We handle cases across the United States. Allen Stewart is licensed to practice law in Texas, California, New York, Pennsylvania, Missouri, North Carolina, Ohio and Arizona.
Auto recalls and lemon law – Texas Lemon Law
Having a vehicle with a mechanical issue, particularly one that puts driver and/or passengers at risk, is a challenging situation. For those who suddenly are without reliable transportation and want to know the best way to address the problem, there are certain considerations to evaluate.
The vehicle defect can be addressed at the expense of the manufacturer, rather than the vehicle owner. This is the best way to go if the defect is covered under a recall, covered under a warranty or is a well-established problem that can be covered by the Texas Lemon Law.
This applies to vehicles purchased new off the lot. If a vehicle is purchased used but is still covered by the original warranty, then the Texas Lemon Law still applies. Also, any vehicle that is covered under a recall, regardless of whether it is purchased new or used, will have the issue fixed at the expense of the dealership – or at least partially covered.
When it comes to an auto recall, there are a few ways the owner will be notified. One is through mail or email, if the manufacturer has that information on file. Another is through news stories outlining the defect, the models affected and the potential fix proposed by the manufacturer. Another way to find out about recalls is to check www.nhtsa.gov for recalls. Entering your vehicle identification number (VIN) on the website shows any active recalls for that vehicle.
Once it is established your vehicle has an active recall due to a defect, the next step is to schedule the maintenance with your dealership. That way, it is covered and there is no cost for you, the vehicle owner.
If the issue is not resolved the first time it goes in for repair and there is a significant risk to the safety of the driver and passengers, then the vehicle is headed into territory covered by the Texas Lemon Law.
The intention of the Texas Lemon Law is to provide assistance to a vehicle owner who has attempted to have an issue with their vehicle fixed multiple times and had no success.
The Lemon Law can help the vehicle owner find resolution for their situation, which tends to be through three options: the vehicle may be repurchased, replaced, or repaired.
The Texas Lemon Law was enacted in 1983. The Texas Legislature dealt with a court challenge but saw the law’s validity upheld in 1985. The law has been protecting Texas residents ever since, with more than 17,000 complaints resolved through this law between 1988 and 2002.
The law has also been flexible over time, with towable vehicles added in 1997. These vehicles must have a title and be registered in order to qualify. Also, only those built on a single chassis and with one or more life support systems qualify for coverage under the Texas Lemon Law.
As of 1999, however, the vehicles covered are only permitted to be purchased within the state of Texas. The most recent amendment occurred in 2002, when the manufacturers were first required to re-title the vehicle in Texas prior to selling it to another buyer.
The Texas Lemon Law now covers all vans, trucks, cars, motorcycles, all-terrain vehicles and towable recreation vehicles (TRVs that meet above-mentioned criteria) that are purchased or leased within the state of Texas. The law also covers neighborhood electric vehicles. It does not cover used motor vehicles, non-travel trailers, boats or farm equipment.
One important thing to note is that if the vehicle defect is proven caused by owner neglect or abuse, that defect is not covered. Likewise, if a part or component was added after-market and not manufacturer-approved, the issue with the vehicle is not covered. Finally, if the issue does not put the driver in danger or significantly detract from the market value of said vehicle, it is not covered. This includes issues with the stereo.
If the vehicle category (car, truck, van, etc…) is covered under Texas Lemon Law, it still needs to meet certain criteria in order for the manufacturer to be held accountable to fix the defect.
First, the vehicle must have been purchased in the state of Texas (as previously mentioned). Next, the vehicle must have a serious defect that is covered by the manufacturer’s original written warranty. Also, the owner is required to report the defect to the dealer or manufacturer within the term of the warranty. Then, the owner must give said dealer or manufacturer a reasonable number of repair attempts and also notifies the dealer via written means that the issue has not been resolved. Usually, the owner is also required to give the dealer or manufacturer one opportunity after the written notice is delivered to resolve the defect or issue with the vehicle.
A filing fee is required when a vehicle owner files a Lemon Law complaint. Also, the complaint must be filed in a timely manner.
There are certain tests the vehicle must “pass” in order to be considered a lemon. Those include being out of commission for 30 days during the first 24 months or 24,000 miles (these days do not need to be consecutive); been taken in to a mechanic four times to attempt to resolve the defect, with no success and been taken into the dealer or mechanic to resolve an issue that poses a significant safety issue for the vehicle owner twice in the first 24 months or 24,000 miles. Here it is important to note that if the vehicle is not driveable for 30 days, any days where a loaner vehicle is supplied do not count toward the overall total.
Vehicles that fit these criteria and pass the aforementioned tests are covered under the Texas Lemon Law. Once that is established, the next step is for the Board to determine whether the manufacturer should repurchase the vehicle, replace it with a comparable model or repair the defect in a satisfactory manner.
Here it is important to note that vehicle recalls typically cover issues like this, but they are prevalent enough in the specific make, model and year of the vehicle to be considered a risk for all models manufactured that year. The Lemon Law comes into play when it is a serious issue with a specific vehicle and the issue is not considered a prevalent one among that year’s model.
Vehicle owners who are left without reliable transportation may feel lost and frustrated. That is where the Texas Lemon Law comes into play. It can help those vehicle owners find a resolution and get the vehicle back on the road. Whether it is a vehicle relied upon to transport the breadwinner to and from their place of employment or a vehicle that transports the family regularly – or both – the vehicle needs to be reliable and safe. If it is not, then the Texas Lemon Law was put into place to protect the vehicle owner and ensure they have recourse to resolve the issue at hand.
The long-standing law and the fact it has helped thousands since it was enacted means this issue is far too common. It is reassuring to know that the protection is there for a vehicle owner who needs it.