Vehicle ownership is a gift, a privilege… and it can be a hassle.
You go out and buy a great-looking new vehicle, fresh off the lot. It comes with a warranty from the dealer or manufacturer. It runs great – for a week, a month, even 6 months. Maybe it runs wonderfully for a year. Then, something goes wrong, and you take it in for repair. They say they fixed it. They give it back – and it’s doing the same thing.
So you take it in AGAIN. No dice on the repair. This repeats a third and even a fourth time. Hopefully, at some point you notified the manufacturer that you were having this problem – and you did that in writing. Keep a copy, keep the receipt from the certified mail.
So. You have a lemon. Good news – there’s a law for that. Bad news: there are ways you can doom your lemon law case before it gets off the ground. But don’t worry. You’re here. Hopefully, that means you are ready to get this done and get it done the right way.
All of those times you took the vehicle in for repair? Well, hopefully you described it the same way every time so they realize it is the same defect. Also, hopefully you are the type that keeps all your receipts and stubs and documents (think service reports if you took it in for the repair and they didn’t end up doing anything). All of that documentation will be necessary to win this lemon law case. Start digging through wherever you keep that stuff. Hopefully you won’t have to look long.
If you have been taking this vehicle in for repairs and forgot to let anyone at the dealer or manufacturer know, you might still be in luck. If it’s within six months of the 24,000 mile or 24 month mark (the sooner of the two), then you can still reach out and let them know you are experiencing an issue with your vehicle. BE WARNED: you need to reach out to them in a way that can be proven. Type something up. Keep a copy and make sure to send it certified mail and keep the receipt for that as well.
For more information on arbitration and other frequently asked lemon law claim questions, click here.
This one is a bad move. Yes, you need to let them know your vehicle has a defect. No, you shouldn’t just call them up. There is no way to really prove to a judge that happened. Sure, you can write down the date and time and a summary of what was said. Your cell phone may back that up with a record of the number you called and the time you were on the phone. However, the best way to approach this contact is in writing. If you did call them, now is the time to reach out in a written format. They already know you have the issue, most likely they will be expecting the letter. Get it sent and you may still be OK.
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Representation is key to success in these cases. Not that you can’t win on your own, but think about it. A lemon law attorney has been through this before. They know the manufacturers, and they know what they tend to try to put one over on you. They want to save their money (the manufacturers, that is) so they aren’t going to want to help you if you have a lemon on your hands.
A lemon law attorney has a support staff that can help you find or track down information that will support your case. They also might know something you don’t about the process and can help you handle things in the right manner so you decrease your chances of losing the case altogether.
Think you have a lemon, click here to fill out a 30 second form.
There is a time limit on these issues. The defect has to crop up while the original warranty is in effect and has to be documented within the first 24 months or 24,000 miles the vehicle is driven. Likewise, the manufacturer needs to be informed within six months after that milestone is reached (miles or months).
Don’t talk yourself out of thinking there’s a bigger problem if you have taken your vehicle in more than once for repair of the same issue. Start thinking early it could be a lemon. Unfortunately, far too many people each year (100,000) end up with a lemon. It does happen.
Keep it in your glove compartment, or your filing cabinet at home. Either way, don’t throw away all those papers you bring home from the dealership. You are going to need them and it won’t be pretty if you decided to file them in the circular file.
Texas has a lemon law, handled by the Texas Department of Motor Vehicles, for this very reason. They take complaints that are filed online, they have a specific department dedicated to handling these cases, and they have a very set process that you can get through more quickly than a traditional court case working its way through the state system.
Don’t forget you are in Texas and can be assured your rights as a vehicle owner are taken very seriously here.
A lemon law complaint can be filed online. From there, the Texas DMV has a specific department to handle it. Mediation may go in your favor, but don’t count on it. Instead, be prepared to go into a hearing with your lemon law attorney and all of your evidence and tell them your side of the story.
Lemon laws are confusing. Read our guide to the lemon law complaint process.
The manufacturer gets to do the same. Then, the examiner has 60 days to decide whether they think you are the victim or the manufacturer is in this case. You can appeal if things don’t go in your favor.
Finally, hope for the best and prepare for the worst when it comes to winning. Because even if you win, you might not get the results you hope for when it comes to restitution. The examiner can still say your vehicle must be repaired – but at least in that case it won’t be on your dime. It will be paid for by the manufacturer.
Likewise, you might get money back for the previous repair attempts and any payments you made on the vehicle. You might have them purchase the vehicle back and leave you with money. They may also be required to provide you with a vehicle of comparable value as a replacement. All of this is up to the examiner. They will let you know what resolution they chose when they let you know you won the case.
Life is too short to be stuck at home, stressed over your vehicle. Be smart and know the signs. Keep track of your documentation and make sure to reach out – early – to the manufacturer if there is an ongoing issue with your vehicle. Then, chances are you won’t be as doomed as you might think.