Check That Car!
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
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
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
- 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
- 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
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
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.