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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.

Lemon Law and Manufacturer Responsibilities 

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Automotive manufacturers have specific responsibilities when selling vehicles to the American public. Numerous laws and regulations affect how they build the vehicles they sell, from fuel economy to safety standards and many more factors. One responsibility all manufacturers share is to make vehicles that work as advertised. Manufacturers offer written warranties stating their products will perform as advertised safely. Warranties also state if the product, in this case a vehicle, fails to perform as advertised that they will make the consumer whole either by repairing the problem or replacing the vehicle. When the manufacturer doesn’t hold up their end of this agreement, lemon laws provide consumers and their attorneys with the legal means to get compensation.

Thousands of Americans every year run into this very problem. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) estimates Americans inadvertently purchase 150,000 defective vehicles every year. These “lemon” vehicles leave the factory with repeating, unfixable problems. These defects can range from the seemingly innocuous to life-threatening; from paint job problems to major safety threats. No matter what caused these problems, whether it was substandard materials, faulty components, faulty design or worker error, one thing remains true: the manufacturer is responsible. As such they must compensate the consumer by making sure they have a working vehicle one way or another.

Lemon laws exist to protect consumers when vehicles are defective. Each state has its own version of lemon law, differing in certain factors including statutes of limitation, how long a consumer has to file a complaint, and how many repair attempts the consumer must allow. Along with state laws lemon law attorneys rely on the federal Magnuson-Moss Warranty Act as another tool when pursuing lemon law claims; the Act backs up and supersedes state law and protects consumers when state laws otherwise would fall short.

Lemon laws hinge on written manufacturers’ warranties. Without a manufacturer’s warranty, the consumer has no legal basis of protection. New car purchases always come with a written warranty which details how long the manufacturer will provide free repairs for any problem discovered within the vehicle and is not the fault of the consumer themselves. A consumer looking to purchase a new vehicle should always check the warranty before making a purchasing decision; the Magnuson-Moss Warranty Act forces automakers selling vehicles in the United States to make their written warranties available up front, so consumers can shop based on warranty coverage. The consumer should check how long the warranty lasts, who they should contact for warranty service, how the company says it will handle warrantied problems, and what conditions or limitations are included in the warranty.

For more information on arbitration and other frequently asked lemon law arbitration questions, click here.

This is the primary reason why used cars are generally not protected by lemon laws: most used cars are resold long after their original factory warranty expired. If the vehicle was resold while still under warranty protection, however, a lemon law attorney could possibly still pursue a claim. If there is any kind of confusion, a consumer should contact a qualified lemon law lawyer with their purchase information to see what options remain open to them. Some states, including New York, have specific lemon law protections for used vehicles.

Lemon law attorney Andrew Ross said most used car consumers are generally out of luck if they hope to get lemon law remedies for their used vehicles – particularly Texas-based consumers.

“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.”

There are two types of warranties at play when considering lemon laws: implied warranties and written warranties. Written warranties clearly state what the manufacturer will and won’t cover, and are provided by the manufacturer’s themselves. Part of the Magnuson-Moss Warranty Act requires manufacturers make their warranties easily available and understood is so consumer can shop for a vehicle by looking at warranty coverage.

“Implied warranties,” or “warranties of merchantability,” are part of state laws meaning a seller of goods promises the product will do what it is meant to do. For example: a new car should be able to safely move passenger and cargo from one location to another. If the car cannot do this, it doesn’t conform to the implied warranty.

An “implied warranty of merchantability” means the product purchased should work as expected. For example, if you buy a car, it is expected to start, get you safely from one point to another, and then stop. If a car dealership sells you a new vehicle that fails to do any of these things, they have breached the implied warranty of merchantability.

Lemon laws are confusing. Read our guide to the lemon law complaint process.

The “implied warranty of fitness” is an implied warranty stating if the seller knows what purpose the buyer is buying the product for, the seller is promising the product works for that specific purpose. For example, if a consumer buys a truck specifically to haul cargo, the seller of that truck guarantees the truck is good for hauling cargo.

The only way a seller can get around this is if the product is marked “as is,” indicating no warranty is provided. Several states do not legally allow “as is” sales.

Manufacturer’s written warranties work by spelling out in detail what potential problems the manufacturer will fix. These problems cause the vehicle to not conform to the terms of the warranty, hence they are called “nonconformities.” These problems must be recurring and unfixable to trigger lemon law protection. They can range from minor issues such as odd smells or paint job inconsistencies, to major problems involving the drive train or safety systems. Whether the problems are big or small, they can affect the vehicle’s safety, comfort or resale value, negatively affecting the consumer.

Consumers who pursue a lemon law claim and succeed have two options open to them: repurchase or replacement.

A repurchase is also known as a “buyback,” or refund. The manufacturer buys the car back from the consumer, including sales taxes, title registration and other fees. Most state laws also require the manufacturer reimburse you for incidental costs you encountered because of the vehicle’s defects, including rental car fees, towing costs, phone or mail communications made when contacting the dealership or manufacturer, personal property damage, attorney’s fees if the consumer hires an attorney after learning the manufacturer has also hired an attorney, and even room and board if the vehicle fails while on an out-of-town trip.

Replacement is exactly what it sounds like: the manufacturer provides a vehicle as similar as possible to the lemon vehicle, though one would hope without any defects.

Both options come with one caveat, however. Most states allow manufacturers to withhold a “reasonable allowance for the consumer’s use of the vehicle” from the amount refunded. They calculate this amount based on how many miles the consumer drove the vehicle before reporting a defect. Someone who chooses a repurchase after discovering a defect a week into ownership will get more back than someone who drove their defective vehicle for a month before reporting the problem.

If your brand-new vehicle ends up a lemon, don’t wait: contact Allen Stewart P.C. today. The experienced lemon law attorneys of Allen Stewart P.C. have combined decades of experience getting compensation for their clients. The longer you wait, the more difficult your claim will be. Contact Allen Stewart P.C. today.

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