Auto Lemon Law - How to Use It and Why?
What is the Lemon Law? Lemon Laws are State Laws that provide a remedy to purchasers of lemon cars in order to compensate them for vehicles that repeatedly failed to meet standards of quality and performance. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration states that on an average 150,000 new cars sold every year are “Lemon” cars with repeatedly unfixable problems.
You purchased a brand new car, one that is supposed to work properly. If it doesn't why doesn't the manufacturer just take it back and give you another one? If life was that simple, there really would be no reason for the Lemon Law or the Federal Breach of Warranty Laws we work with. The Lemon Law is in place to enforce manufacturers to take responsibility for their actions, whether it be paint peeling, a knocking engine, a faulty transmission, a leaky sunroof, or problems with the door locks.
This is a David vs. Goliath situation. You are one person going up against a billion-dollar organization. The Lemon Law provides a common ground where your voice will be heard and your situation will be reviewed. While most people do not want to go the litigious route, the law provides a very feasible solution to your automobile problems.
There are automotive Lemon Laws in all 50 states that cover all passenger vehicles, including cars, trucks, and sports utility vehicles. Find your state's Lemon Law statute here. The Federal "Lemon Law" also called the Magnuson-Moss Warranty Act provides legal recourse for purchasers of products that failed repeatedly to live up to its expected standards of quality and performance but fall outside of State Lemon Law parameters.
In addition to LemonLaw.com, there are other websites which provide auto Lemon Law information. A list of these websites can be found on our Lemon Laws & Consumer Statutes page. A list of Lemon Law firms in the United States can be found on our Lemon Law Firms page.
How do I know if my vehicle is a lemon?
There are several ways you can determine if you may be driving a lemon. The fastest way is to use our free Lemon Law Checker or reach out to us at 1 800 LEMON LAW (1 800 536 6652) for a free case evaluation. The following can also be tell-tale signs that you have a lemon:
- You have had your vehicle in for repair repetitively for the same issue.
- You have lost use of your vehicle for an extended period of time due to the same issue, or a number of different issues.
- In certain states, the Lemon Law applies when you have your vehicle in for a second time for a defect that could cause severe impairment or death.
Frequently Asked Questions by Lemon Car Owners
How long do I have to file a lemon law complaint?
Although the length of time varies from state to state, in general you can still file a claim years after your initial vehicle purchase. In Pennsylvania for example, you have 6 years after the original delivery date to formally file a lemon law case. In Massachusetts, you have 18 months, and in New Jersey you have 24 months.
What happens if I win my lemon law case?
Remedies under the auto Lemon Law are based upon the severity of the situation. You could be looking at a new car, or full buyback, or perhaps a partial refund along with continued ownership of the car.
In the states we handle, the laws have fee-shifting provisions where, if the plaintiff prevails, the manufacturer must also pay all attorney fees and legal costs. If we accept your case and for some reason you do not prevail, there is no charge. We are very pleased to offer 100% cost-free Lemon Law representation, and there are other firms across the nation who provide this service, as well.
It is also important to note that, even if your automobile falls outside the state Lemon Law, there is a chance that you could still seek remedy under Federal Warranty Statutes. Additionally, Unfair Trade Practice Laws are in place which protect consumers against automobile dealer fraud, odometer rollback, and used cars with lemon or salvage titles. It does not hurt to ask about your rights. Feel free to email us with any questions, and we will direct you to the right source.
How to file a Lemon Case?
- Take your vehicle to an authorized manufacturers dealership for the desired repairs.
- Inform the dealership of the specific concern you are dealing with.
- Make sure upon picking up your vehicle from repair that you receive a detailed repair invoice with mileage in, mileage out, days out of service, the problem, and the fix.
- Keep all repair records in a safe place.
- Contact a Lemon Law attorney to review your claim and discuss your rights.
How long does it take to resolve a Lemon Law claim?
Many cases are resolved within 30-60 days. Other Lemon Law claims may take 3 to 6 months to be fully resolved. Some cases may take longer when car manufacturers refuse to settle the matter to the client’s satisfaction and we move forward with aggressive litigation.
What can a Purchaser do to make sure his or her lemon law claim is successful?
