Thousands of American car consumers experience the nightmare scenario each year when they buy their new vehicle. What should be a landmark life experience soon sours as the brand-new vehicle starts exhibiting unforeseen problems, whether it’s something as innocuous as a strange smell or as dangerous as faulty breaks or catastrophic engine failure. Through no fault of their own the consumer purchases a “lemon” vehicle, a vehicle containing defective parts or systems. Lemons can cost these consumers hundreds and possibly thousands of dollars in unforeseen costs, including alternate transportation, towing, loss of work and more.
If this happens to you, you’re not alone: The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) estimates American consumers inadvertently purchase roughly 150,000 lemon vehicles each year from manufacturers including Honda, General Motors, Ford, Toyota and many others. Faulty materials or parts, manufacturing problems, human errors can all contribute to defective vehicles. Regardless of what caused them, consumers have legal ways of finding compensation. Each state in America has a “lemon law” requiring manufacturers to repair, replace, or refund defective vehicles. These lemon laws empower consumers and their attorneys to get fair treatment and force manufacturers to honor their products’ warranties.
State lemon laws are backed at the national level by the Magnuson-Moss Warranty Act of 1975, a federal law protecting consumers across the United States. Lemon law attorneys use state and federal laws to fight for their clients in and out of court to get them the justice to which they are entitled. However, lemon law clients can’t wait forever. Certain specific deadlines and statutes of limitations require prompt action otherwise the consumer is out of luck. Each state has its own statute of limitations for filing a lemon law claim; the sooner you file your claim, the better your chances are of getting a positive outcome.
United States law has statutes of limitations for both civil and criminal claims, though particularly serious criminal claims have no statutes of limitations. Statute lengths vary from state to state and for different claims. Your lemon law attorney has the knowledge and experience to successfully navigate the various state and federal laws and limitations to get your claim the best possible outcome.
Texas’s lemon law protects consumers who purchase or lease new, defective vehicles. Lemon laws refer to vehicle defects as “nonconformities” as the problems throw the vehicle out of conformity with its written warranty. The Texas lemon law covers “serious defects” which it defines as a problem that “substantially impairs the use or market value of the vehicle.” The law considers any problem that makes it dangerous or difficult to operate or sell the vehicle a “serious defect,” which can range from anything from a strong, noxious odor to a steering or engine problem. Minor issues like radio problems or annoying noises aren’t covered. The law also doesn’t cover anything caused by the consumer’s own actions, such as post-purchase damage or unauthorized modifications.
Texas consumers, specifically, must file a state lemon law complaint no later than 42 months from the date the warranty became active. However, if the consumer drives the vehicle 20,000 in the first year after the vehicle’s delivery, the consumer must need to file the Texas state lemon law complaint before the car traveled another 4,000 miles, even if that occurs before the expiration of the 42 months mentioned above. A consumer in Texas should seek the assistance of a lemon law attorney to determine the time remaining, if any, to file a Texas state lemon law claim, and whether they should still try to file a claim depending on their specific circumstances.
Lemon vehicles in Texas must meet specific conditions before their owners can file a lemon law claim. Texas law has three such “tests:” the four times test, the 30 days test, or the serious safety hazard test.
A vehicle passes the four times test if it’s been taken to a dealership for repairs two times for the same problem or defect within the first year or 12,000 miles, whichever comes first, and twice more during the first 12 months or 12,000 miles following the first repair attempt without the problem being fixed.
A vehicle passes the 30-day test if it has been out of service for repair because of problems covered by the original factory warranty for a total of 30 days or more during the first two years or 24,000 miles of ownership without a comparable loaner vehicle offered, and there were two repair attempts during the first year or 12,000 without any success.
A vehicle passes the serious safety hazard test if the vehicle owner submits the vehicle for repair of a serious safety hazard once during the first 12 months of ownership or 12,000 miles, whichever comes first, and then once more during the 12 months or 12,000 miles following the first repair attempts without the problem being fixed. The Texas lemon law defines a “serious safety hazard” as any life-threatening malfunction that substantially impedes the driver’s ability to control or operate the vehicle normally, or that creates a substantial risk of fire or explosion.
Texas automotive consumers are protected by, in addition to the Texas lemon law, the federal Magnuson-Moss Warranty Act. The Act adheres to the statute of limitations from the state in which the breach of warranty happened. If you buy a vehicle in Texas, for example, and you discover the defect while in Texas, your breach of warranty case would abide by Texas’s statute of limitations: four years.
The Act requires companies make clear statements in their warranties, otherwise those ambiguities will be held against the company in court.
The Act, signed into law in 1975, in response to allegations of consumer rights violations by businesses in the 20th century. Throughout the 19th and early 20th centuries America’s main consumer law was caveat emptor: let the buyer beware. It was incumbent on the consumer themselves to take requisite caution when making purchase. However, as the economy grew more complex and more steps separated the producer from the end consumer, newer laws were needed.
