Shopping for a new car is stressful. Not only do you have to determine the best vehicle for your lifestyle and budget, but you also want to do your due diligence to ensure you purchase a properly working vehicle. Since reliability is number one on most car buyers’ lists, many drivers choose to buy a new car, despite a new vehicle having a higher purchase price than a used vehicle. While this may seem like the ideal solution to a significant concern when buying a vehicle, it doesn’t always go as planned.
Sadly, for some buyers, purchasing a new car isn’t enough to guarantee a fully functional vehicle. The Florida Lemon Law exists to protect buyers who buy a new vehicle that doesn’t perform appropriately. If you’re dealing with a faulty car and the vehicle manufacturer either won’t make it right, or has tried and failed to make it right a reasonable number of times, you’ll need to discuss your situation with a Lemon Law attorney.
Understanding the Florida Lemon Law
If you purchase a new vehicle from a dealership or manufacturer, and it has defects that prevent it from functioning appropriately, you shouldn’t be responsible for paying service charges to have it fixed. Lemon laws protect buyers from being left holding the bill for expenses related to repairing defective or unusable vehicles, which are known colloquially as “lemons.”
All states have some form of Lemon Law that serves to protect consumers. However, each state’s Lemon Law has slight variations, so the specifics of the law and what situations it covers will vary. Some lemon laws will cover the purchase of used cars and recreational vehicles, while others only cover vehicles purchased new from the manufacturer to transport persons or property. In Florida, demonstrator and leased vehicles are covered in addition to cars purchased outright.
The exact flaws and functional issues a vehicle must have to be classified as a lemon vary from state to state as well. Because of these discrepancies, you’ll want to work with a Lemon Law attorney familiar with your state’s rules.
The Motor Vehicle Warranty Enforcement Act
The Florida Lemon Law is also known as the Motor Vehicle Warranty Enforcement Act. This act mandates that manufacturers must fix defects, also called nonconformities, on new vehicles in a reasonable period or supply the buyer with a replacement vehicle or refund. Buyers who have purchased a new or demonstrator vehicle and discovered a nonconformity that impacts their ability to use their car have the right to contact the manufacturer for a solution and take legal action if the manufacturer fails to make things right.
The Lemon Law Rights Period
The Lemon Law rights period is the window of time a buyer has to seek compensation or repair after purchasing their vehicle. The Florida Lemon Law states that buyers have 24 months from the date the buyer acquired the car to observe a nonconformity and pursue compensation.
The Lemon Law rights period begins once the buyer has physically received the vehicle, regardless of when the car was purchased. This stipulation protects buyers who have to wait to receive their vehicle due to manufacturing issues or delivery wait times. Without the stipulation that the car must physically be in the buyer’s possession before the rights period begins, buyers would not have adequate time to ensure that their vehicle is free from defects and flaws.
If nonconformities do not appear in the 24 months following the buyer taking possession of the vehicle, a buyer cannot seek compensation or repair from the manufacturer under the Florida Lemon Law. The rights period is strictly enforced because once a vehicle has aged beyond a certain point, there is a strong likelihood that the vehicle’s issues are not true nonconformities (flaws existing due to manufacturer error) and are instead a result of an unreported accident or wear and tear from everyday vehicle use.
What Constitutes a Defective Vehicle?
For a vehicle’s issues to be covered under the Florida Lemon Law, the problem must be the fault of the manufacturer, not problems caused by using the car or a collision. Defects that fall under the Lemon Law hinder a vehicle’s use, value, or safety to the point where the car cannot fully satisfy its purpose.
Defective vehicles covered by lemon laws may have structural flaws, faulty fuel systems, transmission issues, or electrical problems that impact their usability. The Florida Lemon Law includes recalls under defects, but only within 24 months after the date of vehicle acquisition.
The Lemon Law aids buyers and vehicle manufacturers by setting clear guidelines for identifying a “lemon,” a vehicle with substantial defects deemed irreparable after a reasonable number of attempts.
When Can I File a Florida Lemon Law Claim?
If you have purchased a motor vehicle for personal use and a defect substantially impairs your ability to use the vehicle, and the flaw is not resolved after a reasonable number of attempts, you may be able to file a Florida Lemon Law claim. Before your situation can be considered a reasonable number of attempts, one of the following scenarios must take place.
The first scenario occurs when the manufacturer’s authorized service agent has performed three repair attempts on the same defect without resolving the issue. If, even after repair, the same problem still prevents you from using your vehicle, you will need to take further action. In this scenario, the issue must be reported to the manufacturer at the end of the third and final repair attempt.
The problem must be reported by written notification via certified, express, or registered mail with a return receipt requested. Upon receiving this notice, the manufacturer will have one final attempt to repair the issue before you seek a replacement vehicle or a refund. The manufacturer has ten days to direct you to a reasonably accessible repair facility. Once your vehicle has been delivered to the facility, they will have ten days to solve the problem.
The second scenario occurs if the defective vehicle must be brought to an authorized service agent for a repair attempt for a cumulative total of 15 days. If this happens, you must contact the vehicle manufacturer via mail, just as in the first scenario, and allow them one final opportunity to address the issue. Should your vehicle be undrivable for 30 or more cumulative days due to defects, you may be able to seek reimbursement for the vehicle’s purchase price, minus depreciation due to use, or a replacement vehicle.
