If you've purchased a vehicle and it's not working properly, you may be eligible to file a lemon law claim in your state. Federal and state lemon laws provide consumers with ways to negotiate and resolve disputes involving defective new vehicles. In most states, if a consumer wins her claim that a vehicle is defective, the manufacturer must replace or refund the original purchase price of the "lemon" vehicle.
Before You File
Contact an attorney. There are attorneys in every state who specialize in lemon law claims. Talking to an attorney in the beginning could save you a headache later.
Take the car back to the dealer for repairs. Sometimes problems that seem huge can be fixed by replacing a single part, and in most states, the consumer has to give the dealer an opportunity to fix the car before declaring the vehicle a lemon.
Give written notice. In most states, before you file a lemon law claim you must provide the dealer and manufacturer with notice by certified mail. This notice should include: your name, address, phone number, a description (year, make and model) of the vehicle you're planning to declare a lemon, the VIN (vehicle identification number), and an explanation of what's wrong with the vehicle. The notice should also state that attempts made by the dealer and manufacturer to repair the vehicle have not worked, and you expect a replacement or refund within 60 days of mailing your letter.
This notice or letter must be mailed no later than 60 days after the initial warranty is up.
Filing a Lemon Law Claim
State your case to the arbitration board. In some states, before you file a lemon law claim in a court of law, you must first go before the arbitration board. Arbitration boards are negotiators who seek to resolve certain issues before they go to court. Some states have arbitration boards, but do not require you to state your lemon law claim in front of them before going to court. Check your state lemon law or with your local clerk of court to find out how your state's lemon law works.
Try a third-party lemon law resolution expert, like the Better Business Bureau's Autoline. If an arbitration board is unavailable in your state, see if you can find another reliable third-party negotiator like the Better Business Bureau.
Obtain the paperwork. If arbitration doesn't work, contact or visit your local clerk of court's office to get the paperwork you need to file a lemon law claim. The paperwork required to file a lemon law claim varies by state and jurisdiction. However, the information required should be similar to the information in your initial letter to the manufacturer and dealer.
Fill out all the paperwork completely, and file your claim in court.
Attend any hearings, and state your case before a judge. Wait for a verdict.
- If you have changed your vehicle in any way yourself since purchasing it, it may not be eligible for lemon law protection.
- If at all possible, hire an attorney. State lemon laws can be confusing and having an attorney may increase your chances of winning.
- Most lemon law claims never go to court. Try the state arbitration board or a reliable third-party negotiator, like the Better Business Bureau, before suing in a court of law.
- Always try to get the dealer or manufacturer to fix the vehicle before declaring it a lemon. Most states require the consumer to give the dealer and manufacturer an opportunity to fix the vehicle before declaring it a lemon.
- If you file a lemon law claim and win, most state lemon laws provide for the payment of attorney's fees.
- Any lemon law claim you file is against the manufacturer of the vehicle, not the dealership where you purchased it.