What Is the Lemon Law and When Does it Apply?

By Jed McKeehan

If you ever hear anyone complain of buying a vehicle that has problems, you always hear people say, “Well you should be protected by the lemon law!”  Are you really?  Is that just some made up thing?  How often does the lemon law actually apply?

A “Lemon” is a motor vehicle sold or leased after January 1, 1987, that has a defect or condition that substantially impairs the motor vehicle; and the person you bought it from cannot repair the vehicle after three attempts or the vehicle is out of service for repairs for a cumulative total of 30 or more days during the term of protection.  This Law is ONLY applicable if the vehicle was bought new.  So the lemon law does not apply to used vehicles at all.  If the above conditions apply though, the manufacturer is required to replace the motor vehicle or refund the purchase price.

“Substantially impair” means to render a motor vehicle unreliable or unsafe for normal operation, or to reduce its resale market value below the average resale value for comparable motor vehicles.

The term of protection is defined as one year from the date of original delivery or the term of the warranty, whichever comes first.

In order to take advantage of the lemon law protections, I would recommend reporting any problem within the first year or within the term of the warranty, whichever comes first.

If you have a lemon, you must notify the manufacturer of the problem in writing by certified mail. The manufacturer has an additional opportunity to repair your car within 10 days. If the manufacturer cannot repair your car and the manufacturer has an informal dispute settlement procedure that complies with Federal Trade Commission regulations, the refund and replacement provisions of the Lemon Law won’t apply until you submit to the procedure. You are not bound by the decision and can still seek available legal remedies, including asking a court to award a replacement vehicle or reimbursement of the purchase price (less a reasonable allowance for use), plus attorney fees and court costs.

You can file a lawsuit at anytime within one year from the date of original delivery of your car or within six months from the expiration of your expressed warranty, whichever is later. Extended warranties are not considered.  Very specific provisions apply in order for you be able to take advantage of the lemon law, make sure you can check the boxes that the law require!

 

Jedidiah McKeehan is an attorney practicing in Knox County and surrounding counties.  He works in many areas, including criminal, personal injury, landlord-tenant, probate, and estate planning. Visit attorney-knoxville.com for more information about this legal issue and other legal issues.

 

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