Buying a car should be an exciting and thrilling experience but can become a problem if you buy a lemon.
For example, you may take your vehicle to a repair shop multiple times for various upgrades and worry that you may have purchased a lemon. Unfortunately, you aren’t alone: this situation happens to many people every year.
Understanding your legal guidelines in this situation can help you know what course to pursue.
If you’re still confused after reading this article, you can reach out to a professional lemon law firm right away to get help.
Expert legal assistance can help you better understand your potential lemon and help you pursue a lawsuit if you’re stuck with a bad car.
But, just as significantly, lawyers can help you better understand your rights and ways you can report and replace a lemon vehicle.
Laws May Vary By State
State lemon laws typically vary heavily and often depend on a few different guidelines. For example, laws may dictate when a car is classed as a lemon and how that affects your compensation, and much more.
It is vital to understand these different factors because states often have varying other factors to consider that may make your case challenging to pursue if you aren’t careful.
In this section, we’ll take a deep look at California’s Civil Code to get an idea of what these laws might dictate.
For example, we’ll highlight how many repairs attempts this state thinks are “reasonable” before declaring your car a lemon. The answer might surprise you because it isn’t always a concrete number, like three or four, and may vary depending on the situation.
Is That a Specific ‘Repair Attempt’ Limit?
Let’s get this right out of the way first thing: there’s really no specific limit to how many repair attempts qualify a car for lemon status.
You’ve probably heard friends or family members argue the opposite, but it’s true: states don’t typically create a set guideline for repair attempts.
There are a few reasons for this approach, including the fact that repair attempts don’t always indicate a problem’s severity.
For example, California simply states that a vehicle is a lemon whenever a manufacturer is unable to fix a problem after a “reasonable number” of attempts.
This wording is deliberately vague because reasonable repair attempts may vary heavily based on the situation.
For example, replacing a tire is far less complex than an entire engine and should only take one or two attempts to get right.
That deliberately vague wording helps consumers ensure that each repair situation gets treated separately and under more specific circumstances.
That said, this wording also allows the manufacturer by letting them argue that specific problems may require multiple repairs.
Again, the idea here is to make the laws fair for both sides without unduly punishing one or the other for this situation.
But how exactly can the average car buyers understand whether their car falls under the lemon heading?
There are a few simple guidelines that you can take into account here. Again, we will focus on California law and highlight how it operates.
States typically have somewhat similar procedures, though the exact definitions may vary depending on the state in which you reside.
A Simple Guideline for Lemon Laws
In the 1991 California case, “Krieger vs. Nick Alexander Imports, Inc, California’s Second District Court of Appeals came up with a unique ruling.
They stated that the lemon law cause of action occurs when the car buyer “determined that [the manufacturer] had been able to repair his car.”
This case, which focused more on the statute of limitations on lemon laws, sets a unique potential precedent.
For example, a simple reading of this ruling could find that the consumer is the ultimate deciding factor when a vehicle has reached lemon status.
After all, the wording states that a lemon law action occurs when the owner determines the manufacturer has been able to repair a car.
In theory, this means that a car buyer could argue that even a single repair attempt could be a “reasonable number” and, possibly, trigger a successful lemon law case.
Due to this vague wording and a potential abuse of consumer power, California law has established an absolutely minimum for car repair attempts before activating lemon law: two.
This rule helps prevent car dealers and manufacturers from getting unfairly sued and compensating someone who didn’t buy a lemon car. It also helps courts when creating lawsuits based on lemon law situations.
It is important to note that this minimum number doesn’t mean that your lemon law case will be successful. You may take a manufacturer to court after two attempts, yes, but you’re not guaranteed to win.
For example, the court may find that two attempts were not enough to fix a specific problem and rule in favor of the manufacturer, making your lawsuit meaningless and damaging future cases.
Lemon Law Rules are Not Always Concrete
During a lemon lawsuit, courts typically follow a few presumptions or guidelines that help direct a case.
These presumptions typically must be met before California law qualifies a car for lemon vehicle repayment plans. Note that these guidelines will vary based on specific states and circumstances.
For example, some manufacturers may have different policies that affect this process. In any case, these presumptions include that:
- Reasonable Repair Attempts Have Been Made: A successful lemon law case presumes that the manufacturer made reasonable attempts to fix a problem and failed. Two attempts are minimal, though many more attempts may be allowed depending on the situation and the court.
- The Manufacturer Did Not Establish Information Lemon Law Resolution: Car buyers can pursue a lemon car lawsuit if the manufacturer did not try resolving this problem legally. In other words, if the manufacturer did not attempt to compensate the buyer after reasonable attempts, a lawsuit may occur.
- The Consumer Used the Manufacturer’s Procedures: If a car buyer refuses to pursue a car manufacturer’s lemon law procedures and tries a lawsuit, they’ll fail. Successful suits presume that the buyer followed a manufacturer’s policies but was either ignored or unsuccessful in resolution.
If all three presumptions are met in a lemon law case, a car buyer may proceed with a case and potentially win.
However, they still need to prove that the manufacturer failed to fix their vehicle and that it cannot be repaired.
This last point is important because a car that can be appropriately repaired is not a lemon. That’s why state laws dictate a “reasonable” repair attempt number.
In fact, it is also vital to establish several other guidelines before attempting a lemon car lawsuit. These guidelines, as you might expect, vary based on the state.
Therefore, we’ll take a trip out of California for the next section and explore another state’s laws and guidelines.
