Essentially all passenger vehicles are covered by lemon laws, as are most trucks. Certain states do impose weight limits on which vehicles are covered. These limits are based on the Gross Vehicle Weight Ratio (GVWR), which is essentially the maximum safe weight of a vehicle.
For example, one state that has a GVWR limit is Texas. In Texas, if a vehicle has a GVWR rating of over 16,000 lbs., then it will not be covered by Texan lemon laws. Another state that has a GVWR limit is Georgia, where vehicles that have a GVWR of more than 12,000 lbs. will not be covered under the state’s lemon laws. A number of other states also have their own GVWR limits.
Beyond GVWR-limited vehicles, though, basically all passenger vehicles and most consumer trucks are covered by the lemon laws in most states. The more questionable the passenger/consumer nature of the vehicle and the higher the GVWR—like with tow trucks and flatbeds and Dooley’s—the more eligibility for lemon laws will depend on which state you are in.
It should be noted that motorcycles are almost never covered by the lemon laws in any state.
Do I Need To Notify The Manufacturer Of The Defective Vehicle?
As we touched on earlier, the majority of states do require that you notify the manufacturer of your car’s defect in writing before you invoke the protection of lemon laws.
How Much Time Do I Have To File A Claim?
In most states, there is a statute of limitations on pursuing lemon law claims, which is based either on the time that has passed since the date of purchase or on the mileage on the vehicle.
It is therefore always best to contact a lemon law attorney as soon as possible once you have identified a defect in your car. I often have potential clients contact me who are unaware of the statute of limitations, and therefore put off calling or seeking legal recourse. By the time they call me, it is often too late: the statute of limitations has already passed.
Some of these people may genuinely need help and may genuinely have had a great case if they had gotten to me in time. However, once the statute of limitations passes, there I nothing I can do to help them pursue a lemon law claim. There are certainly other things that we can help them pursue under federal law, but they will no longer be able to pursue any claim under the lemon laws in their state.
Will I Have To File A Lawsuit To Pursue A Claim Under My State’s Lemon Laws?
In most cases, no, you do not have to litigate or file a lawsuit in order to pursue a lemon law claim. In fact, most cases of consumers pursuing lemon law claims do not go to court, since most manufacturers will resolve these claims—usually with a settlement—prior to a lawsuit being filed.
This is not to say that no lemon law cases go to trial. There are certainly instances where it becomes necessary to file a lawsuit. This usually happens when the consumer and the manufacturer don’t agree on an appropriate settlement in pre-litigation negotiations.
Generally, though, in the majority of cases, a lawsuit is not necessary in order to enforce lemon laws.
I Think I Have A Defective Vehicle. How Do I Start The Lemon Law Claims Process?
If you think you have a defective car, the first thing to do is to send written notice of the defect to the car’s manufacturer. It is possible to do this on your own, but you may want to seek the help of a lemon law attorney, as they will have more experience in these matters.
Once your written notice is received by the car manufacturer, it will be sent to the appropriate people within the company. It is standard for car manufacturers to have a department that deals with lemon law/defect claims. Someone in that department will open a file on your claim, and will review the case and any relevant documentation/evidence.
In many cases, after reviewing the claim, someone in the claims/lemon law department will make an initial determination as to how the company should proceed. They may propose a refund or replacement, but may also propose a third option: monetary compensation.
Offers of monetary compensation are usually considered “goodwill gestures” to compensate the consumer for their time and trouble. Offering monetary compensation instead of an official refund means that the company isn’t responsible for taking the vehicle back, but rather is simply paying damages for the defects and the expenses and hardships they caused. This can include compensation for repair bills that racked up every time you had to take the car to the shop, as well as for travel and diminished value of the vehicle, among other things.
Once you get an offer, it is up to you whether or not you want to accept it. If you choose to accept it, the case ends there. If you believe that the offer they made is not sufficient, you can tell them so and engage in further negotiations that way. If the case is not resolved through those negotiations, then the next step is filing a lawsuit.
Which Documents Are Important For Lemon Law Cases?
There are a number of types of documents that can be helpful in supporting your lemon law claim. The two most important pieces of documentation for these cases are the sales documents from when you purchased the car, and the repair orders/tickets from the times when you took the car in to try to repair the defect.
What Damages Can Be Recovered In A Successful Lemon Lawsuit?
The general rule in these cases is that if you pursue a lemon lawsuit and win, you will get a refund. The sum of money you receive will be calculated by taking the total amount of money you put into the car (i.e., what you paid for the car in addition to the cost of repairs, maintenance, etc.) and subtracting a specific amount that corresponds to the mileage you put on the car.
Of course, every state is a little bit different, and there are cases that fall outside the norm. However, as a general rule, that sum will likely be the damages you recover from a successful lemon lawsuit.
Notably, there are no non-economic damages available in lemon law cases. There is no “pain and suffering” and there is no way to seek punitive damages. However, in most states, the manufacturer is also obligated to pay consumers attorney’s fees. This is an important factor to consider when thinking about whether or not you want to hire a lemon law attorney. If the case is successful, you will be able to utilize the services of your lemon law attorney without any out-of-pocket fees or costs.
For more information on Vehicles 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.