Are lemon law cases REALLY free to me? Seriously?!
The most common question that we are asked as lemon lawyers is some version of this. Worry about legal costs is also possibly the biggest reason why some people never call a lemon lawyer. Legal fees in lemon law cases are handled differently to almost any other area of the law so it does cause a lot of confusion and suspicion amongst lemon vehicle owners. However, a lemon law claim should not cost you a cent in legal fees.
Lemon laws were intentionally written to make the auto manufacturer pay the attorney fees of the owner of the lemon vehicle. Lawmakers knew that the cost of taking legal action can be high, and could prevent consumers from taking action against a car manufacturer either because they do not have the money upfront to start the claim, or because they do not want to risk losing it all. It was therefore written into lemon laws, both federal and state, that the lemon owner’s legal fees would be paid by the manufacturer on top of any compensation that the manufacturer has to pay.
The legal costs that the manufacturer must pay in a lemon law case include ALL of your legal fees and expenses, such as your attorney’s fees (usually calculated on a reasonable hourly basis,) court filing fees, and other out of pocket expenses like expert fees. Your attorney will submit an itemized statement of these costs directly to the automaker for payment, and you do not have to be involved.
Before you hire an attorney in any legal claim, lemon law or not, you should always understand their fees – how they are calculated, who is responsible for paying fees (win or lose), whether a retainer is required up front, a fees estimate, and when fees are due. Most reputable lemon law attorneys, including Timothy Abeel & Associates, will have an initial, no-cost conversation with you to discuss the strength of your case, and explain how legal fees work in a lemon law claim. At Timothy Abeel & Associates, we guarantee 100% free lemon law help.
There’s got to be a catch. Let me ask that another way…
There are lots of bad jokes about not trusting car dealers or lawyers. It’s natural, and probably smart, to be suspicious of a lawyer’s claim that they will not charge you any fees, especially if you are currently feeling swindled by a car dealer.
But there really is no catch.
Let’s look at some of the questions that you might still ask:
Do I have to pay ANY legal fees in a lemon law claim?
(Yes, I asked this already but if I ask it in another way, I might trip you up.)
NO. In a successful lemon law claim, the law requires the vehicle manufacturer to pay all of your legal fees on top of the compensation that they pay you.
A-HA! You said “successful.” So who pays my legal fees if I LOSE my lemon law claim?
You’re right, lemon law only makes the automaker pay the claimant’s legal fees if the vehicle is actually a lemon. It makes sense that a manufacturer should not have to pay the legal fees of someone who does not have a valid complaint. However, the requirements of lemon law in each state are very clear and do not leave much wiggle room for manufacturers. An experienced lemon lawyer should be able to tell you at the very start of your case whether or not your vehicle qualifies as a lemon, so you are comfortable from the outset that your legal fees will be covered. At Timothy Abeel & Associates, we have the experience to know a valid lemon law claim and we guarantee no-win, no-fee.
So if I don’t have to pay my attorney in a lemon law claim, who does?
The manufacturer of the lemon vehicle pays all your legal fees in a lemon law claim. Lemon law attorneys deal directly with the big manufacturers on a daily basis to get their fees paid. You do not have to be involved.
How does it work? Do I have to claim my legal costs back from the automaker?
NO. Your lemon lawyer will submit an itemized statement of their fees and expenses directly to the automaker for payment. You do NOT have to deal with the automaker to get legal fees paid or claim reimbursement. Your legal fees will be handled for you.
What does “fee-shifting” mean in lemon law?
You may come across this phrase if you are researching lemon law. “Fee-shifting” simply describes how the lemon laws shift the responsibility for paying a lemon owner’s legal fees from the lemon owner to the vehicle manufacturer. It means the automaker has to pay your legal fees for you.
Do I have to pay a retainer or other up front legal fees in a lemon law claim?
Different attorneys have their own fee policies, and it is not illegal for an attorney to require a retainer (which is basically an advance payment of legal fees that you pay when you first hire an attorney.) However, an experienced lemon lawyer should be able to identify a lemon, and be confident that the claim will be successful and the fees paid by the manufacturer. Therefore, reputable lemon lawyers, like Timothy Abeel & Associates, will not ask for any payment from you up front.
Are lemon law legal fees deducted from my compensation?
NO. Legal fees in a lemon law case are NOT deducted from your refund or compensation. Lemon laws state that legal fees must be paid completely separate from, and additional to, any award that the automaker pays you.
Are lemon law legal fees paid on a contingency basis? What does that even mean?
In a contingent fee arrangement, the lawyer charges you a percentage of your compensation if you win your case, and nothing if you lose. Their fees come out of your compensation, and you often still have to pay fixed costs such as court filing fees. Contingent fee arrangements are often used in personal injury cases. Lemon law fees are NOT contingent fee arrangements. In lemon law, responsibility for paying all of your legal fees (including attorney fees, court costs, and expert fees) shifts completely to the vehicle manufacturer. You are not responsible for any legal fees, and the manufacturer must pay your legal fees ON TOP OF the compensation that they pay you.
Who pays my fees if I settle my lemon law claim?
If you settle your lemon law claim and you have a decent lawyer, the settlement agreement will include payment of all of your legal fees by the automaker. Settlement is often a sensible choice in a lemon law case because it avoids the time and hassle of court action, and should still get you a result that you are happy with. You should never have to pay legal fees in a lemon law claim. At Timothy Abeel & Associates, we guarantee that we will never send you a bill for a lemon law case.
If you have more questions about lemon law fees or any lemon law issue, contact one of our experienced lawyers at Timothy Abeel & Associates. We will review your case for free and answer any questions you may have with no obligation or commitment. We are here to help.