Hindsight is 20/20

February 04, 2009
By: Robert Silverman

“If I only knew then what I know now….”  It’s a standard phrase that we all tend to say now and again.  Two calls we received today on the 1-800 LEMON LAW hotline certainly cement the fact.

The first call came from a woman who purchased a certified pre-owned BMW in Philadelphia.  So far, so good, right?  After all, we always tell consumers that if they are planning to purchase a used car make sure that they purchase a car with a manufacturer warranty.  And thank goodness she did! Check engine light x6, stalling x3, trims replaced x5, ignition coil problems, airbag sensor problems, o ring replaced, alignment issues, moisture in the fog lights, steering problems….the list went on and on and on. Over 20 warranty repair invoices for all sorts of problems.  So, why can’t we help her?  She waited too long.  It could be a number of reasons, perhaps she kept wanting to give the dealer one more time to fix a problem; she wanted to see what BMW would do for her (absolutely nothing); or she thought that she was so clearly “in the right” and she appeared confident she could get the matter resolved on her own.  And now, at 104,000 miles, mere months after her warranty has expired, the car will not run; and BMW is offering nothing but a hefty repair estimate. And she has exceeded the timeline to file a claim, called the statute of limitations.

I certainly understand that no one likes to be litigious and many folks call us as a last resort.  But, the beauty of the State Lemon Laws we work with, in Pennsylvania, New Jersey, Delaware, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Ohio and Connecticut, and the Federal Magnuson Moss Warranty Act, is that they specifically provide for completely cost-free legal representation, so that the consumer is on equal ground with the manufacturer. Not only does the consumer have an experienced lemon law attorney on their side, they also have ASE-certified mechanics who will inspect the car and the invoices, and a people who will advocate for their consumer rights, at NO COST. There are quite a few folks who call each year who want to see what the dealer or manufacturer will do, and then end up calling us months later.  When you sit on your claim, you hurt your claim.  Your miles continue to accrue, the car get older and if you wait too long, you just may exceed your statute of limitations for filing a claim.  Many times, consumers may think they are getting somewhere when the manufacturer’s customer service department gives them a file # or a claim #, or when the dealership asks them to be patient and wait a couple weeks or a couple months.  This is a time-wasting tactic.  As we have written about before in this blog, you need to understand what dealers and customer service departments can and cannot do.   Bottom line: only when you know your rights, can you enforce them.

Second scenario: A woman contacted us today regarding her lease.  It’s a beautiful car, no problems with that.  However, she didn’t realize until after the fact that the lease only cover 10,000 miles a year versus the 18,000 miles a year she had on her previous lease.  She signed the contract, but it was an oversight and she is not agreeable to the terms, so she would like to return the car.  As we have mentioned before, you cannot return a car and if you do not read your contract carefully prior to signing it, who’s fault is that?  Signing a contract is like signing a check.  If it’s a blank contract, consider it a blank check, where you will be responsible for things you didn’t even think of.  I am often amazed at folks who do not read or understand their contracts prior to signing.  This is the one chance to ask questions, make demands, correct miscommunication.  If you do not agree to the terms, do not sign.  Do not be strong-armed, do not be forced, do not let time be your guide.  If it’s late, and you can’t think straight, go home and tell them you will come back to sign it the next day.  Otherwise, you will once again have that dreaded hindsight and the knowledge that you could have prevented being in the predicament you are if only you read the contract first.

As always, if you have a question, drop us a line and we will be happy to answer it if we can.

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