Know your Rights - Purchaser should be aware of their rights provided by the Federal and State laws.
Describe the problem carefully – The Purchaser should take the vehicle to the authorized manufacturers’ dealership or its repair location and describe and explain the problem with the vehicle carefully.
Precise Documentation - It is necessary to maintain copies of repair invoices and also copies of work orders, detailing what work mechanics carried out on the vehicle.
Create a timeline – The Purchaser should keep track of the days and dates on which problem emerged with the vehicle. It is essential to note how long the vehicle was out of service.
Never rush repairs – State lemon laws contain provisions stating once a vehicle has been out of service for a certain number of days, there is a presumption that it could be a lemon.
Act quickly – Every State has a statute of limitations. Waiting too long to file a lemon law case makes it difficult for the Purchaser and his or her attorney to pursue a claim successfully.
Hire a competent attorney - A purchaser of a lemon vehicle should hire an attorney who has in depth knowledge and understanding of the prevailing Lemon Laws in the particular state. Also, it is essential that they hire a lawyer who is going to represent them at no cost, win or lose.
How does a car qualify for the lemon law?
State Lemon Laws apply to new cars, leased or purchased in most states, which suffer a nonconformity. A nonconformity is defined as a "defect or condition which substantially impairs the use, value, or safety of the vehicle."
What determines a reasonable number of repair attempts? It depends on your state's statute. In Pennsylvania and New Jersey, two states we handle, we use three warranty attempts as a guideline. In PA, the first repair must be made in the first 12 months or 12,000 miles. In NJ, the first repair must be made in the first 24,000 miles or 24 months. In Delaware, the first repair must be made in the first year, regardless of mileage.
As you can see, each law is different. It is important that you review your state laws carefully or contact a local Lemon Law lawyer to find out if your vehicle qualifies.
The Lemon Law also sometimes applies to vehicles which are in the shop for extended periods of time within the first year, regardless of whether it's one constant problem or a series of problems. The Pennsylvania Lemon Law for example, covers cars in the shop 30 days in the first year. The New Jersey Lemon Law applies to cars in the shop 20 days in the first year.
Our firm handles Lemon Law claims in the following states:
And for the last thirty years, we have played a significant role in the evolution of Pennsylvania and New Jersey Lemon Laws:
Pennsylvania lemon laws are enacted to protect Pennsylvania consumers from unsafe and defective new passenger cars and trucks. The law covers problems that occur in the first 12 months or 12,000 miles of ownership. The problem should substantially impair the value, use or safety of the vehicle. The vehicle must be used for personal, family or household purposes. Commercial vehicles, motorcycles, motorhomes and off road vehicles are not covered by Pennsylvania lemon laws. However, these could be covered under other laws.
Aggrieved consumers have the option of bringing civil action in a Court of common pleas and are entitled to recover all court costs and reasonable attorney’s fees. In 2001, we worked with the State Attorney General to expand the Lemon Law to include leased vehicles and tighter title provisions for used cars. You can read about it here: PA Bill 767
New Jersey has some of the strongest consumer protection laws in the country. New Jersey Lemon Laws are a powerful tool for consumers who have suffered due to purchase of a defective vehicle. New Jersey Lemon Laws protect consumers who purchase vehicles that develop defects or lengthy unusable periods during the first two years or 24,000 miles. NJ Lemon Law also covers motorcycles as well as passenger vehicles.
Our firm worked with Clarence Ditlow, the late founder of the Center for Auto Safety (link to safercar.gov) to expand the NJ Lemon Law to 24 months or 24,000 miles (versus originally 18.000 miles) for the first repair, and to include an addendum where manufacturers have only one change to fix a repair which could cause death or serious bodily harm. You can read about those changes here: NJ Lemon Law Expanded.
We also have taught NJ arbitrators the fundamentals of the NJ Lemon law so they can better arbitrate hearings. In recognition of our efforts in assisting New Jersey drivers, the New Jersey Law Journal named our Founding Partner Bob Silverman a New Jersey Leader in Litigation in 2017.
The Lemon Law can be confusing and is open to numerous interpretations. If you have questions about the Lemon Law or your consumer rights, don't hesitate to reach out to our legal team.