A Changing Auto Culture: How Does Lemon Law Affect Electric Cars?

Electric cars are taking over the road more and more every day. Believe it or not, the first concept of the electric car dates back to the 1800s. However, the widespread popularity of these models did not hit the market until recently.

As electric cars become more common, understanding how they fit into the lemon law process can certainly seem a bit confusing. New parts = new troubles.

In California, the combination of electric cars and lemon law will likely grow substantially in the next few years – with the state’s zero-emission goal being to reach 1.5 trillion vehicles by 2025. As a Los Angeles lemon lawyer, one of my primary focuses for the future is preparing for laws to adjust in order to accommodate new types of vehicles on the road.

So, how exactly does lemon law affect electric cars – both now and in the future?

Let’s discuss.

New Technology Comes with New Problems

For the most part, lemon law across the United States is meant to cover defects affecting the vehicle’s use, value, or safety, of which are covered under the manufacturer warranty. These defects typically include problems with components like the engine, transmission, steering, brakes, seat belts, etc.

The good news is that most electric cars still have many of these hardware components, and if one or more is defective, the process of filing a lemon law claim will be similar to that of a gasoline-only vehicle.

However, there are plenty of unique issues that come with electric cars, of which may give you trouble. For instance, hybrid cars have unique braking systems, charging capabilities, and power cells that drive the motor. Getting covered in a court of law for these “new age” car problems will require an experienced lemon law lawyer.

Where Does the Current Lemon Law Factor in?

So, in terms of the major question surrounding lemon law and electric cars: Are defective electric cars different than traditional gas or diesel-powered vehicles?

In the eyes of lemon law, the simple answer is, currently no. Most (if not all) issues that impair the vehicle’s use, safety, or value will be covered under the manufacturer warranty and will follow the same qualifying guidelines to be deemed a lemon.

However, newer electric vehicle brands (namely Tesla) are doing a lot to challenge lemon law and shake up the legal grounds their buyers have to stand on. A couple years back, we saw the first lemon suit filed against a Tesla model – in which the electronically actuated doors were opening and closing unexpectedly, the auto pilot feature was causing issues, and the navigation screen was freezing.

Tesla has been a target of frequent criticism among lemon law lawyers, with reports that they are demanding non-disclosure agreements from customers in order to keep silent about vehicle defects – which can create trouble in a lemon law case. Tesla has also been reported to threaten a “blacklist” for customers who assert their rights under California’s lemon law.

Moreover, it’s important to note that the implementation of new software is becoming increasingly essential to newer electric cars, and will need to be accounted for as components like auto pilot and driverless features become more widespread.

What Can I Do if My Electric Car is a Lemon?

If you have recently purchased or leased an electric car that is showing signs of being defective, you need to seek out a lemon law attorney near you – just like you would with a faulty gas-powered vehicle.

However, before you reach out to an expert, you need to understand the scope of the problem in regards to the electric car. As you could imagine, the majority of the defects faced in these types of vehicle is a result of, you guessed it, a faulty electrical system. Now, the electrical system touches many vital components of the vehicle – more than that of the electrical system of a gas-powered car.

For an electric vehicle to be deemed a lemon, there may need to be confirmation that the faulty electrical system is compromising a part of a vehicle that is imperative to its safety, use, or value. For example, if the charging system is not working properly or the electric motor is malfunctioning, this would likely qualify as a substantial defect. On the other hand, a broken CD player may not qualify the vehicle as a lemon. So before you jump to conclusions that your electric car is a lemon, you must understand the symptoms of your defect and critically assess how it poses as a threat to your safety or to those around you.

Additionally, it will help if you have all your paperwork in order. This should include:

  • All documentation related to repairs (number of repair attempts, days spent in the shop, nature of the defect, costs).
  • Your mileage (you do not have to have less than 18,000 miles on the odometer to qualify as a lemon).
  • Purchase date of the vehicle (the defect must occur within the warranty period).
  • Records of all incidental costs stemming from the lemon (lost wages, rental car, cab fare, towing, etc.)

Choosing a Good Lemon Law Lawyer to Handle Your Electric Lemon

When hiring a lawyer to represent you, it will help a lot if you can get an idea for the attorney’s experience dealing with electric lemons – as a precaution against any potential trickery from the manufacturer and/or the legal team representing them.

More importantly, you need to have a keen eye for a trustworthy lemon attorney. As this is likely your first experience with lemon law, it’s imperative that you understand the basics of how to get the ball rolling on the right note.

For starters, make sure they are specialized in lemon law. In some cases, a general practice attorney might try to tell you they can handle your claim no problem. Do not fall for this. There is a good chance they are simply looking to sign a new client and will not get you the justice you deserve. Always remember, the auto manufacturers have VERY powerful legal teams, and will demolish an inexperienced lawyer in court.

Additionally, keep in mind that you should never have to pay out of pocket costs for a lemon law lawyer – as these will be covered by the auto manufacturer if you win. If a lawyer demands them upfront, they are trying to take advantage of you.

Wrapping Up

The bottom line is that you still have the same consumer rights with an electric vehicle as you would with a traditional gas-powered vehicle. Although there are certainly a number of different components, most of the core features are still protected under lemon law.

While some may try to tell you otherwise, the most important thing is that you understand your rights and that buying an electric vehicle does not exclude you from potential benefits. If you have any questions related to lemon law and how your electric vehicle factors in, feel free to get in touch with us right away!

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