What is a lemon?

The American Heritage Dictionary defines a lemon as: “One that is or proves to be unsatisfactory…” (Houghton Mifflin Company, Boston, 2nd College Ed., © 1985). However, in an effort to further define such a broad term, the Lemon Law attempts to define certain situations which entitle consumers to their money back or a new vehicle. In a nutshell, any defect or nonconformity, or combination of defects, which is/are not repaired within a reasonable number of attempts or a reasonable amount of time, may entitle you to lemon law relief. Your vehicle does NOT have to be breaking down to be considered a lemon. In short, if you are aggravated enough to be reading this you may have a lemon.

 

What types of products are covered by the Lemon Law?

Almost any type of passenger vehicle is covered by the Florida Lemon Law. This means that Cars, Trucks, Vans, RVs and many other types of motor vehicles are all covered under the Lemon Law. For off-road vehicles, trucks over 10,00 pounds gross vehicle weight, motorcycles, and other items not covered by the strict definitions of the Florida Lemon Law, other State and Federal Lemon Laws are available which do cover these products.

 

What if I do not have a “motor vehicle”?

If your product came with a warranty and you are having problems getting defects repaired within a reasonable amount of time and/or a reasonable number of repair attempts, you may be covered under a Federal Warranty Law. This law is similar to the Florida Lemon Law in that it provides for cash recovery to the consumer, in addition to attorney’s fees and costs if you are successful.

 

Are leased vehicles covered?

Yes. The Florida Lemon Law specifically includes leased vehicles within its coverage. We have been just as successful settling leased vehicle cases as we have been with defective vehicles that were purchased.

 

What if I do not “qualify”?

You may still be entitled to Lemon Law relief. There are various State and Federal laws which can be used to help you obtain relief for purchasing a defective product.

 

Does my vehicle “qualify”?

The Florida Lemon Law is triggered when the vehicle been in the shop for three (3) times or more for the same symptom (what you experienced) or for thirty (30) calendar days (or parts of days) or more for repairs. BUT, there is really no such thing as “Qualifying” for Lemon Law help. This is because there are other laws which can be used to help you receive compensation in the event that you do not have a case for technical reasons under the Florida Lemon Law.

 

What if I start having problems after the second year or “Lemon Law Rights Period”?

You may still be entitled to compensation. There are various State and Federal laws which can be used to help you obtain relief for purchasing a defective product. We have represented a great number of individuals whose vehicles did not start having problems during the first or seond year.

 

Should I take it in again?

The answer to that question depends on the facts and circumstances of each case. Therefore, at this point, the best thing to do is maintain the status quo until you have the chance to speak with a qualified attorney. In other words, do not allow the condition of the vehicle to change by having any repair work done to it. However, if your vehicle is dangerous and you continue to use it, you do so at your own risk. It is important to remember that if you decide to go forward many of the manufacturers will want to inspect your vehicle. You have a much better chance of obtaining the relief you seek if you can demonstrate a defect. If you cannot, you may still be entitled to compensation, but the chances of you getting what you want may be reduced somewhat.

 

What if they refuse to repair?

If the dealer refuses to repair your vehicle, you may also have a claim. The manufacturer has given a warranty, which in most circumstances, requires the dealer to do repair work. If the dealer and/or the manufacturer then refuse to do the repair work, you may have a claim under the Lemon Law, Federal Warranty Law and/or other laws.

 

What is a breach of warranty” case?

Basically, it is the same as a Lemon Law case, however, with two notable differences. First, the standards or requirements for breach of warranty are not as clearly defined. Second, the remedies for breach of warranty are also not as clearly defined. Therefore, you should consult a qualified attorney to discuss whether you may have a breach of warranty case.

 

What documents do I need to prove a Lemon Law or breach of warranty” case?

