Lemon Law Frequently Asked Questions

What is a "lemon"?

A lemon is a vehicle with repeated, unfixable problems. Lemon laws require the vehicle to have a “substantial defect” both covered by the warranty and not repairable after a reasonable number of attempts. A “substantial defect” is defined as a problem that affects the car’s operation, value or safety, such as faulty brakes or steering.

What is a nonconformity?

The definition of “nonconformity” varies slightly by state, but generally it means any defect or problem with the vehicle that affects its operation, value or safety. The vehicle’s warranty implies it to be in working order, so a malfunctioning vehicle is considered to be not conforming to its warranty.

How do lemon laws protect me?

Each state has its own version of a lemon law. Lemon laws require manufacturers who sell faulty vehicles to try to fix the problem, and determine how long they have to keep trying. The laws also force manufacturers to repurchase or replace your vehicle if they cannot repair the defect. Many state lemon laws force manufacturers to compensate you for incidental costs arising from your defective vehicle, including any costs from towing or car rental.

My state’s lemon law doesn’t cover my vehicle or my circumstance. Can I still get help?

Possibly. The Magnuson-Moss Warranty act of 1975 is a federal law that protects consumers across the United States. When a state level lemon law doesn’t apply to certain circumstances, an attorney can often use the Magnuson-Moss Act to pursue a claim with no attorney’s fees paid directly by you.

My car is used. Does the law protect me?

It varies depending on the state. Some states’ lemon laws don’t cover used vehicles at all. Others will cover used vehicles under certain circumstances. For example, many state lemon laws will cover used vehicles within a certain mileage limit, or if they are still covered by the original manufacturer’s warranty.

What is arbitration?

Arbitration is an informal dispute resolution mechanism manufacturers use to resolve lemon claims without going to court. Arbitrations have some advantages, in that they finish in one day, don’t require attorneys and take place in a much less formal setting. However, arbitration often ends unfavorably for consumers. The third party arbitrator may award the consumer with additional repair attempts, which doesn’t provide any remedy they didn’t have before. They may also decide to dismiss the claim, siding with the manufacturer.

Do I need a lawyer?

Yes. You have a much greater chance of a better result with an attorney. Attorneys with experience in breach of warranty cases can help you navigate the often-labyrinthine legal system to get you the relief you deserve. Their knowledge of lemon law and legal procedure far outstrips that of the average layperson, and they know how best to get a manufacturer’s attention.

I can’t afford an attorney. What do I do?

The Magnuson-Moss Warranty Act provides that the vehicle manufacturer may be required to pay the claimant’s attorneys’ fees if the claimant prevails in court. That means if you win your case, your attorney can try to recover their attorneys’ fees without you having to pay them.

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