Hi all: I'm here in the Redwoods with daughter Rebecca and the Bigfoot Field Research Organization (http://www.bfro.net/), as seen on the MonsterQuest TV show We are tromping in the dark woods looking for traces of that most elusive creature, and after some time here, heading off to the Oregon coast to play golf at Bandon Dunes (http://www.bandondunesgolf.com/). Back in two weeks, and more to come. In the meantime, my friend Sergei Lemberg has a few things to say about lemon law. William
When It's Time to Make Noise
By Sergei Lemberg
William so eloquently writes about the dire consequences of "quiet zones," and I agree wholeheartedly that engineers should make all the noise they need to warn pedestrians and drivers that a train is coming their way. Through link [www.LemonJustice.com], my colleagues and I help people make another kind of noise - the kind that forces car manufacturers to do the right thing.
All too often, consumers are victimized by car manufacturers when the automaker can't or won't fix a serious defect in a new car. We're not talking about annoying problems like speakers that aren't installed properly, but rather defects that make the vehicle unreliable or unsafe. Every state has what's called a lemon law, meant to protect new car buyers from just these kinds of defects. Unfortunately, though, most people don't understand their lemon law rights, or know how to go about preserving them.
Because each state's lemon law is different, it's easy for people to become confused. Generally speaking, though, most states cover new passenger vehicles that are intended for personal use. Some states are even more lenient. Texas lemon law, for example, covers virtually every new and demonstrator vehicle with two or more wheels that's designed for use on the highway.
Typically, lemon laws dictate that, in order to be considered a "lemon," a vehicle must have serious defects that occur within a certain time frame. In Texas, it's during the first year or the first 12,000 miles - whichever comes first. There's also a requirement that the vehicle has been taken in for a certain number of repairs (such as four times for the same problem) or has been out of service for a certain length of time (such as a cumulative total of 30 days). Often, there's a requirement that the manufacturer has to be notified via certified mail and given one last opportunity to make the repairs. If the automaker can't fix the problem, they're required to give the consumer a refund or replacement vehicle.
This is the point where consumers need to make a lot of noise. Understandably, manufacturers don't want to acknowledge that they have a lemon, and have legal teams that are dedicated to fighting lemon law claims. Often, they make people jump through hoops until the time limit for getting compensation expires, then walk away with smiles on their faces.
If you think you have a lemon, there are a number of steps you should take. First, keep a logbook of every communication you have with the dealer or manufacturer. Also note every time and date that you have a problem with the vehicle, as well as the days that the vehicle is out of service, either because it's in the shop or because it's not in working condition. Second, keep all of your repair records; never leave the shop without a copy of the work order. Third, keep any written correspondence you have. If the law requires that you send the manufacturer a final demand letter via certified mail and allow the manufacturer one final repair attempt, so make sure you have the paperwork to back that up. Finally, contact a lemon law attorney after the second or third repair attempt. He or she can help guide you through the final steps that will legally establish your vehicle as a lemon. Because most lemon laws say that the manufacturer has to pay your attorney's fees in a successful claim, representation shouldn't cost you a dime.
The bottom line? If you think you have a lemon, raise your voice and make a lot of noise. It's the only thing car manufacturers can hear.