Thousands of American consumers purchase defective vehicles each year. Consumers get their vehicle home from the dealership only to soon discover it has a seemingly unfixable problem out of nowhere. If this happens to you, you aren’t alone: the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) estimates consumers inadvertently purchase 150,000 of these “lemon” vehicles every year. The problems that make a vehicle a “lemon” can be caused by any number of issues. These issues can range from design flaws, substandard materials, manufacturing errors or simple human mistakes at the factory. Regardless of the cause, the result is the same: a defective lemon vehicle.
Lemon cars can come from all manufacturers including Ford, Honda, General Motors, Volkswagen and any other major manufacturer. What could be considered a minor problem for the manufacturer can be a major problem for the consumer. Lemons can cost consumers thousands of dollars in unforeseen costs including lost work hours, alternative transportation costs, towing fees and other costs that can spring up when your only vehicle goes in the shop.
Luckily, consumers aren’t entirely out of options. Auto manufacturers include written warranties with new vehicles, stating within a certain period they will cover any repair needed resulting from a manufacturing defect. Written warranties are, in simple terms, the manufacturer promising they will fix any problem you find with the car not caused by the owner’s abuse or neglect. Warranties spell out what problems they will fix and how long a consumer can pursue a repair. This means any defect found in the vehicle is the manufacturer’s responsibility to repair.
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Lemon laws almost always exclusively cover new vehicles; those sold within the protection period of the original factory warranty. Lemon laws also cover vehicles whose problems did not arise as a result of abuse or neglect. For example, a vehicle containing an engine problem caused by faulty components or an error at the factory, that vehicle is covered. If the engine problem is caused by the owner never changing the oil, that vehicle would not be covered.
Manufacturer warranties tend to expire long after a vehicle is resold into the used car market and as such, lemon laws do not protect used cars. A few states extend lemon law protections to used car consumers, but not all. Most states usually only care whether the vehicle is still covered under its original factory warranty, which most used vehicles are not. If a vehicle is bought and resold during the original warranty’s coverage period, it is still technically a used car but still covered by the lemon law. However, some states, such as New York, offer specific warranty protections for used vehicles beyond what is usually offered by the manufacturer. Other states don’t cover used vehicles at all, saying their lemon laws only cover the original retail owner and no subsequent owners regardless of warranty status.
Andrew Ross, a lemon law attorney with Allen Stewart P.C., said used car consumers are often out of luck if they expect the manufacturer to repurchase or replace their used vehicle.
“If a consumer is hoping to force the manufacturer to repurchase or replace their used vehicle, the Texas Lemon Law is not going to help the consumer achieve their goal,” Ross said. “The only relief that may be afforded is that the consumer may be able to force the manufacturer to repair the problems experienced in the vehicle.”
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When manufacturers don’t hold up their end of the bargain, lemon laws force them to either make things right or suffer penalties in the court of law. Each state has its own lemon law, with variations on how long a consumer must pursue a claim and how long a vehicle must be out of service before a claim can commence. Additionally, consumers across the country are protected by the Magnuson-Moss Warranty Act, a federal law protecting all Americans.
The Magnuson-Moss Warranty Act requires companies 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 keeps companies from disclaiming or modifying implied warranties with their written counterparts. 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.
Lemon laws are confusing. Read our guide to the lemon law process.
Magnuson-Moss makes companies distinguish clearly the difference between “full” and “limited” warranties, and mandates those companies remedy any problems covered by the warranty within a reasonable time. The warrantor can’t limit the products implied warranty or limit consequential damages for breaching that warranty unless that exclusion appears clearly in the warranty’s text.
The Act empowers consumers, giving them tools they need to face companies in court when they don’t stand by their warranties. Consumers can pursue their claims in court, such as lemon law claims, and take their attorney’s fees from the company if they win.
Lemon laws, like every other law, are governed by statutes of limitations. Statutes of limitations grant deadlines for initiating legal proceedings. This is why lemon law attorneys often tell you to “call now” or “reach out today,” as past a certain point they can no longer help you. In Texas, that time period is six months following whichever occurs earlier: the warranty’s expiration, 24 months after the purchase, or 24,000 miles driven on the vehicle in question after its date of delivery.
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Once the proscribed time period expires, a claim cannot be filed or would be dismissed on statutory grounds. United States law has statutes of limitations for both civil and criminal claims, though particularly serious criminal claims have no statutes of limitations. The statute lengths can also vary from state to state for their lemon laws, which can also differ from the statutes for federal laws. Qualified, experienced lemon law attorneys know how these statutes work and how best to work within their limits to make sure your lemon law claim not only sees the light of day but makes its way through the legal system.
The lemon law attorneys of Allen Stewart P.C. will work with you to determine if you have a valid lemon law claim and the best next steps to take. They will work with you and keep you informed on your claim’s status and get you the best possible compensation. The longer you wait the worse your chances of success get so don’t delay; contact Allen Stewart P.C. today .