The most important documents that you should have are the repair orders that you are given after your vehicle has been in for repair. Each time you take your vehicle in for repair you should make sure that all the information contained on these documents is correct. For example, you should be sure that all the complaints are written up EXACTLY as you have stated them; that ALL of your complaints on that visit are included; that the “dates in” and the “dates out” are correct; that the mileage is correct; etc. You should be able to get your repair history directly from the authorized dealer(s). If you cannot get them yourself, a qualified attorney may be able to issue a subpoena to the dealership to obtain all the documents on your vehicle. Also, if you keep a calendar of appointments which shows when you took the vehicle in to the dealer, this can be helpful in lieu of or in addition to the repair orders.

 

What can I get for a Lemon Law case?

The ultimate relief in a Lemon Law Case is your money back or a new car. This is known as a “buy back” or a “repurchase.” In Florida, the State Lemon Law provides for a Full Refund or a Replacement Vehicle (less a reasonable allowance for use) and mandatory Attorney’s Fees and Costs if the consumer prevails. When that occurs, the defective vehicle is returned to the manufacturer. This is usually done by returning it locally to one of their authorized dealers.

 

How will my attorney get paid?

Should we agree to represent you, your case will be handled on a contingency basis, whereby our office will not get paid unless you get paid. You will not have to come out-of-pocket to pay our fee!

 

What are my chances?

As with most cases, over 97% of these cases settle to the satisfaction of both parties. Remember, the manufacturer would rather pay less now than risk paying a much larger amount to you, your attorney and their attorneys later.

 

Can I resolve this myself?

You probably should avoid aggravating yourself further and wasting time. First, there is a reason that all 50 States have some form of a Lemon Law. Laws are passed to remedy problems which have become widespread. However, the mere fact that there is a Lemon Law does not mean that you will be treated differently if you represent yourself. It still costs a manufacturer less to drag it out with an unrepresented consumer and hope you will either go away or take little or nothing, than it would cost them to buy back everyone’s vehicle who made a complaint. Second, if you fail, you will have wasted precious time if you then have to hire an attorney. Third, the right law Firm does NOT charge YOU an hourly attorney’s fee! By being represented by the right law Firm you lend legitimacy to your case. If you select a law office that limits their practice to consumer law, the manufacturer will most likely already know your law Firm. If your law Firm has successfully handled multiple Lemon Law claims, the manufacturer will know that you have someone on your side who knows what they are doing. Furthermore, if the manufacturer knows that if you do not get what you want, you have the ability and the will to file a lawsuit, you will be treated with more respect. This is because it costs the manufacturer money just to defend a lawsuit (starting from the moment you file the Complaint) as they have to send it to a qualified local law Firm to defend it.

 

Can the attorney general help me?

Not very effectively, if at all. The Attorney General’s Office is an administrative agency, which is part of our State Government. The government cannot act as your private attorney in a civil matter. The most the Attorney General can do is write a letter to the company you are complaining about and ask for their help in resolving your complaint. They cannot file a lawsuit on your behalf. In our experience, the company will usually respond by saying they are doing everything they are obligated to do. Then, the Attorney General will write you a letter explaining that they have done everything they can and that you may want to seek the assistance of a private attorney. You will save yourself precious time by seeking the assistance of a private attorney right away. You will know when you are dealing with a law Firm as the name(s) of one or more of the lawyers must appear in the title of the Firm. In most States, law Firms are not allowed to practice under a trade name (or other misleading name).

 

What is arbitration?

