“Lemon Law” is an area of law that deals with claims against an auto manufacturer for defects in a new vehicle or in a vehicle that is still covered by the manufacturer’s warranty.
Lemon laws are considered the jurisdiction of state law in the United States. Consequently, each state has its own set of lemon laws. There are some notable differences between lemon laws in different states.
For instance, one main difference between the lemon laws of different states has to do with the amount of time you have after the purchase of a car to make a lemon claim. Some states have shorter time limits, while others have longer time limits.
Another difference has to do with how much repair work you have to put into a car in order to make a lemon claim. In some states, there are more repair requirements; in others, there are less.
So, the general question of what is covered by lemon law is somewhat difficult to answer, since the answer varies rather significantly on a state-by-state basis. If you are talking about, say, Georgia lemon laws and Florida lemon laws, you’re talking about two different sets of law that cover different things.
Therefore, whenever we discuss lemon laws in this section—unless otherwise specified—we will be talking in terms of generalities that can be applied across state lines.
Generally, lemon laws deal with what happens if a car is found to be defective. Your state’s lemon laws are designed to help you seek recourse if you are dealing with a defective car that is new or still under the manufacturer’s warranty. Specifically, they cover the procedure for filing claims against the car’s manufacturer for any manufacturing defects.
In each state, the lemon laws have specific requirements that must be met in order to file a lemon claim against an auto manufacturer. In most states, it is required that the vehicle:
- Have at least three repairs
- Have 30 or more days out of service.
Some states have even higher requirements than that. For instance, in Louisiana, the lemon laws require that a car has been out of service or in the shop for at least 90 days (rather than 30 days) before a lemon claim can be filed.
Lemon law applies to defects that affect the use, value, or safety of the vehicle.
When it comes to what exactly is meant by “defect” and what exactly is meant by affecting “use, value, or safety”, there is some room for debate. In fact, these terms often wind up meaning whatever an effective lawyer argues that they mean.
Some of the terms and the surrounding arguments are fairly easy to argue and self-explanatory. For example, if your brakes aren’t working despite taking the car to the shop three times to get them fixed, it is pretty straightforward to argue that this issue constitutes a safety hazard.
Other defects, on the other hand, don’t fall as neatly into the same arguments. For instance, it far less straightforward to call it a safety hazard if your Bluetooth isn’t working despite taking the car to the shop three times to get it fixed.
Should the Bluetooth work as advertised, and is it still an issue that it doesn’t despite multiple repairs? Yes, absolutely. However, a different argument likely has to be made as to why that defect falls under the jurisdiction of lemon laws.
The point here is that not every defect is created the same. If your car’s brakes aren’t working, it’s considered a more substantial defect than the radio or Bluetooth not working. Lemon claims that involve more substantial defects are much more likely to yield larger judgements and settlements.
We see this issue come up a lot with the expectations of potential clients. People often call into our office and explain that, say, they’ve been in the shop four times to fix their radio, but it still doesn’t work. While it is terrible that the radio isn’t working as it should, we often have to adjust expectations when the defect involves something like a malfunctioning radio, which is considered less substantial. For instance, I have had to inform people multiple times that I don’t think I will be able to get them an entirely new vehicle because the radio in their current car doesn’t work.
Of course, every defect is based on its own merits. However, there are some defects that are considered more substantial. These include:
- Brake issues
- Engine issues
- Check-engine lights staying on
- Transmission issues
- Exhaust system issues
We are finding more and more that as new vehicles become increasingly computerized, with so many electrical and automated components, more things tend to go wrong. A lot of times, things don’t work because something has gone wrong with the computer systems that control the car, rather than the car parts themselves.
What Voids Lemon Laws?
It is hard to say exactly what might void lemon laws, since they vary so significantly. In a general sense, lemon laws—like all laws—have specific limits, requirements, and parameters for qualification.
The parameters for lemon laws in each state tend to concern similar things, though the actual details of the laws vary. One common parameter is a time limit. The lemon laws in each state specify a window of time within which you can file a lemon law claim. This is sometimes referred to as a statute of limitations.
Many states have a statute of limitations of three years from the date of purchase for lemon claims. However, this isn’t always the case. In Texas, for example, you have two-and-a-half years from the date of purchase, or 6 months from when the vehicle hits 24,000 miles—whichever comes first.
Another common parameter concerns the method of filing, or the way you actually file lemon claims in each state. In most states, you must file your lemon claim either by filing for arbitration or by filing a lawsuit in Court (within the applicable statute of limitations).
In addition, each state’s set of lemon laws has its own notice requirements. Most states require you to provide written notice about your car’s defects to the manufacturer of the car before filing a lemon law claim. Many specify that it is not enough to call and make a complaint over the phone or even to send an email, but rather that notice must be given formally in a letter. This is often required as the first step of the process of pursuing a claim through lemon laws.
Generally, the main thing that could potentially void your eligibility for a lemon law claim is if you fail to follow the parameters for filing said claim in your state. This is why it is essential to know these parameters and specifications, or to consult with an attorney who does.
How Do I Know If My Car Is Considered A Lemon By My State’s Lemon Laws?
The rule of thumb for these things is that you usually know by the circumstances themselves. If it looks like a duck and quacks like a duck, it’s probably a duck. That is, if your car has a major defect that is not remedied by standard repair efforts, it is probably defective. If you keep taking the vehicle in multiple times for the same or similar issues and the dealership can’t fix it, it probably qualifies.
Sometimes when you take a car in multiple times for the same issue, the dealership might tell you that they can’t duplicate the problem. We see that a lot with our clients.
For instance, let’s say your vehicle stalls multiple times. Perhaps it stalls the first time, and then you turn it back on and drive it somewhere only for it to stall again, and then again. Finally, you decide to take it to the dealer. The dealer takes your car for a test drive and the vehicle happens not to stall on the test drive.
Often in situations like this, the dealership will give your vehicle back and say there’s nothing wrong with it, since they couldn’t duplicate the problem. Of course, the fact that they couldn’t duplicate the problem doesn’t mean that there is nothing wrong with the vehicle. It simply means that they don’t know what’s wrong with the vehicle.
Unfortunately, this may lead people who have eligible claims under their state’s lemon laws to believe that they have no recourse. In fact, experiencing these issues is grounds to at least start a lemon law case, even if the dealer representative claims they didn’t see any stalling on their test drive.
In answer to the larger question of how you know your car is eligible for lemon law claims, I would re-assert that so long as you keep having the same issues with the car over and over again and no mechanical fix or repair seems to work, then you very well may have a lemon on your hands.
For more information on Issues Covered 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.