Owning a vehicle means lots of decisions: how full to keep your gas tank, how often to get it washed and detailed, what type of aftermarket stereo system you want. It also means keeping up with a regular maintenance schedule.
However, for over 100,000 auto buyers each year, the experience of vehicle ownership is tainted. These unlucky auto buyers end up with a lemon – a vehicle with a defect so significant that it significantly decreases the value of the vehicle AND it puts the driver’s life at risk when they try to drive from Point A to Point B.
Auto buyers that end up with a lemon in Texas, however, have a light at the end of the tunnel.
Not all lemon vehicles are sold by dealers who know there is an issue, but some are. Those vehicles may have been subject to odometer tampering, to change the mileage. They may also have been put through some other sneaky tactics to make them appear safe and in good shape, when in fact the vehicle was in an accident or other situation that resulted in a defective vehicle.
Sadly, most of the cases where the dealer was aware of the issue aren’t ones that directly relate to our discussion here. That is because most of the vehicles are sold “as is” or without a warranty from the original dealership or manufacturer. This makes them ineligible for the Texas lemon law.
No matter what defect you discover with your vehicle, it is a smart idea to consult an attorney. There may be avenues you can pursue that will result in some legal reimbursement or at least satisfaction to a frustrating situation.
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Attorneys have the experience and team to help you get to where you need to be with a case involving a defective vehicle. They can guide you on what type of legal action you can pursue and how to reach a resolution you can deal with – particularly if it can help you with the financial aspect of a defective vehicle.
The Texas lemon law, specifically, is handled through the Texas Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) and can assist you if your vehicle is within its first 24 months or 24,000 miles driven and still covered by the original warranty from the dealer or manufacturer.
This means your car, truck, SUV, van, electric car or motorcycle can be covered if it is defective. Likewise, if you invested in an RV or TRV and plan to travel the country but are stuck in one place, there may be legal recourse if it’s still in the first 24 months or 24,000 miles since purchase.
Your process begins here. It is important to understand what the attorney may ask you if you go in and say you have a lemon vehicle.
There are several tests that the vehicle must pass in order to be considered a lemon under Texas lemon law. Those are the 4 or more times test, the significant defect test, and the 30-day test.
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The 4 or more times test means you have taken this vehicle to a mechanic or the dealer’s service department and have clear evidence that the issue or defect was not repaired 4 or more times. A charge from the service department or mechanic is not required for each visit, but documentation that the visit occurred AND that it was for the SAME issue is necessary.
If your vehicle passes this test, there is a sub-section that is worth mentioning here. At some point during those four visits to the mechanic, you hopefully let the dealer and/or manufacturer know that the issue was present and recurring. Hopefully, this was done in such a way that it can be proved in a court of law (think: certified mail).
So. We know the vehicle has needed repair four or more times. Well – what WAS the issue that is still present despite multiple repair attempts?
The issue can’t be something that is a mild inconvenience. It has to be something that is significant and puts the driver and/or passengers at risk when operating or travelling in the vehicle. Likewise, the defect has to be so significant that it severely reduces the value of the vehicle.
Finally, we have the 30-day test. This involves the amount of time the vehicle has been off the road since you purchased it. This specifically refers to the days the vehicle has sat idle and you were not provided a vehicle to drive instead (whether by a service department or the dealer or manufacturer).
If the days total 30 – and those do not have to be consecutive – in the first 24 months of ownership or 24,000 miles, then your vehicle passes all three tests.
Your attorney will need any documentation you have to back up your claims of a lemon vehicle. They will need an idea of whether or not you have reached out to the manufacturer and given them a “reasonable amount of time” to help resolve the issue. This is specified in the Texas lemon law – although a timeframe is not clearly defined in regard to “reasonable.”
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Your attorney will need time to prep for this case. They will have a support staff that can assist with the preparation, and hopefully that will be one less stressor on your plate.
Meanwhile, the process to file a Texas lemon law claim is relatively painless (minus the required fee for processing). The complaint can be filed online via the Texas DMV website.
Once the case is filed, it is assigned to staff in a special department of the DMV, who will schedule a mediation to attempt to resolve the issue.
The manufacturer and/or dealer will attempt to get you to resolve the issue at little or no cost to them. Because of this, be sure your attorney is prepped and ready to attend with you to avoid potential intimidation.
Once mediation is unsuccessful, a hearing will be scheduled in front of an examiner. That individual hears from both sides and then provides a written decision within 60 days of the hearing date. Appeals are permitted if the decision doesn’t seem to fit the case. This is another area where your attorney will be very helpful.
Hopefully, however, you will see the case fall in your favor and you will either be reimbursed, the vehicle will be repaired on someone else’s dime (the manufacturer’s) or you will get a vehicle of comparable value provided to you.
Your attorney will be able to point you in the right direction when it comes to a case with a defective vehicle. While auto fraud is serious, having a lemon vehicle on your hands is no laughing matter either.
Trust your instincts and reach out to that attorney today. There is a requirement that most of this process is handled at most 6 months after the first of either 24 months of ownership or 24,000 miles driven. This is why it pays to get the process moving as soon as you can schedule an appointment with an attorney.