Florida has two different arbitration programs, a manufacturer-sponsored arbitration program, and the Florida New Motor Vehicle Arbitration Board, run by the Attorney General. The Florida Lemon Law provides that manufacturers may set up arbitration programs. These programs receive consumers’ complaints and are supposed to attempt to resolve the legitimate ones prior to a lawsuit being filed with a Court of Law. If the manufacturer has properly set up such a program and it is certified by the Attorney General of Florida, then the consumer’s case must first proceed through such a program. However, not all the manufacturers have such certified arbitration programs and many times the vehicle is ineligible for arbitration due to age or mileage, per the arbitration programs’ own rules. In those cases, the consumer may request arbitration with the Florida New Motor Vehicle Arbitration Board. Consumers qualifying under the Lemon Law must proceed through the Arbitration Board, but if a consumer does not meet the Lemon Law requirements, the consumer may file the claim with a Court of Law. The Arbitration Board is required to render a decision within 60 days after the date of request of arbitration. If the division rejects a dispute, or the decision rendered by the Board is unsatisfactory, the consumer may take the claim to a Court of Law.

 

Should I go through arbitration before hiring an attorney?

There is no requirement that you go through arbitration prior to seeking the assistance of a lawyer. For those who have gone to arbitration prior to seeking an attorney, many have informed us that they were treated with great disrespect and made to feel inferior because they were unfamiliar with the law and the manufacturer knew much more about the process and the mechanics of the vehicle. Whatever the arbitrator(s) decide, the consumer is not bound by the decision and can file a Complaint in a court of law requesting a jury trial. This is usually your best chance for a positive recovery and is usually done by a lawyer. This does not mean that your case will not settle prior to trial however. Most cases do settle prior to trial.

 

What if I bought my vehicle used?

First, if you still had any warranty left from the manufacturer when you purchased your vehicle (or your vehicle was “Certified” by the manufacturer or dealer), and you made at least one unsuccessful warranty claim before the warranty ended, you may be entitled to compensation for breach of warranty. If not, your case may raise a whole host of issues which are beyond the scope of this “Frequently Asked Questions” section. However, you may be entitled to compensation for violations of various laws which you may not even be aware of. The following is a list of some of the problems and/or issues which may be present in your vehicle. Your vehicle may be/have a:

  1. Laundered lemon (or prior history of mechanical problems known to the seller);
  2. Salvaged or wrecked;
  3. Rolled back odometer;
  4. Rental car, police car, taxi, etc.;
  5. Stolen, stripped and rebuilt; and/or
  6. Involved in a flood.

 

What you should do if you purchased a used car with problems?

If you are having problems with a used car that are not covered by a manufacturer’s warranty or manufacturer’s extended warranty, one or more of the following procedures may prove to be useful in discovering whether there is something about your vehicle that you were not told:

  1. Call 1-888-4-Car Fax;
  2. Do a Title Search;
  3. See a body shop mechanic to determine if your vehicle was wrecked;
  4. Have your Insurance Company run your Vehicle Identification Number (VIN) on their computer (may be called a C.L.U.E. report) to see if an accident claim was ever made with another insurance company; and/or
  5. Go to an authorized dealer and have them check the computer to see if it was wrecked or to let you know what the mileage was every time the vehicle was in for repair.

 

What if I was lied to or mislead in connection with the purchase of my vehicle?

Again, your case may raise a whole host of issues which are beyond the scope of this “Frequently Asked Questions” section. However, there are many State and Federal laws to protect you which can be used to assist victims of fraudulent and deceptive sales practices. Some of these laws provide for very strong remedies, such as Three (3) Times your Damages and Attorney’s Fees and Costs. For example, if you lost $5,000.00, you may be entitled to recover $15,000.00 ($5,000.00 x 3), in addition to attorney’s fees and costs.

 

Does a problem always need to occur 3 times to be considered a lemon?

Not necessarily. If your car is in the shop 30 days or more in the first year, consecutive or not, we can file a claim under the Law. Likewise, if you are experiencing a significant problem likely to cause death or serious bodily injury, we welcome you to submit your information for our consideration.

 

What if I fall outside the 12 month / 18,000 miles before my first problem exists?

If you are having continuous problems and your car is under a manufacturer’s warranty, we can still help under the Federal Magnuson Moss Warranty Act. Please let us know about your repairs and we explain your rights. The representation is still completely cost-free.

