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The Lemon Law Complaint Process

"What you should expect once you start the lemon law complaint process

Filing Lemon Law Complaints

First, you need to know the law requires that you notify the company that you are trying to claim lemon

law rights against. The fact that you have brought your car into the dealership on numerous occasions does not count as a legal notification.  Generally, these first steps in the process are a real waste of time, but you still have to go through the motions.

Your own state’s lemon law will spell out the way you must notify the car manufacturer of your problems, such as sending them a letter that explains what the problem is and what you want them to do about it.  In this case, it is probably best for them to buy the car back from you or replace it.

As with any important legal letter, you should definitely send it through certified post with a “return receipt requested”.  Basically, this means that the party on the other end must sign for it which gives you some proof that you sent the letter and they received it.  Of course you have to be sure to save a copy of the letter for your own records.

The law also always allows the other party to send a response to your claim.  This of course will come in the form of a letter from the car manufacturer.  What they will do is deny your claim every time.  They will tell you that they have reviewed your claim and they can’t do anything about it. Of course this is the first lie that they will tell you. 

What it really means is they haven't reviewed a thing. They have no idea who you are, what the problem is, or the circumstances of the case and more importantly they don’t care. All they did was let your letter sit on some desk for a week to make you think they paid attention to you and then just slapped your name into a form letter that merely says no.

Car companies put out so many problem cars that if they honored every request under lemon law, they'd go broke pretty quickly. So their solution is to honor none of the lemon law claims unless they are forced to. They figure that if they deny every claim then 70-80% of the people who complain will probably go away, and sadly they usually do. Car companies also know that if they stretch out the process for as long as they can most of the rest of the cases will also go away because of these reasons:

1) Many people can’t or won't come up with the money they need to retain an attorney. Or they'll be scared of going to court and back out.

2) Some will decide that going through the lemon law complaint process isn't worth the effort and just sell the car privately.

3) Something could happen to the car before the case ever gets to court. You could move out of state or have an accident which the companycan then blame all the problems on.

4) They know that if they can delay the process long enough, you'll put thousands of more miles on the car, the value of the car will then be reduced because the car is older and has been used more. So, if you put on another 30,000 miles on the car they get to deduct 30,000 more miles worth of depreciation from the price they pay you in the settlement. In other words, the longer you use the car the less you get for it in the end.

5) Most of the people that actually go the distance will end up taking a low-ball offer for their attorney fees and a couple of thousand dollars.

Car companies are fully aware that time and money are on their side and if they wait it out, they can get rid of about 95% of lemon law cases without even getting close to the courthouse steps. As a matter of fact they are counting on this.

Car companies and lemon law cases

Here's a secret tip that should be obvious. Car companies do NOT want to go to court on a lemon law case.  The risk of going to court far outweighs the cost to settle.  Here's why:

a) Defending a lemon law case is expensive for these companies.  By the time a lemon law trial is completed, the car company can easily spend $20,000 defending itself from your claims. These cases are rarely completed with their own attorneys so it is really all money out of pocket to them. With that much money at risk, defending a lemon law case is already very expensive, even if they win.

b) In most cases, the lemon law lets you collect up to three times the damages that you are owed. That means that if your car originally cost $25,000, they can risk losing $75,000 due to a jury decision, plus their own attorney fees, plus the possibility of having to pay your attorney fees. Since they can replace your car at cost AND still recover some of their loss by selling your old car, it makes more sense to replace your $25,000 car with a new one that can cost them as little as $10,000. Their choices are really simple, they can risk losing $100,000 or more or settle with you at their cost for $10,000. 

c) Car companies do not want to have to deal with the bad publicity from dealing with a lemon law case.  Obviously, your case is likely not going to make headlines in the NY Times, but it still registers as newsworthy and could be picked up locally. Public attention to a lemon law case risks more than a loss in court for these companies. It can also represent a loss of their public image which can result in a significant loss of sales.

 

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Editor's Note

So, you can skip ahead now and get started choosing a lemon law lawyer or lemon law attorney. Or, take a few minutes and go through the rest of this section. I suggest taking it in order and finishing this section first, but it's up to you. Just know that if you skip the rest of this section you'll be missing a lot of good information.

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