore the manufacturer has to give them a new car. Unfortunately, this is a misunderstanding of how the law actually works. Neither the dealership nor the manufacturer has to do anything until a judge tells them to do it. In the end, laws are just words, and words don’t have the power to do anything by themselves. They must be applied and enforced by the power of the Court, through the decision of a judge, a jury, and/or an arbitrator.
Simply having been to the shop 4 times, 5 times, or 500 times doesn’t mean that General Motors or Nissan or Ford or any other car manufacturer has to give you anything.
It should be noted that if you pursue a valid lemon law claim, your car manufacturer will probably give you some sort of refund or replacement. Most of these cases do not go to court, and are instead settled beforehand with some sort of a payout from the manufacturer to the consumer. However, you have to file the claim and pursue a decision through the appropriate processes in order to get to that point. There is no such thing as automatic refund or replacement outside of those processes in the lemon laws of any state.
Is There A Time Period Within Which The Initial Repair Attempt Must Occur?
Yes, there are time specifications for the initial repair attempt in the lemon laws of each state. The exact time period in question varies by state, and you should always check the exact laws of your state before assuming the general consensus applies there. Generally, though, the majority of states require that you have at least one repair done within the first 12 months of purchasing the car, or within the first 12,000 miles—whichever comes first.
Does The Buyer Or Lessee Have The Option To Refund Or Replace A Vehicle?
Yes, the buyer or lessee has the option to refund or replace a vehicle in the majority of states. It should be noted, though, that there are a handful of states where the manufacturer can pick whether they give a replacement or a refund.
How Serious Must A Defect Be To Qualify For Lemon Laws?
In order to qualify for claims under lemon laws, a car’s defects must be substantial enough to affect the use, value, or safety of the vehicle. It is up to the consumer (and ideally their attorney) to argue that their car’s defect both exists and affects the car’s use, value, and/or safety.
As mentioned previously, this is harder to do for some defects than for others. Certain serious defects obviously affect the car in qualifying ways, such as problems with the brakes, engine, or transmission. Other defects are more ambiguous. For instance, if the defect in question is a squeaky steering wheel or static on the radio, they probably won’t be considered substantial enough to be covered by lemon laws.
Importantly, lemon laws do not promise consumers perfect cars. They promise consumers safe, usable cars that will reliably take you from point A to point B, and that are are consistent in value with the car’s make, model, and manufacturing year.
How Much Of A Refund Will I Get If I Successfully Pursue A Lemon Law Claim?
Every state has its own formula for calculating refunds sought by lemon law claims. In the majority of states, this formula is based on the actual purchase price of the vehicle, including associated fees. If you look on the sales contract of your car, you will find the original purchase price in addition to several fees (i.e., sales tax, document fees, dealer fees, interest paid on a loan if a loan was involved, and things of that nature). Most states will award you the full sum that you paid, including both the original cost of the vehicle and any associated fees.
However, almost all states then take a deduction from the purchase price and fee sum for the miles that you put on the vehicle. The deduction is calculated by a formula in which the price of the vehicle is divided by 120000, multiplied by the mileage on the vehicle. Some states only allow the manufacturer to charge you for the mileage you put on the car up to the date of the first repair attempt, but the rest allow them to deduct all of the miles you put on the car.
Do I Have To Follow The Manufacturer’s Arbitration Procedure Prior To Filing For A Lemon Law Claim In Court?
The answer to this question depends on what state you are in. However, in the majority of states, you do not have to go through any kind of dispute resolution process run by the manufacturer that is not mandated by law.
For more information on Refunds & Replacements Under Lemon Law, an initial consultation is your next best step. Get the information and legal answers you are seeking by calling (844) 88-LEMON today.