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Lemon Help Directory :

Your Legal Rights

What rights do I have?

What does a Lawyer do when they take my case?

Isn't it just my word againts theirs?

How can I win when the repair records given to me by the dealer state that the problem was never found?

What are some of the things to pay attention to?

My car has clear problems. Can't I just get the manufacturer to replace it?

The lawyer I spoke to wants me to pay a retainer to take my case. Should I...

What Rights Do I Have?

"Lemon" rights are defined by state law as well as the written warranty that can be found inside each vehicle owner's manual. These rights are generally greater than what the manufacturer or dealer will admit to.

These include the Lemon Law (if applicable), breach of warranty, unfair trade practices (i.e. damages for failing to repair the vehicle properly) and consumer fraud damages if deception occurred.

Each case has different facts. The recovery you may be entitled to varies quite a bit. In order to learn your legal rights for your facts, please contact a lawyer.


What does a Lawyer do when they get my case?

Much like a detective, a lawyers first task is to reconstruct the entire history of your car, from the date of production to the time the case is opened. We determine whether the vehicle was damaged at the time of delivery; if the finance papers reveal an apparent fraud committed against you; whether repairs were attempted by the dealer; the time actually spent for each repair; the amount of money paid by the manufacturer for warranty repairs; whether that model has known defects; whether there are service file notes which reveal the existence of an unresolved, undisclosed safety concern and other inquiries. In sum, lawyers perform an exhaustive investigation to learn everything we can about your car.

Only by investigation can a lawyer know how the concerns, typically referred to as "non-conformities", have affected the use, value or safety of your vehicle.

When the investigation is complete a lawyer will confront the manufacturer, present a thorough statement of your case and then demand a full recovery. If the manufacturer agrees with your position, and you are satisfied with the offer, the case is resolved. It is entirely your decision whether to accept or reject any offer. If not accepted, the case proceeds to litigation by filing a lawsuit on your behalf in court.


Isn't it just my word against theirs?

Though this is what the manufacturers want you to feel, the answer is "no". Lawyers obtain all documents, repair records, service bulletins and names of witnesses to prove the case in court. Lawyers frequently utilize the services of Master ASE certified mechanics and appraisers who are an impartial aid in understanding the nature of the non-conformities. If necessary, these findings are then used for purposes of testimony at trial to prove your case in the event it cannot be settled.

Lawyers prove a claim by the use of a number of tools, so it is never your word against theirs.


How can I win when the repair records given to me by the dealer state that the problem was never found?

Manipulation and/or poor preparation of repair records is one of the biggest concerns in lemon law cases. When a vehicle is taken to a dealer for a warranty repair, several copies of the repair order are generated within the service department, most of which you the customer, never see.

Each repair contains the following copies: customer; warranty payment; accounting and a hard copy showing all mechanic's notes made for each repair. Such notes are not made available to the customer. Frequently, the customer copy will list a problem complained of but the dealer action performed in response may read "could not duplicate customer concerns". It is also not uncommon for the hard copy to show the mechanic found the problem but has been instructed not to attempt any repair because no corrective procedure exists to fix it ! In such a case, the customer is left with the false impression that the vehicle is operating properly and will unknowingly drive with a potentially dangerous defect.

Why is this practice seen time and time again? Perhaps a certain make or model may suffer from a uniform problem (i.e. door latch defect) which the manufacturer has yet to correct. Since there is no factory authorized "repair" at the time, the dealer is instructed to either write "could not duplicate" or perhaps "vehicle operating as designed" and sends the customer on their way with repairs needed, but not performed.

Another reason is time. Dealer time. Many dealers lack the resources and mechanics necessary to properly diagnose and address a concern. Under warranty procedures utilized by manufacturers, a problem which goes undiagnosed by a mechanic, will not be paid. In other cases, the manufacturer may limit the amount of diagnostic time for repairs and in many other cases, unskilled mechanics lack the knowledge to perform their function in an efficient or effective manner.

The bottom line is that while repair records are helpful to a case, they are not the only thing that determines the outcome. If you feel you are not getting what you paid for in quality and reliability, then no amount of misrepresentations on a repair invoice should convince you otherwise.


What are some of the things to pay attention to?

  • The representations by the dealer at the time of sale.
  • The repair history - repair orders not given to the customer.
  • Accurate statement of the customer's concern on each invoice.
  • Whether a good faith attempt was made to diagnose the problem.
  • Whether the model has a history of problems.
  • Whether the customer was told the problem would "go away on its own".
  • Whether the dealer noted on any invoice that a problem "could not be duplicated".
  • Whether the invoices reference an accident prior to the sale and if so, whether the damage was disclosed.
  • Whether the dealer made any false statements about a customer's legal rights and most importantly: Whether the consumer got what he paid for!


My car has clear problems. Can't I just get the manufacturer to replace it?

Although this is how the law was intended to work, practically speaking, in the overwhelming number of cases, the answer to this question is "NO"!

All the automobile makers have "owner loyalty hotlines", "customer satisfaction departments", "quality care divisions" or other such creations set up to respond to consumer complaints. The warranty book will direct consumers to call these departments if they are unable to resolve concerns through the dealer. However, all is not what it seems. From the manufacturers perspective, these departments are not set up to assist consumers at all; they are aimed at pacifying them. Should a consumer say the words "lemon law", "lawyer"' or "replacement vehicle", all meaningful efforts to satisfy the customer stops.

Other manufacturers are less obvious. Their customer service personnel may orally promise to "review the matter", "investigate it with your dealer", "speak to a manager about it immediately", "e-mail your factory representative", tell you that a repair has "just been created" and that "you will be contacted", or just some concoction. To make it truly convincing, they will give you a "case number" and ask you to keep it on file. It is all nonsense.

Such statements will be made as often as you, the customer, will listen. Remember, the same words are said to hundreds of other dissatisfied consumers across the nation each and every week.

After speaking with representatives of the manufacturer and being assured that problems will be addressed, many consumers will wait in good faith, only to realize months and sometimes years later, that they have been lied to.

Why is this done? Perhaps, they hope you will give up and sell the car or trade it and buy another. If so, then the manufacturer doesn't have to accept the financial obligation and disclosure requirements that go along with buying a car back as a "lemon".

Making matters worse are those few select cases where the manufacturer agrees to a refund or replacement vehicle, only to misquote its legal obligations, perhaps charging you thousands of dollars in bogus mileage, taxes and other amounts which they have no right to seek.

Why put yourself through this when representation by a qualified attorney is totally free?


The lawyer I spoke to wants me to pay a retainer to take my case. Should I?

ABSOLUTELY NOT!! Consumers should never have to pay an attorney for handling a good faith warranty claim. The manufacturer has a legal obligation to do so if such a claim is successful. If the attorney you are speaking with won't agree to accept the case without charge, then perhaps the person lacks confidence in the claim or is unfamiliar with how to win and collect a fee. Either way, you are not served by selecting an attorney who requires you to pay.

In making your choice, ask how many cases the attorney has successfully handled. How many have settled? How many have gone to trial? What have been the results? When was the last time a successful verdict was obtained? Ask for the name of former clients as a reference. Ask what steps will be taken to win your case.

If any answers sound vague and unsure, you should reconsider your choice in counsel.

To see a vehicle history report you need a VIN number. Click here for instructions on where to find it. If you have a VIN number then get your free lemon check now.



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