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A General Overview of a Lemon Law Claim
Author: Greg Artim
Many states have automobile based lemon laws to protect individuals who have purchased defective motor vehicles. If your state does not have an automobile lemon law, you can still be protected by what is referred to as the Federal Lemon Law, or the Magnusson Moss Act. While the law is different in each state, many similarities can be found in the state lemon laws and the Federal Magnusson Moss Act. Typically, your vehicle must exhibit a defect or non-conformity that substantially impairs the use, value or safety of your vehicle. Examples of this might be engine, transmission, braking, suspension or other serious problems. The defect must first occur within some defined mileage parameter, usually 12,000 or 18,000 miles or the first year that the car is in service. The lemon laws always give the manufacturer a reasonable number of attempts to repair the problem, and that can vary from state to state. The number of repair attempts is usually three or four, but check your state law to be sure. If the manufacturer cannot repair the defect within that number of attempts, then you have a lemon. Most states set forth that you are entitled to a refund of the purchase price or a replacement vehicle, free of charge. These laws usually provide for the recovery of all consequential damages that you may have encountered as well, such as all of the payments that you have made on the vehicle, including interest, any down payment, any repair charges, etc... The lemon laws are very much geared towards protecting the purchaser of a defective vehicle. They are extremely friendly consumer statutes.

The problem is that having a lemon and getting a manufacturer to agree that you have a lemon are two very different things. After your vehicle has been in for repairs the requisite number of times, the first step that you have to take is to advise the manufacturer, in writing, of your concerns. This usually takes the form of a letter to that manufacturer which essentially revokes your acceptance of the vehicle. What that means is that you are attempting to revoke the contract between yourself and the manufacturer, and are making a demand for a refund or a replacement vehicle. The manufacturer will rarely agree to your demand at this point in time. The next step, which is mandated by many state lemon laws, is that you have to submit your claim to an Arbitration panel for review. Many states, and many manufacturers, use the Better Business Bureau as its Arbitration panel. These Arbitration panels are usually non-binding on you, the consumer, but are binding upon the manufacturer. In that regard, it has been my experience that the Arbitrators tend to lean towards the side of the manufacturers in these types of cases, because they know that you can go further, and the manufacturer cannot. After Arbitration, if it is not in your favor, the next step in your lemon law claim would be to file a lawsuit against the Manufacturer in a court of competent jurisdiction. It is at this point that the Manufacturer realizes that you are serious, and may begin to entertain realistic formal discussions regarding your vehicle's problems.

This may sound like a lot of work, a lot of hoops to jump through, and it really is, but the great thing about lemon laws is that they typically provide the consumer with Free legal representation. That's right, you can get an Attorney to work for you for free! The Attorney is not actually working for free, but the lemon laws usually provide that the manufacturer must pay your reasonable Attorney fees if the vehicle is found to be a lemon. Lemon Law Attorneys rarely charge any up front retainers, and may or may not charge you for out-of-pocket costs on such a claim. These Attorneys typically look to the manufacturer for their fees and reimbursement of costs. While I would not wish a lemon upon anyone, getting a free attorney to assist you is not half bad.

About the Author
Greg Artim is a Pennsylvania Consumer Attorney focusing on defective auto claims under the Pennsylvania Lemon Law and Breach of Warranty Matters. Visit his website at www.ihatethislemon.com
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