Dealing with the lemon law process first-hand is no picnic. As this is more than likely your first experience with a lemon vehicle, it’s very important to be as prepared as possible before going into your first meeting with an attorney.
If you go into it blind without doing your due diligence, you could miss out on potential benefits, or get burned altogether. If you have determined that your defective vehicle meets the criteria of a lemon, here are four vital things to remember in order to ensure your first meeting with the lemon attorney goes off without a hitch.
1. Have All Cost Records Related to the Lemon Vehicle in Order
If you end up with a lemon vehicle, you will quickly learn that there are many, MANY unexpected costs and tidbits of information that factor into the whole process. Be sure you are holding onto all receipts for everything stemming from the faulty vehicle. Most importantly, this would include the amount you originally paid for it. If you took out a loan, be sure to have a record of the down payment, the monthly payments made, and how much is remaining on the total balance.
Next, you need to keep track of all incidental costs as a result of the lemon. This would include things like towing expenses, cab fares, accommodations, repairs, even lost wages. Furthermore, be sure you have records of all official costs that came with the car (registration, sales tax, etc.).
If you win the case, the manufacturer is required to reimburse you for all of these expenses. That said, it’s in your best interests to have all of this tracked down to the penny for your attorney.
2. Ask the Right Questions
When you are working with lemon law attorneys, there are a number of key questions you need to ask in order to gauge how well they can handle your case. These questions will help you determine their level of expertise, devotion to consumer justice, problem solving ability, and the likelihood of coming out on top.
Some of the major questions include:
Are you specialized in lemon law?
- The auto manufacturers are very well equipped with legal defense. While some lawyers may tell you they can handle your lemon law case, you need to make sure they are highly specialized in this area and have the knowledge and experience to go up against the auto giants.
What would you like to see in order to properly evaluate this case?
- The lawyer needs to see that your vehicle meets the criteria of a lemon. This would involve any and all repair orders. Furthermore, they will need to take into account the paperwork from when you bought the vehicle, paperwork for repairs, your odometer readings, record of how long your vehicle was in the shop, and the warranty.
How many lemon law cases have you dealt with?
- Hopefully, they have handled a decent amount and can tell you a bit about the legal landscape of the area.
What are your top concerns when dealing with a lemon law case?
- The answer should be along the lines of making sure the case gets resolved as quickly as possible and getting the most out of the manufacturer.
Can you provide any references from previous clients?
- A good lemon law attorney will be more than happy to provide you with some references from previous clients.
These are just a handful of the questions you should ask in the first meeting. As most consumers have little to no experience in lemon law, it’s surprisingly common that legal firms will take advantage of this to make some extra money.
3. Be Wary of “Trade-Ins” or “Cash Settlements”
Lemon law is all about holding manufacturers accountable for selling faulty products. As a consumer with a legitimate lemon case (through no fault of your own), you obviously want to get as much from the manufacturer as possible.
When you are in the legal process, the manufacturer’s legal representatives will often try to convince you and your attorney that you don’t have a good case and do not qualify for legal benefits. From here, they might try to get you to take a trade-in, which can potentially result in a loss of equity or a higher payment on the vehicle.
More commonly, the manufacturer’s reps will tell you that the best option is to take a cash settlement, which can be much less than what you originally paid for the vehicle. To be clear, you want a full buyback with incidental costs included.
4. Don’t Pay Any Upfront Costs
Another unfortunate thing that tends to happen in initial lemon law meetings is the lawyer may ask you for a number of out-of-pocket costs. This typically includes retainer or arbitration fees.
Keep in mind, ending up with a lemon is NOT your fault and you should NEVER have to pay any upfront costs for a lemon law lawyer. A good attorney will know in the first meeting whether you have a good case, and won’t take it otherwise. If you prevail, ALL legal expenses are to be paid by the manufacturer. A trustworthy lawyer knows this and won’t ask for any upfront costs.
Lemon law can be an extremely tricky topic. While the criteria of what defines a lemon vehicle might sound fairly straightforward on the surface, there are numerous little details and factors that can quickly muddle the proceedings. This is why having a specialized lemon law attorney handle your case makes all the difference. That being said, the most important thing to determine in this first meeting with the attorney is how well-versed they are in lemon law and how they can handle the obstacles in their way.
Keep in mind, much of what happens in the first meeting serves as an indicator for how the rest of the lemon law case is going to play out. Before you even begin shopping around for attorneys, make note of these four things to ensure you go into the first meeting fully prepared.