When Car Manufacturers Don’t Make Things Right
While buyers hope car manufacturers will live up to their responsibilities and willingly replace or refund a lemon, that isn’t always the case. When a manufacturer fails to remedy a nonconformity that substantially impairs your ability to use the vehicle within a reasonable number of attempts, but refuses to provide a replacement vehicle or refund, you may pursue arbitration.
If the vehicle manufacturer has a state-certified program, you must first submit your dispute for an arbitration hearing. Vehicle owners can find information on if their vehicle’s manufacturer has a Florida-certified program in the owner’s manual or the manufacturer’s warranty. State-certified programs meet specific state and federal requirements but are not managed by the state of Florida.
When the vehicle manufacturer doesn’t have a state program or the state program does not determine a solution within 40 days, the dispute will need to be escalated to the Florida New Motor Vehicle Arbitration Board. In the event that the conflict is solved in your favor, but you believe the manufacturer is not complying appropriately, you will have to escalate your case further.
The Lemon Law process is complex, and to be successful, you will need to work with a skilled Lemon Law attorney and keep thorough records. Keeping your paperwork in order will make arbitration and filing a Lemon Law claim easier. Your manufacturer’s receipt, invoices from repair attempts, and a copy of the letter you sent to the manufacturer reporting the defect will all benefit you and improve your odds of having a positive outcome to your Lemon Law hearing.
What Isn’t Covered by the Florida Lemon Law?
Remember that just because your new vehicle has an issue doesn’t mean it will fall under the Florida Lemon Law. Vehicles purchased for resale, the living quarters of recreational vehicles such as RVs, and trucks weighing more than 10,000 pounds are not covered, for example.
However, just because the living quarters of RVs are not covered doesn’t mean the entire vehicle is exempt from the Florida Lemon Law. It is only the spaces used for dwelling that are not covered.
Vehicles with issues related to regular use or an accident are also outside the scope of the law. When a vehicle is outfitted with an aftermarket feature, such as a suspension package or exhaust pipe supplied or installed by a third party, the Lemon Law no longer covers the car or truck.
The one exception to this is when the modifications are completed by an authorized service agent using manufacturer-approved parts. The service agent completing the addition doesn’t have to be the dealership where the vehicle was purchased, but the Lemon Law requires them to be authorized by the manufacturer to perform maintenance or modifications on the vehicles.
Why Hiring a Lemon Law Attorney Is a Wise Choice
Lemon Law claims are complicated, and seeking a replacement vehicle or purchase price refund for your defective vehicle without legal representation isn’t advised. Although you do not have to have an attorney represent you, working with a professional greatly improves your chances of a positive outcome.
They Have Professional Expertise
Lemon Law claims are not an area where the average individual can represent themselves successfully. There are many misconceptions about Lemon Law rights, and the state laws surrounding filing Lemon Law actions can be exploited by unscrupulous manufacturers trying to shirk their responsibilities. When you work with a Lemon Law attorney, they will use their years of expertise to demonstrate how the manufacturer owes you a working vehicle or reimbursement and use their knowledge of the law to prove the validity of your claim.
They Will Build a Stronger Case
Seasoned attorneys build strong Lemon Law cases, and they will prove how the manufacturer has failed to uphold their end of the purchase agreement. Lemon Law claims filed by the vehicle owner are unlikely to have all the information the law requires.
They Will Maximize Your Compensation
When you file a Lemon Law case, you’re trying to recover the compensation you are rightfully owed for a defective vehicle you purchased from a manufacturer. If the vehicle manufacturer is trying to dodge their responsibility and avoid buying back the flawed vehicle or refusing to replace it with a functional vehicle, you’ll need a lawyer to help you pursue Lemon Law relief.
Without a skilled lawyer on your side, you’ll have a challenging time going up against the manufacturer’s legal team and could end up being held responsible for their attorney’s fees or other legal fees if the claim isn’t successful.
Federal Protection: The Magnuson Moss Warranty Act
If the Florida Lemon Law’s limitations prevent you from seeking compensation or repair attempts for your faulty vehicle, you will want to contact a Florida Lemon Law attorney to see if federal laws could cover your situation. The Magnuson Moss Warranty Act, also known as the Federal Lemon Law, supersedes state law. It was established in 1975 to protect consumers and prevent buyers from being saddled with defective products.
In addition to passenger vehicles, the Magnuson Moss Warranty Act covers recreational and off-road vehicles. The Federal Lemon Law gives consumers a longer window to seek a resolution for the problem and makes it simpler for buyers to file a breach of warranty claim against the vehicle manufacturer. Buyers can also pursue compensation for attorney’s fees accumulated while seeking a solution, court costs if civil action is required, and other related legal fees if their Lemon Law claim is successful.
Contact a Lemon Law Attorney Today
When you buy or lease a new vehicle, you expect it to work properly. Finding out your brand-new car doesn’t work the way you need it to isn’t only disappointing: it can cause severe difficulties in your life by preventing you from being able to commute to work or take your children to school. Add on the pressure of trying to bring it in for repairs and researching what you should do next, and that shiny new car just became a significant source of stress.
Working with an experienced Florida Lemon Law lawyer will ease the strain of this situation and ensure your best interests are protected. During this challenging time, you need an attorney who will go the extra mile to get the justice you deserve. Contact Jonathan D. Schwartz at 786-705-8219 to discuss your Lemon Law case today.