In this way, you can learn more about what to expect in a lemon car lawsuit and expand your knowledge to many other regions.
How Another State Works
While California law dictates that manufacturers must make a “reasonable” attempt at repairing a vehicle’s problems, Virginia law is a bit more specific.
They highlight three different scenarios in which your car might qualify as a lemon. Other states may follow a similar guideline, which could help to make your case a little easier.
Let’s break down these ideas to get an idea of what to expect here.
Specific Repair Order Limits
Unlike California, which keeps its repair limits vaguer, Virginia has three specific repair numbers.
The law, as written, states that if the same significant problem is worked on three times with three different repair orders and has not been fixed, it may be classified as a lemon.
It is important to note that these laws require three separate repair work orders, meaning you can’t count your own repair attempts in this process.
Unfortunately, some car owners make the mistake of trying to fix issues themselves, worsening them, and then losing out on potential lemon law cases.
Heavily Decreased Safety
Virginia lemon laws have a unique factor that helps make them a bit more involved than other similar state laws.
They state that if your car has a life-threatening defect, such as inoperative brakes, that still exists after one repair attempt, your car may be classified as a lemon in your case.
It is essential to know that the car manufacturer may attempt to fight what qualifies as a “life-threatening” problem.
It may seem hard to believe, but they may successfully argue that specific issues don’t truly threaten your life and that more repairs could fix the issue.
Don’t Miss the Statute of Limitations
All states have a statute of limitations on lemon laws to protect manufacturers from misused lemon lawsuits.
For example, Virginia’s lemon rules state that after 18,000 miles or two years of service, your car cannot fall under lemon law guidelines, even if it runs into situations that otherwise qualify.
This statute is put into place to protect manufacturers and ensure that car owners don’t misuse lemon law protection. But what happens if your car does qualify after this time has passed?
Unfortunately, you might be out of luck, though you could talk to a lemon law attorney anyway to try your luck.
Virginia law also has a 30-day calendar rule that may help cover you in many circumstances.
For example, this law states that if your car has been in a repair shop for 30 or more calendar days over the life of the vehicle for any problem or defect and something is still wrong with it, it’s a lemon.
Your car dealer may get one “final repair attempt” that cannot exceed 15 days after you hit these limits. If they cannot fix the problem, you can receive a full refund for the vehicle and a replacement.
If they fix the problem, and it occurs again later, you may also have some possibility for compensation.
What To Do If You Bought a Lemon
If you think you bought a lemon and aren’t sure where to turn, contact a lemon lawyer to get help. Before you start working with them, you may want to perform a few other steps that can ensure your car qualifies.
Doing so can help streamline your case and avoid many common complications. Follow these lemon vehicle steps below to learn more about your vehicle and start your compensation process.
Check for Common Lemon Defects
Some problems may be more likely than others to trigger lemon law guidelines. They tend to be more severe or life-threatening and need to be fixed ASAP to avoid severe health and safety issues.
Just a few of the most common systems that may fall under lemon laws include:
- Airbags, especially airbag failure or defects
- Antilock braking systems, particularly inability to operate properly
- Brake pedal problems, including complete and sudden failure
- Electrical problems, including stalling and failure to start
- Power steering loss, particularly while you’re driving
- Engine failure, especially when paired with a fire
- Repeated uncontrolled acceleration
These problems are typically considered life-threatening and may result in lemon status after one repair.
Less severe issues, such as radio or Bluetooth-syncing problems, may require far more repair attempts before your car is declared a lemon.
Make sure that you consider this fact before attempting a lemon lawsuit in any state, especially those with manufacturer-friendly laws.
Steps to Take When Starting a Lawsuit
If you’re confident you bought a lemon and want compensation, it is crucial to follow the steps below. Doing so can help improve your chances and may even earn you compensation before you go to trial.
It can also strengthen your case and ensure that you don’t make any common mistakes that could get it thrown out before it begins.
- Attempt Manufacturer Resolution First: Try to follow a manufacturer’s lemon law guidelines before pursing a lawsuit. If they don’t compensate you, then you may have a case.
- Track All Manufacturer Communication: Track all communication you make with the manufacturer, including emails, to make sure you can gauge your attempts to resolve the situation.
- Document All Repair Attempts: Save all repair receipts and insurance claims caused by your lemon situation to ensure the court understands what happened.
- Get Second Opinions: Talk to other mechanics about the problems that affected your vehicle to get a second opinion about whether reasonable repair attempts were made.
- Find a High-Quality Lawyer: Hiring a skilled attorney can improve your case chances by bringing in someone who better understands lemon law and who can present your case more effectively.
By following these steps, you improve your case chances and can build a more substantial potential lawsuit.
Note that your lemon vehicle situation must follow all guidelines created by your state. Before attempting a lawsuit, always address these concerns, including possible minimal repair attempts.
Doing so can help to ensure that you don’t wind up getting your case thrown out on a technicality.
Get Help From a Lawyer Today
As you can see, lemon law cases are not a cut and dry thing. There are many strange complications and rulings that may affect your case.
For example, a judge may simply decide that your six repairs are still “reasonable” for a single problem and rule against you.
This complexity makes it vitally important to contact a legal professional who fully understands these issues and who is ready to fight for your needs.
Contacting a skilled and professional legal team will help you collect evidence, create a great case, and improve your winning chances.
For example, you might talk to other mechanics about what should or shouldn’t be classed as a “reasonable” repair attempt number.
To strengthen your case, lawyers can also gather testimony from others, including people who struggled with this manufacturer before.