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Thursday, August 18, 2022   

Lemon Car Making Your Life Sour?
by Craig Kimmel
Ask Craig your question! Craig Thor Kimmel is a nationally recognized automotive consumer advocate and managing partner of Kimmel & Silverman, P.C., the nation's largest lemon law firm. For more information on automotive consumer issues, visit http://www.lemonlaw.com
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Craig Kimmel

One month old car is in the shop for more than 30 days does it qualify as a lemon?

In most states, the answer to Jade's question is a resounding yes. If you have a car that's less than one year old and it has been in the shop for more than 30 days, chances are you have a lemon. Also, if a car has a substantial reoccurring problem which first occurs during the first year or two of ownership, depending on the state, you may want to look at the Lemon Law.

"Lemon" rights are defined by state law as well as the written warranty that can be found inside each vehicle owner's manual. These rights are generally greater than what the manufacturer or dealer will admit to.

Each case has different facts. The recovery you may be entitled to varies quite a bit. In order to learn your legal rights for your facts, I suggest that you visit www.lemonlawamerica.com, a national website which provides useful links to state lemon law statutes and information on lemon law attorneys across the nation.

So, how can a lemon law attorney help you? Much like a detective, our first task is to reconstruct the entire history of your car, from the date of production to the time the case is opened. We determine whether the vehicle was damaged at the time of delivery; if the finance papers reveal an apparent fraud committed against you; whether repairs were attempted by the dealer; the time actually spent for each repair; the amount of money paid by the manufacturer for warranty repairs; whether that model has known defects; whether there are service file notes which reveal the existence of an unresolved, undisclosed safety concern and other inquiries. In sum, we perform an exhaustive investigation to learn everything we can about your car. Only by investigation can we know how the concerns, typically referred to as "non-conformities", have affected the use, value or safety of your vehicle.

Though the manufacturers want you to feel that its his word versus yours, that's not the case. Your lawyer should obtain all documents, repair records, service bulletins and names of witnesses to prove the case in court. Most attorneys frequently utilize the services of Master ASE certified mechanics and appraisers who are an impartial aid in understanding the nature of the non-conformities. If necessary, these findings are then used for purposes of testimony at trial to prove your case in the event it cannot be settled.

Now, many times, consumers take their vehicle to the dealer only to be told that their problem "can't be duplicated" or "no problem found." How can you win when the repair records state that the problem was never found? Manipulation and/or poor preparation of repair records is one of the biggest concerns in lemon law cases. When a vehicle is taken to a dealer for a warranty repair, several copies of the repair order are generated within the service department, most of which you the customer, never see.

Each repair contains the following copies: customer; warranty payment; accounting and a hard copy showing all mechanic's notes made for each repair. Such notes are not made available to the customer. Frequently, the customer copy will list a problem complained of but the dealer action performed in response may read "could not duplicate customer concerns". It is also not uncommon for the hard copy to show the mechanic found the problem but has been instructed not to attempt any repair because no corrective procedure exists to fix it! In such a case, the customer is left with the false impression that the vehicle is operating properly and will unknowingly drive with a potentially dangerous defect.

Why is this practice seen time and time again? Perhaps a certain make or model may suffer from a uniform problem (i.e. door latch defect) which the manufacturer has yet to correct. Since there is no factory authorized "repair" at the time, the dealer is instructed to either write "could not duplicate" or perhaps "vehicle operating as designed" and sends the customer on their way with repairs needed, but not performed.

Another reason is time. Dealer time. Many dealers lack the resources and mechanics necessary to properly diagnose and address a concern. Under warranty procedures utilized by manufacturers, a problem which goes undiagnosed by a mechanic, will not be paid. In other cases, the manufacturer may limit the amount of diagnostic time for repairs and in many other cases, unskilled mechanics lack the knowledge to perform their function in an efficient or effective manner.

The bottom line is that while repair records are helpful to a case, they are not the only thing that determines the outcome. If you feel you are not getting what you paid for in quality and reliability, then no amount of misrepresentations on a repair invoice should convince you otherwise.

As a consumer, you need to pay attention to certain factors as well, including:

The representations by the dealer at the time of sale.
The repair history
Repair orders not given to the customer
Accurate statement of the customer's concern on each invoice
Whether a good faith attempt was made to diagnose the problem
Whether the model has a history of problems
Whether the customer was told the problem would "go away on its own"
Whether the dealer noted on any invoice that a problem "could not be duplicated"
Whether the invoices reference an accident prior to the sale and if so, whether the damage was disclosed
Whether the dealer made any false statements about a customer's legal rights and most importantly: Whether the consumer got what he paid for!

Now what if your car has clear cut problems? Can't you just get the manufacturer to replace it? Although this is how the law was intended to work, practically speaking, in the overwhelming number of cases, the answer to this question is "NO"! All the automobile makers have "owner loyalty hotlines", "customer satisfaction departments", "quality care divisions" or other such creations set up to respond to consumer complaints. The warranty book will direct consumers to call these departments if they are unable to resolve concerns through the dealer. However, all is not what it seems. From the manufacturers perspective, these departments are not set up to assist consumers at all; they are aimed at pacifying them. Should a consumer say the words "lemon law", "lawyer"' or "replacement vehicle", all meaningful efforts to satisfy the customer stops.

Other manufacturers are less obvious. Their customer service personnel may orally promise to "review the matter", "investigate it with your dealer", "speak to a manager about it immediately", "e-mail your factory representative", tell you that a repair has "just been created" and that "you will be contacted", or just some concoction. To make it truly convincing, they will give you a "case number" and ask you to keep it on file. It is all nonsense.

Such statements will be made as often as you, the customer, will listen. Remember, the same words are said to hundreds of other dissatisfied consumers across the nation each and every week.

After speaking with representatives of the manufacturer and being assured that problems will be addressed, many consumers will wait in good faith, only to realize months and sometimes years later, that they have been lied to.

Why is this done? Perhaps, they hope you will give up and sell the car or trade it and buy another. If so, then the manufacturer doesn't have to accept the financial obligation and disclosure requirements that go along with buying a car back as a "lemon".

Making matters worse are those few select cases where the manufacturer agrees to a refund or replacement vehicle, only to misquote its legal obligations, perhaps charging you thousands of dollars in bogus mileage, taxes and other amounts which they have no right to seek.

Why put yourself through this when in most states representation by a qualified attorney is totally free? (In Pennsylvania, New Jersey, Delaware, and New York, we have provided cost-free help to more than 19,000 consumers.)

How do you choose an attorney? In making your choice, ask how many cases the attorney has successfully handled. How many have settled? How many have gone to trial? What have been the results? When was the last time a successful verdict was obtained? Ask for the name of former clients as a reference. Ask what steps will be taken to win your case.

If any answers sound vague and unsure, you should reconsider your choice in counsel.

If you have questions about the lemon law and how it works, feel free to e-mail us at lemonlawfirm@aol.com or visit lemonlawamerica.com and click on your state.

Good luck!



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