Lemon Laws: Consumer Defense Against Subpar Products

Most states have lemon laws to help consumers who purchase defective products. These laws usually require the manufacturer to repurchase vehicles that meet specific criteria, such as having a significant problem and receiving multiple repair attempts. Lemon law covers cars, trucks, motor homes and other vehicles used for personal, family or household purposes. The term “lemon” is also used to describe certain types of fruits.

What Is a Lemon?

Lemon is a term used in state laws to refer to vehicles with major defects that the manufacturer or dealership cannot successfully repair after a reasonable number of attempts. Each state’s lemon laws have specific rules about what is considered a good number of repair attempts, and the definition can vary from one state to another. A vehicle that qualifies for a lemon law claim has a significant defect that negatively affects its use, value and safety. While there are several ways to determine whether you have purchased a lemon, the most effective way is to inspect your car by a professional mechanic and save documentation of any issues.

In the US, laws protect purchasers of brand-new and leased cars that are found to be lemons through an arbitration and hearing procedure, leveling the playing field between customers and major national automakers. Sometimes these laws are called “lemon laws,” but the more general terms may also be consumer protection or warranty and contract laws. If you want to increase your chances of winning your lemon law case, working with a local lawyer who knows your state’s laws and can help you navigate the process is wise. Winning a lemon case is not easy, but it is possible if you have careful records and an attorney to assist you. Attorneys who practice lemon law engage in contingency agreements with their clients, implying they will only be paid if they succeed. The settlement sum suggested on your behalf to the manufacturer will include all California lemon law attorney fees and expenses.

How Can I Make a Lemon Law Claim?

If you are a consumer who thinks your vehicle is a lemon, you can file a claim with the manufacturer. In many cases, auto manufacturers have their own dispute resolution procedures or state-run arbitration programs that you can use to resolve your complaint without going to court. If you choose to pursue a lawsuit, there are several techniques that lemon law attorneys can employ to help strengthen your case, including depositions (in-person interviews with witnesses and parties conducted under oath) and interrogatories (written questions sent to the defendant, which they must respond to in writing). In addition, your attorney can also request important documents from the manufacturer, such as warranty information, internal memos, phone records, and repair records.

Because lemon laws are highly state-specific, consulting with a local lawyer familiar with your jurisdiction’s law is important. Your lemon law attorney can explain your steps to make a successful claim.  By hiring an experienced attorney, keeping careful records and working closely with your lawyer, you will have the best chance of winning your lemon law claim.

How Do I Know If I Have a Lemon Law Claim?

Every state has enacted a lemon law to protect consumers from purchasing defective cars. The law defines “lemons” as cars bought and driven by the consumer for 30 days or more that require reasonable repair attempts to resolve problems. You may find out if you have a lemon automobile claim and how to seek a refund or replacement by consulting a lemon law attorney. In most states, lemon laws also allow the manufacturer to require a consumer to participate in their arbitration program (if it complies with the law) before a lawsuit can be filed. The manufacturer must refund your purchase or provide a comparable replacement vehicle if you win. New York lemon law allows manufacturers to deduct a trade-in allowance, license and registration fees from the repurchase price. The law also requires that if a manufacturer chooses to replace your lemon car, it must provide you with a vehicle of the same model year, value and mileage.

How Do I Win a Lemon Law Claim?

The specifics of how a Lemon Law claim is won can vary by state. Still, it generally means that the defect or problems you experienced with your vehicle were serious enough to warrant a replacement or refund. Often, that involves proving that it took an unreasonable amount of time or repair attempts for the manufacturer to fix the issue; working with a reputable Lemon Law lawyer from the start can help you increase your odds of success.

In most states, manufacturers must honor any written warranties on their products. It includes express warranties, statements of fact or promises made by the manufacturer about their product, and implied warranties, which are based on common law or statute and are broader in scope than express warranties. If you apply for Lemon Law arbitration, you will typically write and notify the manufacturer of your intent. You should also keep a copy of that letter for potential inclusion in your Lemon Law hearing, which may be conducted by phone or online. Whether or not you can successfully win your Lemon Law case is ultimately up to an arbitrator appointed for your case. If you need help with how to proceed, consulting with a qualified lemon law attorney may be helpful.