One of the leading qualities that car buyers look for in both new and used vehicles is their safety features.
Unfortunately, even vehicles with the most advanced safety standards and technologies can sometimes be defective – and legally considered a lemon. Every car brand is guilty of manufacturing a lemon from time to time. This includes brands that are generally known for their reliability such as Toyota, Honda, and Mercedes which all produce a couple hundred lemons annually.
This is why lemon laws exist to protect consumers who have purchased a defective vehicle that is still under the manufacturer’s warranty. This means that a vehicle can legally be deemed a lemon if its mechanical defects are unrepairable and interfere with the safety, value, or use of the car. If a vehicle is found to be a lemon, the driver could be entitled to a buyback (refund) or replacement from the manufacturer.
Keep in mind that lemon laws differ from state to state, so you must research your specific state’s laws. In addition, the manufacturer is entitled to several repair attempts on the defective vehicle before a lemon case can be pursued. If you are certain that your vehicle is a lemon, you should reach out to an attorney and gather the evidence needed to prove it. Be prepared for the manufacturer to push back.
Manufacturers are notorious for doing everything in their power to avoid legal action. Here’s how you can prevent a manufacturer from using shady tactics to ruin your lemon law claim.
Consult A Lemon Law Attorney Before Signing Any Documents From The Manufacturer
When you sign a document regarding your defective vehicle, you could be unknowingly signing away your legal rights. Manufacturers will sneak an agreement to not pursue a lemon claim into documents that you might otherwise consider harmless. If you mistakenly agree to forgo your rights, you may be unable to file a lemon claim.
For example, a warranty extension might be offered, which on the surface seems beneficial to a driver. However, these are often accompanied by a release agreement, which is an enforced promise to not proceed in a legal claim in pursuit of money or other reimbursements.
This is why it’s important to consult an attorney that specializes in lemon law before signing any documents. They will be able to catch any devious agreements hiding in the fine print to ensure your rights are protected.
As previously mentioned, every state has its own variations on lemon laws, which means there are different legal requirements depending on where you purchased the vehicle.
In some states, like California, consumers can seek justices for a pre-owned lemon. Earning a buyback for a used vehicle can get more complicated than a new one. That said, you would be wise to hire a lemon law lawyer in California to ensure you get the full compensation.
Another sneaky tactic used by manufacturers is when they suggest arbitration instead of court settlements. Arbitration involves presenting the claim in front of a panel of third-party arbitrators who decide if your case is legitimate. This is the cheaper option for the manufacturer, and it rarely results in a buyback or replacement vehicle for the driver.
Often, the manufacturer will bring in “independent” arbitrators who are sponsored by the auto company. In 2009, a sponsored arbitration firm in Minnesota was taken to court and forced to pay a settlement for their unfair biases towards a manufacturer.
In arbitration, it’s almost inevitable that the arbitrators will rule in favor of the manufacturer rather than the driver. Plus, if you choose to file a lemon law claim after an unfavorable arbitration ruling, the arbitrator’s decision can be used as evidence against you in court.
It is highly recommended to avoid this option altogether and hire a lawyer to file your lemon law claim instead.
Read Over The Lemon Law Clause In The Purchase Agreement
Sometimes when you buy a new car, the purchase agreement will have a lemon law clause. The manufacturer might be able to use this clause to fight your lemon law claim.
For example, Tesla has an arbitration clause in their purchase agreement that requires faulty vehicles to be overseen by an arbitration firm if the issues are not fixed within the first 60 days of ownership.
Tesla drivers can opt out of this clause within 30-days of purchasing the vehicle. If there are substantial defects that meet the criteria of the state’s lemon law, the consumer can go on to pursue a claim. A lemon law attorney will help you understand a purchase agreement and find ways around it.
Don’t Sign An Out Of Court Settlement
Sometimes a manufacturer will suggest other settlement options to avoid legal action. Lemon cases are costly, time-consuming, and potentially damaging to their reputation. So, automakers will try anything to avoid them.
They might recommend a cash settlement that’s less than what your case is worth. Although an immediate payout for your vehicle is tempting, it could prevent you from obtaining the best possible result for your lemon.
In other cases, a manufacturer will offer free servicing or replacement parts on your vehicle. However, if your car truly is a lemon, these fixes will only be temporary.
Don’t fall victim to a low-ball settlement or resolution when you could receive more. Keep in mind that under California lemon law, the manufacturer will be responsible for paying all your legal fees If you win the case.
While pursuing a lemon claim, be cautious of signing documents from manufacturers, arbitration, purchase agreements, and out-of-court settlements. These tactics can shut down your claim.
If your new or used vehicle displays a mechanical defect while under warranty, you should consult a lemon law attorney. If you have a solid lemon case, an attorney will be able to help you receive the buyback or replacement you deserve.