Has Your Car Left You With a Sour Taste? Know Your Rights Under the Lemon Law

July 2, 2015

The car buying process is not fun; but it can be exciting once you get your new vehicle.  Sadly, purchasing a lemon can quickly sour a new car smell.  Knowing your rights and the protection you are vested with under the Lemon Law, might turn this bitter experience into a sweet Sunday drive.

The Lemon Law applies to cars that are purchased or leased as new or demonstrator vehicles.  The vehicle must be used for family, personal, or household purposes.  Please note that the Lemon Law does not apply to recreational vehicles.  Also, the Lemon Law is in effect for 24 months from the date of delivery and it provides you remedies if there is a manufacturer defect within those 24 months.  Defects include anything that could substantially impact the use, value, or safety of the car, including: faulty paint jobs, leaks, and mechanical problems.

If you have any of these defects, report it immediately to the dealership or authorized service dealer for repairs covered under the warranty.  If the dealership is not successful in making the repairs after three or more attempts, and/or the vehicle is out of service for more than 15 days, then it’s time to report the defects to the manufacturer in writing via certified mail.  Upon receipt of your written notification, the manufacturer has 10 days to contact you to inspect the vehicle and to attempt one more repair.  Should the repair attempt be unsuccessful, the manufacturer has to either provide you with a new vehicle or refund the full purchase price, including collateral damages, depending on your desire.  It all sounds great, but what happens if the manufacturer refuses to repair the vehicle, provide a new vehicle, or doesn’t want to refund the full purchase price?  There are tools in place to enforce the Lemon Law.

Some manufacturers have an informal in-state arbitration program to help.  In which case, you must be notified, in writing, by the manufacturer how to file a claim.  If the manufacturer’s arbitration board doesn’t reach a decision within 40 days, or there is no in-state arbitration program, then you can file a Request for Arbitration Form with the Florida Attorney General’s Office, and have the dispute arbitrated with the Florida New Motor Vehicle Arbitration Board.   The Arbitration Board then has 40 days to make a decision.  If the Arbitration Board makes a decision in your favor, the manufacturer has 40 days to comply.  Failure of the manufacturer to comply will provide you the right to file a lawsuit and obtain recovery for pecuniary losses, litigation costs, reasonable attorney’s fees, and other relief the judge decides. Should the Arbitration Board make a decision averse to you, then you have 30 calendar days from the date you receive the decision to file an appeal with the circuit court.

While you may proceed with a Lemon Law claim on your own, an attorney can review the purchase agreement and warranty terms, send the Lemon Law notice to the manufacturer on your behalf, and/or represent you at the arbitration hearing.