A common refrain heard from many lemon law attorneys is “don’t wait, contact us today.” There’s more to that than you might think. Every state lemon law as well as the federal Magnuson-Moss Warranty Act protect consumers against defective vehicles. However consumers must report those defects within a certain period of time to take advantage of those protections, otherwise they run afoul of the law’s statute of limitations. It benefits both the consumer and their attorney when the consumer acts promptly after noticing a defect, so the attorney has all the time they need to leverage the lemon law’s provisions to get consumers the compensation they deserve.
Lemon laws throughout the United States protect consumers from what attorneys call “nonconformities,” better known as defects. These problems range from minor issues (strange smells, unidentifiable rattles) to major problems (malfunctioning safety systems, engines that won’t start, brakes that fail). Warranties are written under the pretense the vehicle will function properly, so problems like these throw the vehicle out of conformity with its warranty: hence the term nonconformity. Just because a problem is minor doesn’t make it any less of a defect; even seemingly trifling issues can affect a vehicle’s resale value and negatively affect you.
Statutes of limitations are laws that effectively grant deadlines for initiating legal proceedings. 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 particular 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.
Each state’s lemon law has its own statutes and deadlines. Texas consumers, for example, 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 would 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. Importantly, a Texas consumer 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.
Within that statute of limitations, a vehicle must hit certain requirements before it becomes a lemon. Those requirements differ throughout the United States. Vehicles in Texas, for example, must pass one of three “tests” before officially becoming a lemon vehicle: the four times test, the serious safety hazard test, or the 30 day 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 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.
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.
The Magnuson-Moss Warranty Act of 1975, a federal law, borrows the statute of limitations from the state in which the breach of warranty occurs- if you buy a vehicle in Texas, for example, and chose to file a claim through the Magnuson-Moss Warranty Act, you would abide by Texas statutes. In this case, breach of warranty claims in Texas follow the Uniform Commercial Code’s four year statute of limitations. Therefore, the statute of limitations for federal Magnuson-Moss Warranty Act claims in Texas is four years.
As a federal law, the Magnuson-Moss Warranty Act supersedes state laws and claims made through it can be pursued even if they don’t meet a state law’s requirements. The Act provides many benefits to consumers, most notably requiring vehicle manufacturers to pay the claimant’s attorney fees if the attorney prevails in court. This helps even the playing field between consumers and automotive manufacturers, who have expansive legal teams at the ready to defend their client from claims like yours.
It’s vital to your lemon law claim that you act quickly throughout the process, including deciding to find a lemon law attorney quickly and getting that attorney all required documentation promptly. The faster your lemon law lawyer has documents in hand, the faster they can study them, ascertain the details surrounding your case, and then begin the process of notifying your vehicle’s manufacturer and filing the claim in court.
Once you contact Allen Stewart P.C., our legal experts will ask you basic information about your vehicle: year, make, model, and so on. They will ask you if you bought it new or used, when and from where you bought the vehicle, and about the problems you’ve since faced with the vehicle. They’ll ask you how many times you’ve taken the vehicle in for repairs, and how long the vehicle’s been out of service. Using these facts, the attorney establishes a basic timeline on your claim, and determines whether or not they can successfully represent you in court.
Once they determine a claim would be successful, the attorney will ask you for what they call “purchase docs:” documents detailing your vehicle’s purchase process. This includes any contacts signed with the dealership, the proof of purchase, and proof of registration. The attorney will also request documentation detailing every repair attempt your vehicle underwent, what exactly they fixed, how long it took them and how many times they tried to fix the core problem. These documents form your claim’s foundation and providing them to your attorney quickly increases the chance your claim will resolve successfully for you.
Time is of the essence when filing a lemon law claim. As soon as you believe you have a defective vehicle, your highest priority should be finding a qualified, experienced lemon law attorney. The lawyers of Allen Stewart P.C. have combined decades of experience taking on automotive manufacturers when they sell defective vehicles. The sooner you act, the sooner you can get the justice you deserve and get back on the road. Thanks to the Magnuson-Moss Warranty Act, your attorney collects their fees as part of the settlement. Reach out to Allen Stewart P.C. today and get back behind the wheel.