Driving your vehicle to and from work or handling daily errands should not be a cause for stress. It should be simple enough to head out, turn the key and get on the road with a reliably running vehicle. However, if you have recently purchased a new vehicle from a dealership in Texas and that vehicle is not performing as expected, you may be saddled with a lemon.
There is a law that protects vehicle owners in these cases – the Texas Lemon Law.
If you happen to have a car, truck, SUV, motorcycle or even an electric vehicle that has a significant, value-impacting and dangerous defect, then you may find protection under the Texas Lemon Law.
That is the good news- there is a light at the end of the tunnel. But how do you get there?
Despite the fact that the Texas Lemon Law is handled by the Texas Department of Motor Vehicles and follows a specific process overseen through that department, there is still significant benefit to hiring the right attorney to help you navigate the world of the lemon law.
So, what does it take to hire the right attorney to help you through the process?
Discuss their experience
Don’t be afraid to ask about the attorney’s experience in court. Let them tell you about the case process and areas that might be a challenge if you were to handle it alone. The better they explain this process to you, the more confidence you can have in the success of your case.
Ask about their success rate with lemon law cases
This is another area to get answers to when considering an attorney. Ask them how many clients they have represented in lemon law cases and what their success rate is in total. These cases can conclude with mediation or following a hearing. Ask how many cases have gone to a hearing and what the results were in those cases.
Seek a firm with a competent staff
During any preliminary consultation with the attorney, see what they say about handling evidence compilation and searches for documentation or other critical pieces of the case. If they are speaking of various staff that will be assisting, that is a good sign. However, if they are expecting you to do the work, then it may not be worth the hit to your wallet to hire this particular attorney.
For more information on arbitration and other frequently asked lemon law questions, click here.
Have them tell you what’s next
If you find you are happy with the answers you have received, then ask them what’s next. Let them give you a guide of what to expect and what needs to be done. The right attorney won’t have you leaving the office more confused than when you went in. Instead, they will let you know what you need to do and what timeline to expect while moving forward.
The lemon law process is complex. There are various criteria your vehicle must meet to be considered a lemon under the law. Also, the evidence must be complete and verifiable to ensure the case succeeds. These are only a few of the reasons why it is important to hire the right attorney.
The Texas Lemon Law
The Texas Lemon Law covers newly purchased vehicles that have a warranty from the dealer/manufacturer. Likewise, it covers cars, trucks, SUVs, RVs, motorcycles, electric cars and towable recreational vehicles. The coverage is only within six months of the end of the first 24 months the vehicle is in the auto buyer’s possession or after the first 24,000 miles driven. Therefore, if there is an ongoing issue, it is best to focus on addressing it quickly.
A vehicle that is covered under the Texas Lemon Law must have a serious defect that impacts its value and puts the driver’s safety at risk. The issue must have persisted despite four or more attempts to have it fixed by a mechanic – attempts that have documentation and are clear that it is the same issue that was addressed and not resolved.
The issue in question must lead to the vehicle sitting idle for 30 days or more (these do not need to be consecutive but they must occur within that 24-month or 24,000 mile window).
Finally, the vehicle owner should have reached out to the manufacturer to make them aware that the defect existed, repair attempts had been made and there had been no resolution during the 24-month or 24,000 mile period or within the six months after the earlier milestone.
This also should be documented in such a way it cannot be ignored or glossed over, as it is a key component of documentation and the complaint process under the Texas Lemon Law.
Think you have a lemon, click here to fill out a 30 second form
With the various criteria and necessity of documentation noted above, it makes sense that the right attorney is necessary to help facilitate the process.
Once the documentation and various proof is gathered, a complaint can be filed through the Texas Department of Transportation. This complaint requires a $35 filing fee, but it can be completed on the Texas DOT website. A specific department of the Texas DOT handles the Lemon Law cases. The first step is to schedule a mediation, where both parties attempt to reach a resolution. If that is not successful, then a hearing is scheduled. An examiner oversees the hearing and hears testimony from both parties. The examiner then has 60 days to provide a written decision based on the hearing. Both parties have the chance to appeal if the decision is not satisfactory.
In the case that the auto owner is found to have a valid issue with a lemon vehicle, the examiner will then choose one of three options to help said owner see a resolution and once again have a reliable vehicle.
The first option is repair of the vehicle in question. This can be chosen if it seems there are alternatives that have not been pursued in previous repair attempts.
Lemon laws are confusing. Read our guide to the lemon law process.
The next option is replacement, where the vehicle is replaced by the manufacturer with one of comparable value and that is more reliable on the road.
The final option is repurchase, where the vehicle owner is given the full amount of payments made, the loan is paid off and possibly the money spent on repair attempts is reimbursed as well (this is case-dependent). This option, as well as the vehicle replacement option, take into consideration the number of miles the vehicle has been driven. They do not,however, consider any after-market additions to the vehicle once it was in the possession of the auto owner.
Vehicle owners should rely on their attorney to help navigate the process of the Lemon Law claim, mediation and hearing. They also should be able to rely on the attorney to assist in the information gathering process where it is feasible. As these are in effect, you as the vehicle owner can have more confidence in the potential resolution of your issue with your vehicle. Your safety is key, so the proper resolution to an issue with a defective vehicle means that you are protected, you are not left with an outstanding loan and you are able to move forward with your life with a reliable vehicle at hand.