Understanding Wisconsin Lemon Law
Wisconsin’s lemon law protects consumers who purchase a vehicle from a dealer for purposes other than resale. It also covers those to whom the vehicle is transferred during the warranty period unless transferred for resale. The lemon law further covers anyone who may enforce the vehicle’s warranty, and those leasing vehicles.
The lemon law covers vehicles required to be registered in Wisconsin, or exempt from registration as a nonresident or foreign-registered vehicle.
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It also covers vehicles purchased in the state, or vehicles a consumer accepts transfer of in the state. Mopeds, semi-trailers, or trailers designed for use in combination with a truck are not covered.
Wisconsin’s lemon law covers vehicle “nonconformities.” The law defines nonconformities as any condition or defect covered by the manufacturer’s warranty that substantially impairs the use, value or safety of a motor vehicle. Wisconsin’s lemon law does not cover nonconformities resulting from abuse, neglect or unauthorized modifications or alterations by the purchaser.
The manufacturer must repair the nonconformity if the consumer reports it to the manufacturer or their authorized agent before the expiration of the warranty. The consumer must also make the vehicle available for repair. The consumer must report the defect using a form issued by the Wisconsin Department of Transportation.
The Wisconsin lemon law allows manufacturers a “reasonable attempt to repair” the nonconformity before the law’s provisions for repurchase or replacement kick in. The law defines a “reasonable attempt to repair” as four attempts to fix the same problem without success. A nonconformity substantially affecting the use or safety of the vehicle must be repaired within two attempts, however.
After this, if the nonconformity remains, or if the vehicle is out of service for more than 30 working days, the manufacturer must repurchase or replace the vehicle.
Any consumer requesting repurchase or replacement must do so using forms provided by the Wisconsin Department of Transportation. The Wisconsin lemon law requires manufacturers to pay the vehicle’s full purchase price when repurchasing the vehicle, with no adjustment for negative equity or trade-ins. The manufacturer must also pay back finance charges, as well as collateral costs such as the costs for obtaining alternative transportation. The manufacturer may withhold a “reasonable allowance” for use, calculated from the number of miles driven before the first nonconformity was reported.
The Wisconsin lemon law requires replacement vehicles to be new vehicles comparable to the original, nonconforming vehicle. When the manufacturer provides the replacement vehicle, the consumer must return the nonconforming vehicle to the manufacturer and provide the manufacturer with the certificate of title and all endorsements necessary to transfer title to the manufacturer.
Wisconsin’s lemon law requires consumers to resort first to a manufacturer’s informal dispute settlement procedure, i.e. arbitration, before seeking to file a lemon law claim in civil court.
For more information on arbitration and other frequently asked lemon law questions, click here.
Wisconsin consumers with warrantied vehicle problems would be well served to contact a law firm for a consultation on what their next step should be, whether it be going through with arbitration or proceeding to trial. In court, consumers are guaranteed the ability to gather evidence under the state’s civil discovery rules, and to be represented by a qualified lawyer who can guide them through the often complex legal process.
By pursuing a claim under the Magnuson-Moss Warranty Act, Wisconsin consumers can hire lawyers who will represent them without the vehicle owner having to pay any attorneys’ fees directly out of their pocket. This is because the federal Act provides that the vehicle manufacturer shall pay the claimants’ reasonable attorneys’ fees if the claimant prevails against the manufacturer.
If you prevail in court or settle before court with your vehicle’s manufacturer, you can use the awarded funds for whatever you like. Whether you use the money to buy a new car or fully pay off the old one, it’s your choice to make and no one else’s.
If you financed your vehicle and are still making payments when you begin your lemon law claim, you must keep making those payments throughout the claim. Missing your periodic payments can negative affect your lemon law claim regardless of how otherwise solid your case may be. Once your lemon law claim resolves in your favor, you can pay off whatever’s left of your previous auto loan with the awarded funds.
If you bought your vehicle outright or paid it off before your lemon law claim resolves, you can use your awarded money as a down payment on a new vehicle. If you’d rather not start paying yet another auto loan, you could put the money toward a less expensive used vehicle. The choice is entirely yours.
The Wisconsin lemon law doesn’t cover used vehicles. Most state lemon laws limit their protections to vehicles still owned by their original owners, or at least vehicles still covered by the manufacturer’s original express warranty. Almost all used vehicles are purchased long after their original manufacturer’s warranty expired. A lemon law attorney can help you determine whether you have a valid claim.
Whether you win in court or settle out of it, statutes of limitation can keep you from the compensation you rightly deserve. Don’t wait; contact the offices of Allen Stewart P.C. today and get your claim started today. You pay nothing out of pocket and your initial consultation is free.
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