When people find themselves in the situation that their new, used, or leased vehicle is a lemon, everyone wants to get the problem resolved as quickly as possible – understandably. However, many assume that this involves taking matters into their own hands. This mindset, unfortunately, almost always leads to trouble.
Truth be told, all the Googling in the world won’t prepare consumers for the ins and outs involved in the legal proceedings of a lemon law case. As Lemon Law Lawyers in Los Angeles, we see all kinds of consumer oversights and mistakes when people think they can manage their situation single-handedly. While some can be fixed with the right legal assistance, others can easily turn a legitimate lemon claim into a hopeless case.
In this post, I want to discuss several of the biggest mistakes that can easily leave lemon law cases for dead.
1. Failing to Ensure the Customer Complaint is on the Service Report
This is one of the easiest (and most fatal) oversights that can be made in the lemon law process. Every once in a while, the service department of an authorized dealership or manufacturer will “forget” to put the actual customer complaints on the service report. A service report should include:
- Mileage of the vehicle.
- Dates the vehicle was being serviced.
- The customer complaint.
- The repair attempt.
The customer complaint is arguably the most important part of the service report.
For example, the complaint might be that “the steering wheel is making a grinding sound” or “the engine is making a loud knocking sound.” If this is not clearly shown in the service report, it’s your word against theirs in court. In many cases, the verbal words of a certified auto technician could hold more weight to a judge, or jury, than yours!
ALWAYS be sure to check for the written customer complaint on the document before you leave the service department. Failing to do so could easily come back to haunt you.
2. Too Many Details Specifying the Problem
When you are in the early process of creating a lemon law claim, approaching the manufacturer or the authorized service department needs to be done carefully. If you decently know your way around a car, it might seem like the smart move to get as specific as possible with your customer complaint. In reality, it’s best to be general – even if you know exactly what the problem is.
For instance, if you are positive the weird noise is coming from the transmission, simply tell the service department it’s coming from the front of the car. The last thing you want to do is create confusion or disconnect between the customer complaint and the repair attempt. This can also come back to bite you in court. In the long run, going general when stating the issue is the best thing to do. Remember, the repair facility personnel are there to diagnose and fix your vehicle. Your job is to describe your symptoms.
3. Leaving Out Critical Information in the Notice of Nonconforming Condition
A “Nonconforming Condition” refers to any condition of a motor vehicle that is not in conformity with the terms of the warranty issued by the manufacturer, simply put a defect or problem. Moreover, it has to occur as a result of ordinary use of the vehicle, not from unreasonable or unauthorized use. In other words, it’s the valid defect that constitutes repair from the manufacturer.
The “Notice of Nonconforming Condition” is your complaint to the authorized repair facility for each repair visit, otherwise known as a Repair Order. The best source for this information is the service report. It is not necessary to be deliver written correspondence directly to the manufacturer describing the vehicle, the nonconforming condition (defect), and all previous attempts to repair the nonconforming condition.
We are very careful in making sure the following information is included:
- The make, model, and year of the vehicle.
- The VIN number (can typically be found on the inside of the driver-side door).
- The nonconforming condition.
- The dates in which repair attempts were made.
- The name of the firm or technician that made the repairs.
A single detail left out of this critical document can spell serious trouble in the legal proceedings of a lemon law case.
4. Continuing Repairs After Two Failed Attempts by the Manufacturer
Under California lemon law, the vehicle manufacturer usually must be given at least two attempts to repair the same warranty-covered defect. If they cannot remedy the problem after this many repair attempts, it’s time for you to get the ball rolling in seeking a buyback or replacement.
Think of it this way; if the defect has presented itself two or more times following repair attempts, it’s almost a guarantee that it will keep happening. Depending on the nature of the defect, this could end in injury or death. Basically, you are on borrowed time.
Even if you are head over heels in love with your vehicle, there is no need to keep bringing it back for repairs time and time again. In the eyes of lemon law, there needs to be a clear indication of the final attempt to repair the defect.
So, if you’ve brought the vehicle to the technician for repair more than two times, yet imply you will be returning for another visit, the manufacturer might argue in court that they should be given another attempt to fix the defect – something that could easily delay or hurt your chances of getting compensation.
This is a situation in which you need to consult a lemon law lawyer before presenting paperwork to the manufacturer. The worst case scenario would be that the judge throws out the case on a technicality, i.e., you brought your claim too early, or too late.
5. Thinking The Dealer = The Manufacturer
This is a HUGE elementary mistake that can ruin your chances of getting justice from the manufacturer. When your vehicle has a defect that is covered under warranty, you need to bring it to the manufacturer’s authorized repair facility (or a technician that is certified by the manufacturer) for repairs.
It’s very possible that your selling dealership is not an authorized repair facility for your manufacturer. Under these circumstances, it will be tough to win compensation in court.
Said another way, a non-authorized manufacturer dealership can make multiple repairs on your warranty-covered defect. However, you cannot use these repair attempts against the manufacturer for your lemon law claim, or for a claim under the Magnuson Moss Warranty Act.
Before you get any sort of repair or service to your vehicle done while under warranty, be sure the technician or firm is certified by the manufacturer.
There are all kinds of rookie mistakes to be made in the lemon law process. As a consumer, you probably don’t have much experience (if any) with the legal proceedings. This is why you should always consult a lemon law attorney before you start the claim process. Many will offer a free consultation to help you understand your situation and what the next steps are.
Making any uneducated moves in this area of the law can have major, irreversible consequences. If your vehicle is experiencing a defect, do yourself a monumental favor and get in touch with a lemon law attorney ASAP. In the long run, you’ll be glad you did.