Lemon Law FAQs
What are lemon laws?
Every state in America protects their citizens from defective vehicles using “lemon laws.” These lemon laws vary from state to state, though they all share a common goal: giving consumers the legal tools needed to get compensation from your vehicle’s manufacturer.
What exactly is a “lemon” car?
A lemon car has a “substantial defect” that is both covered by the warranty and not repairable after a reasonable number of repair attempts. Lemon law usually applies only to new or certified pre-owned cars; however, some states’ lemon laws cover used cars as well. In those states, the lemon law often applies to all lower mileage vehicles bought in the state or vehicles still covered by the original warranty at the time of purchase.
What is a “substantial defect”?
A “substantial defect” is defined as a problem that affects the car’s operation, value or safety, such as faulty brakes or steering. Defects affecting things including radio dials or door handles are considered “minor defects” and are not covered by lemon law.
If a large number of vehicles suffer from the same substantial defect, then a manufacturer may voluntarily recall those vehicles. In some instances, the federal government mandates the recall of vehicles if a substantial defect exists in a large number of the same vehicle models.
The line between a “minor” and “substantial” defect can be blurry. Some less than obvious conditions including defective paint jobs or awful odors can be substantial defects.
What are “reasonable repair attempts”?
Owners of cars with substantial defects must allow the dealer or manufacturer a “reasonable” number of attempts to fix the problem before the car is considered a lemon. If the defect is considered a serious safety hazard, such as a brake or steering problem, the problem must remain unrepaired after one attempt to be considered a lemon. Less serious issues must remain unfixed after several attempts (the exact number varies by state) before the lemon law comes into effect.
What if my car has been in the repair shop for a long time?
Lemon law can also be considered if the vehicle is in the repair shop for a certain number of days to fix one or more substantial warranty defects. Usually the car needs to be in the shop longer than 14 days.
Do I need a lawyer?
The legal system is complicated and, according to lemon law attorney Andrew Ross with Allen Stewart, P.C., not user friendly. Ross says getting help through the courts can be a complex process—one made much easier with a lawyer’s help.
“I can’t see there being a good outcome for someone filing a lawsuit on their own,” Ross said. “I would think that the likelihood of you recovering more on your own than what you could recover with an attorney is very, very low.”
Importantly, lemon law attorneys can seek their fees directly from the manufacturer through the federal Magnuson-Moss Warranty Act, which covers all lemon vehicles regardless of what state the vehicle was purchased in.
“We take all our cases on under the agreement that if we are unable to get a successful outcome for our clients, they don’t have to pay our attorney’s fees,” Ross says. “If we get them a successful verdict, the court should award the attorney’s fees that we incur.”