 

I’ve only had my car a few days and having problems, can I just return it to the dealership?
No. Problems can occur immediately, but if you are interested in opening a Ohio Lemon Law claim, you must follow proper procedures. That means making an appointment to have your car examined and repaired, and securing a repair invoice when you pick up your car. Make sure the invoice properly outlines all of the problems you disclosed to the service manager. We also suggest you keep a personal log of your repair visits and PLEASE HOLD ON TO THE INVOICES. This does not mean that we can’t help you if you don’t have the invoices (we can subpoena them if necessary) but it does make your case move along smoother. DO NOT JUST DROP OFF YOUR CAR AND KEYS AT A DEALER AND SAY “I DON’T WANT THIS CAR ANYMORE.” THEY COULD COUNT IT AS A VOLUNTARY REPOSSESSION AND IT COULD NEGATIVELY AFFECT YOUR CREDIT! IF YOU ARE HAVING PROBLEMS, CONSULT A CONSUMER ATTORNEY, BE IT US OR SOMEONE ELSE.

 

What if the vehicle spends 30 days in the shop, but not all at once and not for the same problem?
Each day or part of a day that the vehicle spends in the shop during the first year of ownership counts toward the 30 day limit. For example, the vehicle could spend 7 days in the shop for a transmission problem, 3 days for an engine problem, 1 day for an electrical problem, 4 days for brake problems, 5 days for air conditioning or heating problems, and 10 days for miscellaneous drive ability problems (e.g., running rough, stalling, hesitation, etc.) Since the total time equals 30 days, the vehicle qualifies as a “lemon.”

 

What do I need to do to protect my rights under Lemon Law?

Once your vehicle has required repairs three times for the same thing, or has accumulated 25 days in the shop, you need to send a letter, by certified mail, to the manufacturer advising them of the problems and that you want to give them their “last chance” to repair the vehicle under MCLA 257.1403(3) (the Lemon Law). The law requires that the manufacturer give you the proper address in your owner’s manual or warranty booklet that comes with the vehicle. The manufacturer must then notify you within a reasonable time of a repair facility that is “reasonably accessible” where you must take the vehicle. After you deliver the vehicle to the designated repair facility, they have five business days to fix your vehicle. If the problems are not fixed within five days, or the problems occur again, then you have a right to a refund or replacement of the vehicle.

 

Do I need a lawyer?

Not always. You can write and send the “last chance” letter yourself. If you have questions about the proper wording of the letter, or how to send certified mail, you can call our office and we will provide a telephone consultation at no charge. You should keep your original records, sending only copies through the mail. You should also keep a copy of every letter that you send.

 

What if the “last chance” repair doesn’t work?

The Lemon Law provides that if you have to hire a lawyer in order to enforce your rights, you may recover costs and attorney fees as part of your damages. In order to protect the right to recover costs and attorney fees, you may first need to go through the manufacturer’s “alternative dispute resolution” process (arbitration). Information on this process should be in your owner’s manual or warranty booklet that came with the vehicle. Some examples of arbitration programs are the Better Business Bureau, Chrysler Customer Satisfaction Board, Auto Cap, and the Ford Consumer Appeals Board. This arbitration result is NOT binding on you, but it IS binding on the manufacturer. Thus, if you are satisfied with the result, you can accept the award and the manufacturer MUST abide by it. On the other hand, if you are not satisfied, you can reject and pursue your remedies in court. If you have questions about arbitration proceedings, please feel free to call us for a free telephone consultation.

 

What can I get if I have to go to court?

If your vehicle is a “lemon” under the law, you are entitled to a refund or a comparable replacement vehicle. A refund under the Lemon Law includes your purchase price, taxes, and the price of manufacturer’s options installed by the dealer, less an offset for your use of the vehicle. The offset is limited to 10¢ per mile at the time of your first complaint or 10% of the purchase price, whichever is less. You are also entitled to recover your costs and attorney fees from the manufacturer if you win your case.