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Navigating lemon laws can be tough for vehicle owners in Florida. These laws are specifically designed to protect you from defective vehicles, but they aren’t simple to understand, and manufacturers will sometimes fight back hard, despite the Florida lemon law requirements.
Jeep owners in Florida who might be grappling with vehicles that just don’t seem to work as they should need to know their lemon law rights. Whether you’re trying to understand your rights or contemplating a lemon law claim, help in available. If you find yourself in a lemon predicament with your Jeep or any other vehicle, reach out to Jonathan D. Schwartz, Lemon Law Lawyer.

Understanding the Florida Lemon Law

The Florida lemon law, formally known as the Motor Vehicle Warranty Enforcement Act, provides protection to consumers who purchase or lease new or demonstrator vehicles. If your Jeep or any other vehicle persistently exhibits defects or conditions that substantially impair its use, value, or safety, you might have a case under the lemon law.

What Defects Does the Lemon Law Cover?

Lemon law covers defects in the vehicle that the manufacturer or authorized service agent cannot repair within a reasonable number of attempts. It’s crucial to note that not every defect qualifies.

For the lemon law to apply, these defects, termed “nonconformities,” must be significant enough to substantially impair the vehicle’s use, value, or safety.

Additionally, Florida lemon law covers defects explicitly laid out in the owner’s manual or other written manufacturer supplements provided at the time of sale.

Your Lemon Law Rights Period

The lemon law rights period is the timeframe within which you can make a lemon law claim. In Florida, this period is 24 months following the date of delivery of the vehicle. During this time, if your Jeep or other motor vehicle has a defect, you should promptly report this to the manufacturer.

Note that it is the manufacturer, not the dealer, who is responsible to fix it, though the manufacturer may send the vehicle to the dealer for repairs. The law requires the manufacturer to be given a reasonable number of attempts to repair the vehicle.

If these repair attempts prove futile, or if the vehicle is out of service due to repair for a cumulative total of 30 days or more, you may have grounds for a claim.

Process of Initiating a Lemon Law Claim

Before proceeding, you must provide written notification to the manufacturer, allowing them one final opportunity to inspect and repair the vehicle. This written notification can be sent via express mail with a return receipt from the post office.

Authorized Repair Shop

Throughout the process, ensure all repairs are done at an authorized service agent or repair shop. Each time the vehicle is taken in for repairs, make sure to obtain a written repair order detailing the problems, the work done, and the dates the vehicle was in the shop.

State Certified Programs

If the manufacturer fails to rectify the vehicle’s issues, the next step involves submitting your dispute to the Motor Vehicle Arbitration Board, which attempts to resolve disputes without court intervention. If the state certified program can’t help you and the manufacturer come to an agreement, you can bring a civil action in court.

It’s also important to note that some manufacturers have their own dispute resolution programs. If a manufacturer’s program meets the state requirements and is state certified, you might first submit your dispute there rather than the Motor Vehicle Arbitration Board.

Legal Recourse

If arbitration doesn’t yield a satisfactory result, you have the right to pursue legal action in court. This step might involve incurring legal fees, but if the court rules in favor of the consumer, the manufacturer may be required to cover these expenses.

Compensation and Remedies

The Florida lemon law works to protect consumers from the burden of being stuck with a defective vehicle. The law requires manufacturers to either refund the purchase price or replace the faulty vehicle.

If opting for a refund, the manufacturer will compensate the consumer for the full purchase price minus a reasonable fee for the vehicle’s use. The fee is calculated based on the odometer mileage at the time of the consumer’s first report of the issue to the manufacturer or authorized service agent.

Determining Eligibility for Florida Lemon Law

The lemon law doesn’t just apply to any vehicle with a defect. Certain criteria must be met to qualify for protection under the Florida lemon law.

Vehicle Type and Usage

To qualify under Florida lemon law, the vehicle must primarily be used for personal, family, or household purposes. The law provides cover for cars, trucks, and motorcycles, but it’s essential to note that off-road vehicles aren’t covered.

