Archive for May, 2010
There are two types of lemon vehicles that are generally not covered by state lemon laws: vehicles that have exceeded a certain number of miles (e.g. 20,000 miles) and alternative vehicles such as motorcycles, ATVs and personal boats. Neither do most states have lemon laws that cover used vehicles. Under the state lemon law, vehicles must meet strict mileage based criteria before qualifying as lemons; that is, they must experience a certain number of repairs within a certain range of miles after their original delivery date. Some states also make a provision for lemon status based on how many days a new vehicle spends in the repair shop within a certain number of miles. But just because your vehicle’s type or mileage doesn’t bring it under state lemon doesn’t mean that you don’t have a case.
Unlike the state lemon law, the Federal Lemon Law applies to all personal vehicles that are still under the manufacturer’s warranty, including motorcycles, boats, ATVs and used cars. In other words, if you have a 5yr/100,000 mile warranty and your car experiences a significant defect that undergoes a series of unsuccessful repairs in year 4 at 95,000 miles, you may still have a lemon law case. In addition to the different qualifying criteria, the biggest difference between the state and Federal Lemon Law, from a consumer perspective, deals with awards. Under the state law, lemon car owners can opt to receive either a free replacement vehicle of similar make or a full refund of a lemon car’s purchase price minus a mileage based allowance. Under the Federal Law, owners receive a cash award but are not entitled to a buyback.
All 50 states have lemon laws that protect consumers against owning vehicles that fail to live up to their warranty. But not all states have lemon laws that cover alternative modes of transportation, such as motorcycles, speedboats and all terrain vehicles. However, if you own a lemon motorcycle and your state’s lemon laws don’t cover motorcycles, you still have the right to be compensated for your investment under the Magnuson-Moss Warranty Act; a Federal lemon law that protects consumers against faulty products when state lemon laws do not.
The Magnuson-Moss Warranty Act provides consumer protection that is similar to state lemon law. As with state lemon law, the Act permits owners of lemon products to seek financial compensation if the manufacturer cannot make a faulty product conform to its warranty within a reasonable period of time. In addition, the act allows consumers to recover attorney fees from a product’s manufacturer if they are successful. If your state lemon laws cover motorcycles but don’t permit the recovery of attorney fees, it’s important to note that you may be able to recover attorney fees under the Magnuson-Moss Warranty Act.
Despite the similarities between state lemon law and the Magnuson-Moss Warranty Act, they also possess significant differences. Unlike most state lemon laws, the act permits consumers to seek compensation for defective used vehicles, as long as the problem occurred when the vehicle was under the manufacturer’s warranty. The act also differs from state lemon law by not setting a range of miles within which unsuccessful repair attempts must occur for a vehicle to be considered a lemon. Whether your faulty motorcycle has been driven 8,000 miles or 80,000 miles into its 100,000-mile warranty, you can still receive compensation under the Magnuson-Moss Warranty Act.
When consumers purchase vehicles that display irreparable defects, they are entitled to compensation under Federal Lemon Law and also under the lemons laws of their state. But because the state lemon law is more restrictive of the circumstances under which a lemon car can qualify as a “lemon” than the Federal Lemon Law, many lemon law cases are eventually pursued under the Federal Lemon Law instead.
Regardless of whether your lemon law case is pursued under the state or Federal lemon law, it will begin with notifying the manufacturer of your claim. In some cases, consumers try to negotiate a settlement with an automaker directly. But even when an automaker pays attention to a consumer that doesn’t have an attorney, the settlement offer may be significantly less than what an attorney would negotiate or a court would award. As with any legal case, your chances of winning your lemon case significantly increase when you hire an attorney.
Although manufacturers are known to take lemon law cases to trial, due to complainants’ right under Federal Lemon Law to recover attorney fees from manufacturers, most manufacturers prefer to settle lemon cases prior to that time, especially where evidence of a vehicle’s lemon status is strong. Keep in mind that the strength of your lemon case is increased when you have documentation of your vehicle’s repairs.
When consumers drive vehicles that consistently fail to live up to the manufacturer’s warranty, their first course of action is usually to see if a vehicle qualifies as a legal lemon under a particular state’s lemon laws. Lemon laws vary by state, but the lemon laws in most states only protect new vehicles; that is, if a vehicle has been driven over 20,000 miles, its owner usually looses his or her right to receive a free replacement vehicle or a full refund of the vehicle’s purchase price minus a mileage based allowance. However, just because a vehicle is no longer covered under state lemon law doesn’t mean that it isn’t covered under the Federal Lemon Law.
Officially established by the Magnuson-Moss Warranty Act in 1975, Federal Lemon Law relaxes the mileage-based limitation under which a vehicle can qualify as a lemon. Whereas a certain state may require that a vehicle undergo 4 unsuccessful repair attempts for the same problem within 18,000 miles of its original delivery date, Federal Lemon Law states that, as long as a vehicle is under warranty or experiences a problem that began when it was under warranty, its owner is entitled to compensation when the vehicle encounters a problem that cannot be remedied within a reasonable period of time or reasonable number of repair attempts.
As with state lemon laws, Federal Lemon Law entitles consumers to receive monetary damages for their lemon vehicle. It does not, however, entitle owners of lemon vehicles to receive a buyback. After receiving a cash award, owners of lemon vehicles can either keep the vehicle or return it. When a Federal Lemon Law case is successful in court, the consumer may be entitled to recover attorney fees from the manufacturer. As with state lemon law cases, the success of a Federal Lemon Law case generally requires hiring an experienced lemon law attorney.
There are two basic reasons why lemon car owners don’t pursue a legal award for their lemon car: they don’t know about state and Federal lemon laws or they mistakenly think that the laws don’t apply to their vehicle. To understand how much time you have to make a lemon law case, you first need to understand the difference between what qualifies a car as a lemon at the state level and what qualifies it as a lemon at the Federal level.
At the state level, a car is a lemon only if it experiences a certain number of unsuccessful repairs for the same defect within a certain range of miles after its original delivery date. At the Federal level, on the other hand, as long as a vehicle is under the manufacturer’s original warranty or suffers from a problem that began while under the manufacturer’s warranty, it can qualify as a lemon car if it experiences a defect that isn’t corrected within a reasonable amount of time or reasonable number of attempts.
The more inclusive legal standards of the Federal Lemon Law benefit consumers in two ways: they allow them to be compensated for irreparable defects that don’t show up within the narrow range of miles set forth by state lemon laws, and they allow owners of some used lemon cars to file lemon law cases. Although defective auto parts often show their defectiveness within a car’s first few thousand miles, neither is it uncommon for defects to reveal themselves later.
Unlike the state lemon law, the Federal Lemon Law entitles consumers to a cash award for their lemon vehicle, not the option of either receiving a free replacement vehicle or a full refund of the vehicle’s purchase price.