Mistakes to Avoid When You Might Have a Lemon Law Claim
If you have a lemon car or truck, you face the disappointment and practical difficulties of a new car that does not work, as well as dealing with repair attempts, and all the phone-calls and paperwork of a complaint or legal claim. It is easy to make a mistake or forget something that may be important. You cannot be expected to know all the inner mechanics and electronics of a vehicle, or the technicalities of your state’s lemon laws – it takes mechanics and lawyers years to learn their trades!
The good news is that state lemon laws are on your side. They aim to protect the consumer and make the at-fault auto manufacturer, not the faultless owner, responsible for the costs of mechanics and lawyers.
Here are some of the biggest mistakes to avoid when you may have a lemon law claim but always remember: even if you make a mistake, you probably still have a good lemon law claim or other legal claim against the auto manufacturer. Most of these mistakes just make the process slower or trickier but do not invalidate your lemon law claim. Get good legal advice and don’t give up.
Mistake #1: Complaints are too general or too specific
When you bring your lemon car or truck in for repair, you need to describe the problem with the vehicle to the service person, and make sure they are written on the repair order. Most lemon laws allow the manufacturer 2 or 3 repair attempts for the same problem so the number of repairs, and what they are repairing, is important. Sometimes, people describe the problem so generally that it is not clear that it is the same problem as at the last (or next) repair attempt. More often, owners give their opinion about the source of the problem which can mislead the mechanic and cause them to look for, and record, the wrong defect. You should properly describe the symptoms but you should not diagnose the problem.
For example, if your car is lurching or jerking when slowing to a stop and think it is a problem with your transmission, you should describe the lurching and jerking NOT tell them that you have a defective transmission. That is diagnosing the problem. If you continue to experience lurching, and the next time you tell the repair person that you think you have a braking problem, that may be considered a DIFFERENT problem under lemon law. Then, instead of having had TWO failed repair attempts for the SAME problem (and already being eligible in some states to bring a lemon law claim,) you have had one repair attempt for a transmission problem and one repair attempt for a brake problem. It will take longer to be able to bring a lemon law claim.
Mistake #2: No record of problems or repairs
How many times have you looked at all the details on your repair paperwork? Most of us check the price and maybe the work done, and move on. That is not good enough if you have a lemon. The details on the paperwork are important in lemon law, and can make it much easier for you to succeed in a claim.
You should get a repair order and an invoice when you bring your lemon vehicle in for repairs. Your complaint/problem should be written on the repair order, and the invoice should state the diagnosis of the problem, the repairs done, the days that the vehicle was in the shop for repair, and the cost of repairs. Some repair shops will not include your complaint on the repair order, or they will shorten it or change it. If the complaint is not correct, it could mean that this visit does not count toward the number of repair attempts required by lemon laws. Sometimes the dates that the car was in the shop will be wrong. Perhaps the car was at the repair shop for a week waiting for parts or repairs but the invoice only shows the one day that the car was worked on and picked up. A car that is out of service for a certain number of days is eligible for a lemon law claim in many states, and the entire week should be counted towards that total.
Mistake #3: Not following the steps required by lemon laws
Lemon laws are technical and they are different in every state. Some states require a written notification to the manufacturer before a lemon law claim can be brought. Some states allow a lemon law claim after 3 repair attempts, others will allow it after 1 repair attempt if the defect is a risk of serious injury. If you do not follow the steps required by the law in your state, you will make the entire process of getting compensation slower, more difficult, and more frustrating. You may even invalidate your claim.
You should contact a reputable lemon lawyer to get advice on the specific requirements of the lemon laws in your state. It should not cost you a dollar (see Mistake #8.)
Mistake #4: Delaying repairs
Dealing with a lemon vehicle is frustrating and time-consuming. It is not easy to be without a functional vehicle but it is also not easy to fit in trips to the mechanic on top of normal everyday life. Sometimes people put off dealing with the repairs or just cannot find the time to bring their lemon vehicle in for repair. In other situations, manufacturers cause delays by asking for more time or suggesting more repairs. Once you have met the number of repairs or time out of service in your state lemon laws, you do not have to delay any longer and you should not.
Mistake #5: Doing unauthorized or unnecessary repairs
If you use an unauthorized repair person, or do not attempt the number of repairs under your state’s lemon laws, you may not be able to bring a lemon law claim. For repairs, you must use a mechanic authorized by the manufacturer (per your state lemon laws) or the repair may not count towards your repair attempts, and you may even void your vehicle warranty.
You cannot bring a lemon law claim until you have given the manufacturer the number of repair attempts required in your state, but you also should not continue trying to fix the vehicle once you have met the lemon law requirements. After you have reached the number of repair attempts in your state lemon laws, you should proceed with your lemon law claim without delay. The law does not require, and the manufacturer cannot force you to attempt, more repairs.
Mistake #6: Trading or selling a lemon before a lemon law claim is complete
Some people are so desperate to get rid of their lemon vehicle that they trade it in or sell it before pursuing, or completing, a lemon law claim. If you do not own the lemon vehicle, you cannot bring a lemon law claim for a replacement vehicle or reimbursement of the purchase price. You may have accepted a reduced price for the vehicle because of the defects when you could have obtained reimbursement of the full purchase price or a new vehicle. It may take patience but it will be worth it in the long run.
Mistake #7: Accepting a low ball offer
It is common for manufacturers to offer inadequate compensation for vehicle defects, especially to owners who do not have legal representation. An auto manufacturer is a for-profit business that will try to minimize its loss and liability. Owners of lemon vehicles may accept a low ball offer because they do not know what they are entitled to or because they are frustrated or impatient to put the problem behind them. Auto manufacturers know this too. Experienced lemon lawyers who have been negotiating these cases everyday for years, like the attorneys at Timothy Abeel & Associates, know the law and know the value of a lemon law claim. It is in your best interest to get a good lemon law attorney to help you get every dollar in your lemon law claim.
Mistake #8: Not hiring a lemon law attorney
Lemon laws make auto manufacturers pay the attorney fees of the vehicle owner in a lemon law claim. Most reputable lemon law attorneys, like Timothy Abeel & Associates, will also offer a free initial consultation to discuss whether or not you have a valid lemon law claim. And still some people never seek the advice of a lemon law attorney. You can hire someone to tell you what the law is, avoid all these mistakes, deal with all the paperwork and phone-calls, get a replacement vehicle or reimbursement of your purchase price, and you don’t have to pay for it. On top of that, it is well known that unrepresented plaintiffs often receive lower compensation than those that have a lawyer.
Not hiring a lemon lawyer is the biggest mistake of all.
If you think your vehicle is a lemon, our experienced lemon law attorneys at Timothy Abeel & Associates can help. We offer a free case review, and if you do bring a lemon law claim, we will not charge you any fees. Contact us today for a no obligation consultation to see if you qualify for compensation, a replacement vehicle, or a full refund of your purchase price.