The Uniform Commercial Code (UCC) originally tried harmonizing sales and commercial transaction laws across America. States can adopt the code into their statutes either fully or partially, even though the Code itself is not law. Every U.S. state but Louisiana adopted UCC rules, who instead opted to keep their own civil law traditions.
This didn’t go far enough in stemming manufacturers’ abuse of consumers, and as such consumers demanded change from their elected officials. They wanted government oversight for warranty law and legal support when they take manufacturers to court. The Magnuson-Moss Warranty Act provides consumers and their attorneys the tools and support they need.
The Magnuson-Moss Warranty Act makes manufacturers designate any warranties they offer as either “full” or “limited” and specify exactly what they cover in a single, clear, easy-to-read document. They must also make the warranty conspicuously available for consumer review, allowing consumers to shop for warranty coverage before making a purchase.
The Act also prohibits these companies from disclaiming or modifying implied warranties with their written ones. This means consumers are always entitled to the basic protections of “implied warranties of merchantability;” that a good sold must do what that good is supposed to. For example: a new car should operate and convey passengers and cargo from one place to another safely. A car that cannot do this does not conform to the implied warranty of merchantability.
The sooner you reach out to a qualified lemon law attorney, the better chance you have of reaching a satisfying outcome. Once you contact Allen Stewart P.C., our lemon law experts will ask you many questions about your vehicle. They will need to know your vehicle’s year, make, model, where you purchased it, and other details. They’ll ask whether you bought it new or used; a vital piece of information given that most used cars’ warranties have long since elapsed. They’ll ask you about the specific problems you’ve experienced with the vehicle, all the repair attempts made and for copies of all repair documentation showing when you brought it in for repair and how long the repairs took. This information and records form the foundation upon which the lemon law attorneys of Allen Stewart P.C. will build your breach of warranty claim. The faster you respond with accurate information, the better your chances of success will be.
If the court rules in the consumers favor, the consumer generally has two options: repurchase or replacement. A repurchase, or “buyback,” is one of the quicker possible resolutions for a lemon law claim. Buybacks can finish within three weeks, though this is a best-case scenario in which the manufacturer doesn’t oppose the claim or fight it in court.
Repurchase means the manufacturer repays the consumer the full purchase price of the vehicle, including taxes and fees but not including insurance costs or finance charges. The manufacturer must also repay the consumer “reasonable incidental costs resulting from the loss of use of the motor vehicle,” which usually includes any towing costs, rental car fees, or other costs associated with the loss of the lemon vehicle. The manufacturer can, however, withhold a certain amount depending on how much the consumer drove the vehicle before it went down for maintenance.
If the victorious consumer chooses replacement, the manufacturer must provide a properly functioning vehicle comparable to the original; similar in make and model. Just as they must in a repurchase, the manufacturer must reimburse the consumer for reasonable incidental costs while also withholding reasonable allowances for the consumer’s use of the original vehicle.
The lemon law attorneys of Allen Stewart P.C. have the experience needed to guide your claim to success and get you the justice you deserve. Contacting a lemon law firm is the single best step you can take during the lemon law claims process. Lemon law attorneys know far more about the sometimes arcane legal systems and processes than the average person, and know how to navigate your claim around the various pitfalls and obstacles it could potentially encounter.
Attorney and firm owner Allen Stewart said he’s never seen a plaintiff who represents themselves prevail in court.
“Even the simplest things in the law can be complicated because if you miss the timeline, you could lose it all,” Stewart said. “If you file the wrong paperwork, it could set you back time and money, and you might lose the case.”
Allen Stewart P.C. attorney Andrew Ross said those who try to pursue a claim on their own without legal help risk losing in court, or not even making it to court. Attorneys know how the statutes of limitation and other deadlines work, and know how to properly submit claims and paperwork to the court. They have years of experience taking claims through the legal system and how to use those systems to help you.
“If you’re missing some of those things, or if you don’t follow certain rules, your claim can be completely tossed out,” Ross said. “You run the risk of having your case thrown out or getting a judgement that prevents you from trying to present your case again.”
When searching for a lemon law firm, consumers should exercise due diligence and research any potential firm thoroughly. You can find reviews for the firm on third-party websites such as Yelp, Martindale, Avvo and Google Reviews; make sure the firm you seek to hire has experience in lemon law. Avoid any firm or attorney that asks for upfront payment; lemon law attorneys collect their fees after the claim resolves.
The attorneys of Allen Stewart P.C. have the experience needed to get you the compensation you deserve, but the quicker you act the better your chances of success will be. If your brand-new car is defective and the manufacturer won’t help,reach out to Allen Stewart P.C. today .