|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,
One month old car is in the shop for more than 30 days does it
qualify as a lemon?
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
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
As a consumer, you need to pay
attention to certain factors as well, including:
representations by the dealer at the time of sale.
|| Repair orders not given to the
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
||Whether the invoices reference an accident prior
to the sale and if so, whether the damage was disclosed
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 firstname.lastname@example.org
or visit lemonlawamerica.com
and click on your state.