5 Myths About the Lemon Law
I have prosecuted Lemon Law claims for 19 years and hear the same myths about it over and over. “The manufacturer says I don’t qualify” or “the service department said they didn’t see the problem so it doesn’t count” or “I’m past the time to file so I can’t”, and many others. These misunderstandings keep a consumer from making a claim that could otherwise end the ongoing cycle of “failures, repairs, excuses, and more failures”. If you are in this repair-excuse cycle with no end in sight, read on to dispel these myths that might discourage you from filing a Lemon Law claim.
The Manufacturer said I don’t qualify for the Lemon Law … so I don’t
The most common myth I hear is: “I called the manufacturer and they told me I don’t qualify, so I guess that’s it”. Except, that’s not it. The manufacturer will seldom admit that they owe anything other than more repair attempts even though those attempts aren’t fixing your problem. This statement is usually untrue, but it saves them $$$ since you then delay making a Lemon Law claim. What usually is true is that repeated unsuccessful repairs require the manufacturer to follow the Lemon Law (if you ask). They just prefer that you didn’t.
As your opponent in a Lemon Law dispute, the manufacturer has every incentive to discourage you from taking it further. They do this by telling you that you don’t qualify. Don’t put any weight in that opinion. Every lawsuit I have ever filed and won has been after the manufacturer told the owner they don’t qualify. They’re just hoping you accept their bad advice and quit asking. Don’t give up!
Must be the same problem four times to qualify for Lemon Law
Let’s say you have an engine hesitation or stalling and report it to your dealer. The service department changes a sensor, injector, ignition coil, and then performs a software update, all of which occur on 4 separate visits. Has the dealer attempted to repair 4 different problems or the same one? If you listen to the manufacturer (see above) these are 4 different problems, and you don’t qualify for the lemon law. In reality, the problem is the operating failure, not the part used to correct it, i.e., the hesitation is the problem, not the coil, spark plugs or whatever. The dealer may have tossed 4 different parts onto the vehicle to try to solve that one problem, but that didn’t turn it into 4 separate ones. It’s still the same problem, and it’s likely still there if they’re just throwing parts at it. Therefore, the Lemon Law applies.
As usual, don’t believe the dealer or manufacturer’s interpretation of what the Lemon Law says. Most often, if you’ve had numerous visits to the service department and the problems continue, you probably have a claim.
“No problem found” or “could not duplicate” so it wasn’t a repair attempt
If you’ve ever taken your vehicle to the dealer and the invoice says “NPF” or “CND” you’ve experienced this, and it’s infuriating. You dropped your vehicle off describing in detail how it hesitated and stumbled on the highway almost causing you a rear-ender. The next day they call you and tell you they test-drove it but couldn’t see the problem. No work performed – come get it. Worse still, someone then tells you that the visit doesn’t count towards the Lemon Law since no work was performed. You must have 4 “repair attempts” after all, and this one doesn’t count, or does it?
The ”no repair attempted” interpretation of the Lemon Law is ridiculous. The actual language of most Lemon Law statutes is “subject to repair”. This means that the vehicle was at the dealer and available for them to repair. Whether they took this opportunity to attempt a repair is completely out of your control, but be certain that it counts. If you dropped the vehicle off for repairs, told them what malfunction was occurring, and gave them all the time they needed to do it, that’s a repair attempt. Once this happens 4 times, it’s time to file a claim.
They said it’s fixed, so I don’t qualify
Someone, usually the dealer or the manufacturer, says your vehicle is fixed so no Lemon Law for you. If you’re noticing a pattern here, you’re reading me correctly. Yet again, the manufacturer or dealer, the party that should owe you a cure for the never-ending visits to the service department tells you they owe you nothing. This time, you’ve got the “fix”! Does this eliminate a Lemon Law claim? Not at all.
First of all, how do you know the vehicle is fixed? More importantly, how do they know? They’ve said this numerous times and it hasn’t been true. Are they sure this time? Maybe it is, but maybe it isn’t. Only time will tell, but time is something you may not have in abundance. As noted above, there is always a deadline to file a claim. What to do?
Until you drive the vehicle for a while and you are certain there are no more problems, you should file a claim. If the vehicle is still running well after some months, then you have options – you can opt for an alternate remedy or a lesser amount in settlement. You could even dismiss the claim voluntarily. However, if you don’t file a claim, you are left with a single option which is hoping for the best. After choosing that option the first 3 times, I’d say that it’s not an option anymore. It’s probably time to take the next step and give yourself better options.
I bought the car over 12 months ago (or 18 months or 24 months) so I cannot file for Lemon Law
The initial lemon law period is called the “reporting” period. This is NOT the time limit to file a claim, which is months or years after this reporting period ends. It can be 12 months or longer but is merely the time for you to report the vehicle’s problems to the service department. This means that you have much longer to file a claim for Lemon Law. In some states this filing deadline is as little as 6 months after the reporting period ends, but in others, it can be 2 years or more. Also, the reporting period in your state can be 18 months or even 24 months, so you likely have much longer to file than you think to file a claim, often years.
Even if you do find yourself past the deadline for filing a state claim, there are also federal warranty laws that run up to 4 years after the date of sale. This gives you many options for claims and relief that extend for years after the sale, so don’t give up hope after just 12 months. You have options.
If you have any question about whether or not you qualify for the Lemon Law, seek the help of a professional. Do not rely on the advice of anyone other than an experienced individual dedicated to helping only you. You may want to rely on Uncle Bob who knows a guy, or on that know-it-all in an internet forum, or even an employee at the dealer or manufacturer to help you. They may even be well-meaning but be warned, most often they give bad advice. Instead, call a lawyer. He or she will be delighted to make a recommendation just for you on how to get through your situation. A lawyer who focuses his or her practice on the Lemon Law has probably done this hundreds or thousands of times. The information you get will be well worth the 15-minutes you spend making the call.