While the purchase of a motorhome, speedboat, ATV, or UTV can provide an exciting recreational experience, these vehicles entail a substantial investment by purchasers. Consumers who spend their hard earned cash on these types of high-end consumer products expect they will function properly. Some state lemon laws do not extend beyond cars, trucks, and SUVs, but the Magnuson-Moss Warranty Act, which often is referred to as the “federal lemon law” extends to new vehicles, used vehicles, vehicles covered by state lemon laws, and recreational vehicles provided a warranty covers them. Kenneth Stern has represented consumers against national and international product manufacturers for over three decades. Because many consumers are unsure about their legal rights, Stern Law, PLLC has offered answers to frequently asked questions.
Lemon Law FAQs (6)
State lemon laws are not uniform regarding the types of vehicles they cover. While relatively restrictive lemon laws like the Michigan lemon law cover only cars, trucks, and SUVs, other lemon laws cover many recreational vehicles, off-road vehicles, boats, and other types of vehicles. The manufacturer of your vehicle will know if your lemon law covers your RV, so you need to know this as well to understand your legal rights and options. Because Ken Stern has handled hundreds upon hundreds of lemon law claims, he can let you know if your state’s lemon law covers your particular type of vehicle. Ken also can suggest other legal alternatives like the federal lemon law or other consumer protection laws depending on your situation.
State lemon laws also vary regarding whether they provide protection to consumers that purchase a used vehicle. Consumers should seek legal advice to determine whether their used vehicles is covered by their state’s lemon law. As long as the vehicle was subject to an express warranty, the federal Magnuson-Moss Warranty Act might cover the used vehicle. A manufacturer or third-party service contract also can provide the basis for pursuing a lemon law claim.
Sometimes a claim will not meet the precise criteria of the state or federal lemon law, but consumers might still have a legal claim. If certain information is not disclosed to you or misrepresented, you might have a legal right to damages based on other consumer protection laws. For example, you might have a claim based on auto dealer fraud law. This type of recovery is based on state and federal rules that protect vehicle consumers and penalize dealerships that take advantage of consumers. These types of laws provide remedies to consumers exploited by unfair and deceptive practices. Examples of these laws include FTC regulations 16 CFR 455 (the Used Car Rule), other federal and state consumer protection statutes, and common law fraud.
The probability of a successful lemon law claim increases when certain documents are received, checked for accuracy, and saved:
- Request a vehicle warranty repair history from the dealer
- Put your repair orders in chronological order
- Compare the repair history to repair orders and obtain any missing repair orders from the dealer
- Review your repair orders when you receive them to ensure they are accurate
- Gather warranty documents, sales documents, and finance paperwork
- Save and chronologically organize any correspondence with the dealership or manufacturer
While you should hire an attorney to obtain the best results, you do not want just any attorney. You want to work with a law firm that has considerable experience handling lemon law cases to increase your chances of obtaining an optimal result in the least amount of time. State and federal lemon laws, as well as other consumer protection statutes, can be confusing. The laws also have enough gray areas that manufacturers often aggressively dispute claims especially when they are dealing with unrepresented consumers. A knowledgeable lemon law attorney can review your paperwork, examine the repair history, and ensure that you have effectively provided proper notice of a violation and a last chance to repair the problem.
How much will I have to pay for legal representation when pursuing a claim for my defective vehicle?
An important aspect of state and federal lemon laws is that they make it easier for consumers to pursue claims. Consumers should be very skeptical of lawyers that charge upfront retainers for handling a lemon law claim. The same is true of law firms that want a percentage of your damages. Since lemon laws authorize an attorney fee award and court costs, our law firm does not charge a retainer fee. We also take the attorney fee award as our fees, so our clients face no financial risk.
New Car Lemon Law FAQs (6)
Lemon laws, which exist in all fifty states and DC, define when a manufacturer of specified vehicles has breached its express (written) warranty. These laws specify the compensation that consumers are entitled to receive for breach of warranty. Lemon laws also authorize a consumer to receive reimbursement for legal fees and court costs after successfully prevailing in a lemon law case. Broadly, a vehicle is a lemon under these laws if a nonconformity or defect (or combination of defects) substantially impair the safety, value, or use of the vehicle. The manufacturer is entitled to a reasonable number of chances or reasonable time to fix the defects or nonconformity. When the problems are not remedied, the consumer often can obtain a full refund of the amount paid or a comparable replacement vehicle.
Many states cover leased vehicles under their lemon law, but you should seek legal advice regarding the lemon law in your state. Even if your leased vehicle is not covered under your state’s lemon law, the federal lemon law (Federal Warranty Act) might provide damages, including a right to attorney fees and court costs.
When can I give up on having the dealer or other authorized repair facility correct the issue with my vehicle?
While lemon laws vary depending on the jurisdiction, many states (including Michigan) allow the manufacturer four or more attempts for the same issue as long as the first attempt occurred within a year of delivery of the vehicle. The vehicle will also be considered defective after the vehicle is out of service for at least thirty days for repairs during the first year of ownership for the same or different issues.
Consumers need to establish that the dealer has worked on the vehicle the requisite number of times or that the vehicle was out of service for the minimum number of days. Consumers need to ensure that service reports are accurate and that they save these records. The service report should include certain critical information, such as dates the vehicle was in and out of service, repair attempts, mileage of the vehicle, and the customer’s complaint. Even if the service technician looks at the car quickly during the visit and indicates that he cannot duplicate the complaint, you should never leave without written documentation of the visit and complaint. Always confirm that all of your complaints are accurately reflected on the service report. Complaints should also be relatively general. If you detect noise in the transmission, front tire, or engine, you should describe the problem as “noise in the front end.”
While the procedures differ some depending on the state, the Michigan Lemon Law is fairly typical. The owner of the vehicle must provide written notice by return receipt after the third repair attempt or 25 days after the vehicle is out of service. The manufacturer also must be given one final opportunity to fix the problem after receiving the notice. The manufacturer must contact the consumer and arrange to repair the vehicle within five days of receipt of the notice. The consumer might also need to participate in the manufacturer’s dispute resolution program before pursuing a lemon law claim.
While many state lemon laws are limited to new cars, light trucks (e.g. pickup trucks), and SUVs, the federal lemon laws will extend to other vehicles like boats, motorhomes, and ATVs, as well as used vehicles. Leased vehicles also are covered under many lemon laws, but the vehicle must be for personal, family or household use. There are other restrictions that apply to leased vehicles aimed at restricting certain commercial entities from utilizing the lemon law.
Speak to an Auto Fraud Lawyer
The process of pursuing a claim for a defective vehicle can be complicated and confusing. These are only a few of the legal terms that you might encounter. If you have specific questions about your legal rights under your state lemon law or other consumer protection laws, Stern Law, PLLC offers tenacious representation of consumers. We offer a free consultation, so call Stern Law, PLLC at (844) 808-7529 or submit a confidential lemon law inquiry form.