New or demonstrator vehicles that come with a manufacturer’s warranty are typically eligible. If the vehicle is primarily for commercial use, it may not fall under the protection of the lemon law, with few exceptions.

Specific Defects and Repair Attempts

For a vehicle to be classified as a “lemon” under Florida’s lemon law, it should have one or more nonconformities that the manufacturer or its authorized service agent hasn’t been able to repair after a reasonable number of attempts.

A “reasonable number” is often determined based on the nature of the defect and the number of repair attempts. Typically, if the same recurring problem persists despite multiple repair attempts or if the vehicle has been in the repair shop for a cumulative total of 30 days, the car might be considered a lemon.

Warranty and Documentation

It’s essential to maintain all documentation related to your vehicle and its repairs. The owner’s manual, warranty book, and any other written manufacturer supplement can be crucial when making a lemon law claim. Also, always ensure you obtain a written repair order every time the vehicle undergoes repair.

Avoiding Common Pitfalls

One of the most common mistakes consumers make when navigating the lemon law is mishandling or losing vital documentation. Ensure all repair receipts, communication, and written material from the manufacturer or service agent are stored safely. These documents are evidence of your attempts to address the vehicle’s defects.

Florida’s lemon law also has specific timeframes, like the 24-month lemon law rights period, within which consumers must act. Staying aware of these timeframes and ensuring timely action can be the difference between a successful claim and a missed opportunity. Your lawyer can help you keep everything moving.

Rights and Responsibilities Under the Law

Manufacturer’s Obligations

The onus of the lemon laws primarily rests on the manufacturer. If a vehicle is deemed a lemon, the manufacturer is obligated to either provide a replacement vehicle or offer a purchase price refund. This ensures that consumers are not unjustly burdened financially by a manufacturer’s oversight or error. The replacement vehicle should be comparable in terms of value, and refunds should cover the down payment, monthly installments, and any expenses related to the vehicle’s purchase, such as registration fees or taxes.

However, if the manufacturer fails to comply with the state certified program’s decision or its own manufacturer sponsored program, consumers have the right to take legal action. Potential repercussions for manufacturers include paying legal fees if the consumer’s claim is upheld in court.

Consumer’s Role

The lemon laws are designed to protect consumers, but consumers, too, have responsibilities. Among their responsibilities is the requirement to promptly address vehicle defects in a new or demonstrator vehicle, provide written notification to the manufacturer, ensure the vehicle is presented for repair at a reasonably accessible repair facility, and adhere to stipulated timelines, especially within the lemon law rights period.

Consumers must be proactive in their pursuit of a resolution, keeping detailed records of every repair attempt and communication, and they must go through the arbitration programs before proceeding to court.

Potential Hurdles and Solutions

One potential hurdle consumers might face is the cost of legal representation. While the idea of incurring legal fees might seem daunting, it’s worth noting that if a court finds in favor of the consumer, the manufacturer can be directed to cover all legal costs. This provision aims to level the playing field, ensuring consumers are not deterred from pursuing justice under the lemon laws due to financial constraints.

Seeking Legal Assistance

When embarking on a lemon law claim, having an experienced lawyer on your side can prove invaluable. A good lawyer takes you smoothly through the legal process, ensuring your rights are upheld the whole way. They will know how to help you with an arbitration form for the state certified program or manufacturer’s program. You can have written material explained clearly by your attorney, as well, and a lawyer can keep the process moving. It can cost valuable time to follow all the lemon law requirements, so having someone on your side to stop the manufacturer from dragging their feet can be invaluable.

If an arbitration program fails, your attorney will be able to represent you in court and get you the replacement or refund you deserve under the law.

If your new vehicle has one or more nonconformities that substantially impairs use, you may have a case under the lemon laws of Florida. Contact Jonathan D. Schwartz, Lemon Law Lawyer right away to get the help you need.