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Lemon Laws in Your State – What You Need to Know
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) estimates American consumers purchase 150,000 defective “lemon” vehicles a year. These vehicles are so termed because they leave the manufacturer with repeating, unfixable problems that occur sometime during the design or manufacturing process. Whether it’s a problem inherent to the vehicle’s design, a material failure or something as simple as one employee hitting the wrong button at the factory, all these problems make a vehicle a lemon.
These problems are called, according to state and federal laws, “nonconformities.” Vehicles sold in the United States come with written warranties. When a vehicle arrives to the consumer defective, the vehicle no longer “conforms” to the warranty. When this occurs, state and federal laws force manufacturers to make good on the warranty’s promise one way or another: either through repairing the vehicle, replacing it, or refunding the consumer’s money. When the manufacturer falls short of doing so, or outright refuses, lemon laws empower consumers and their attorneys to seek justice through the court system. These lemon laws give consumers and attorneys the tools they need to get just compensation for the time and money lost on a defective vehicle.
State lemon laws vary across the United States in key ways. We’ll take a closer look at the lemon laws of Texas and Colorado later. However, no matter where you live the best first step you can take is finding and hiring a qualified lemon law lawyer. Lemon law attorneys have the necessary knowledge and experience to pursue a lemon law claim. They know the various processes involved and potential pitfalls to avoid, deadlines to meet and procedures to follow. Consumers who hire a lemon law attorney have the highest chances of their lemon law claim succeeding and getting the best possible outcome.
The Texas lemon law applies to new vehicles including cars, trucks, motorcycles, vans, motor homes, all-terrain vehicles and neighborhood electric vehicles. The Texas lemon law does not cover used vehicles, repossessed vehicles, non-travel trailers, boats or farming equipment. It doesn’t cover problems caused by owner abuse, neglect or unauthorized changes, but no lemon laws cover such things. The law also doesn’t cover any problem that doesn’t “substantially impair the use or market value of the vehicle,” such as minor rattles, sound system problems or other similar issues.
Vehicles in Texas must pass one of three tests before earning lemon status according to the Texas lemon law. Those tests are the four times test, the serious safety hazard test, and the 30 days 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 Colorado lemon law specifically covers vehicles designed primarily for travel on public highways used to carry no more than ten people at a time. This includes almost all consumer cars, pickup trucks and vans, but not large capacity vehicles like buses. Colorado’s lemon law also doesn’t cover motor homes, vehicles using three or fewer wheels or leased vehicles.
The law specifically covers consumers who purchased their vehicles for personal, family or household purposes, anyone to whom those vehicles were transferred and anyone else empowered by the warranty to enforce its obligations.
Colorado’s lemon law, much like the Texas lemon law, covers nonconformities that throw that vehicle “out of conformity” with its warranty. However, while it shares the four times tests and 30 days test with Texas, it does not share the serious safety hazard test.
Both states require consumers go through arbitration, or “informal dispute settlement procedure,” before filing a breach of warranty claim through the state. Neither state requires manufacturers to help pay for a consumer to have a lawyer during arbitration, while the manufacturer will certainly have a lawyer on their side even if the lawyer isn’t physically present.
Lemon law attorney Andrew Ross with Allen Stewart P.C. said arbitration rarely works out in favor of the consumer. Arbitration usually ends in a single day inside a conference room and not a courthouse, but often the “best case scenario” still ends relatively poorly for the consumer. Ross said the manufacturer often sends an engineer who is advised by a lawyer “behind the scenes.”
“It’s been my experience that those arbitrations are a waste of time,” Ross said. “Rarely does the BBB render a decision that satisfies the consumer.”
He said the best consumers can usually hope for in arbitration is a buyback, but there’s no guarentee that goes smoothly for the consumer.
“When they award a buyback, they don’t tell you what the figures are,” he said. “First you must accept the decision, and then they’ll tell you what the figures are. It’s a bad situation for the consumer.”
Where both the Texas and Colorado lemon laws fall short, the Magnuson-Moss Warranty Act covers all consumers in the United States. The Act, which came about in the late 20th century in response to widespread warranty misuse, makes warranties enforceable by the Federal Trade Commission.
The Act forces companies use plain, easily understood language in their warranties, and requires warranty information be presented up front so consumers can shop and make decisions based on warranty purchases. This also promotes competition between companies through warranty coverage.
A key part of the Magnuson-Moss Warranty Act forces companies, if found liable in court, to pay the consumer’s attorney fees as well as any damages found by the court. This allows consumers to pursue lemon law claims without paying out of pocket. It levels the playing field between multibillion-dollar corporations and the everyday American. This lets lemon law attorneys pursue lemon law claims without worrying about payment, knowing if they prevail in court their fees come directly from the manufacturer.
The lemon law attorneys at Allen Stewart P.C. go to work for you and keep automobile manufacturers honest. When the manufacturer doesn’t hold up their end of the warranty, ASPC lawyers go to work and make sure consumers get the compensation they deserve. Statutes of limitations mean the longer you wait, the harder it may be to pursue your claim in the court system. Contact the offices of Allen Stewart P.C. today and get the ball rolling on your claim today.