Understanding Nebraska Lemon Law
Roughly 150,000 cars sold in America every year are classified as lemons: cars with repeated, unfixable problems. Lemons can come from any manufacturer: Chevrolet, Nissan, Ford and almost every other manufacturer has built lemon vehicles over the years.
“Lemon laws” enacted across the United States help protect consumers who purchase defective vehicles and compensate them for their losses. Additionally, a powerful federal law known as the Magnuson-Moss Warranty Act provides protection for consumers who purchase cars that are having problems under the manufacturer’s warranty. Some lemons may eventually be recalled by the manufacturer, if the problems are systemic.
The Nebraska lemon law covers new vehicles sold in the state. It also covers any vehicle less than two years old. The law does not cover self-propelled mobile homes.
Nebraska’s lemon law offers coverage to consumers who purchase a vehicle normally used for personal, family, household or business purposes. It further covers anyone to whom the vehicle is transferred within the warranty period, and anyone else entitled by the warranty to uphold its obligations.
The Nebraska lemon law covers any defect or condition that substantially impairs the use and market value of the vehicle to the consumer. These problems are called “nonconformities.”
Nebraska’s lemon law does not, however, cover minor issues that don’t substantially impair the vehicle’s use, value, or safety. For example, a slight rattle or problem with the radio isn’t a nonconformity.
Problems caused by the consumer’s abuse, neglect, or unauthorized modification or alteration are also not covered by the Nebraska lemon law.
The Nebraska lemon law compels manufacturers to repair any and all nonconformities reported by the consumer during the warranty term or within one year of the vehicle’s delivery to the consumer, whichever is sooner. If they are unable to repair the nonconformities, the lemon law requires the manufacturer to either replace or repurchase the vehicle.
Nebraska’s lemon law allots manufacturers a reasonable number of attempts to repair the nonconformity. The lemon law defines that as four or more times for the same problem without success, or if the vehicle is in the shop for 40 days or more without successfully repairing the problem. This does not apply, however, unless the consumer provides the manufacturer with written notification of the nonconformity and a request for repair.
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Manufacturers repurchasing a nonconforming vehicle must pay the full purchase price of the vehicle. They must pay all sales taxes, fees, and other governmental charges. The manufacturer can withhold a reasonable allowance for use, calculated based on the amount of miles traveled prior to the manufacturer’s acceptance of the returned vehicle.
Manufacturers replacing a nonconforming vehicle must provide a comparable vehicle.
The Nebraska lemon law states its protections don’t apply to a consumer who hasn’t first resorted to the manufacturer’s established informal dispute settlement procedure, i.e. arbitration. The arbitrator must be certified by the Nebraska Director of Motor Vehicles.
In some instances, arbitration can allow for a faster resolution of conflicts between consumers and manufacturers. Arbitration hearings usually last only one day, and take place in a much less formal setting than a court. Consumers should bring all documents relating to the vehicle and the repair process, including the letters exchanged with the manufacturer. They should also arrange for witnesses to appear at the hearing, including friends who have witnessed the vehicle’s problems.
However, arbitration often ends with an outcome unfavorable to the consumer. 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. The law makes no mention of the ability to recoup attorney’s fees during arbitration. Fortunately, the federal Magnuson-Moss Warranty Act allows for consumers to sue for attorney’s fees alongside damage awards in court.
The manufacturer must abide by the decision of the arbitrator, while the consumer does not. If dissatisfied with the outcome, a consumer can bring civil action in court. By filing a claim under the Magnuson-Moss Warranty Act, Nebraska consumers can hire lawyers who will represent them without the vehicle owner having to pay any attorneys’ fees directly out of their pocket. This is because the federal Act provides that the vehicle manufacturer shall pay the claimants’ reasonable attorneys’ fees if the claimant prevails against the manufacturer. Lemonlawusa.org encourages vehicle owners with a lemon to obtain legal counsel. You can bet the car manufacturers have legal counsel at the ready to help defend against lemon law claims both in arbitration and in court.