For many people, the purchase of an automobile is the largest investment they will ever make short of buying a home. Accordingly, when someone purchases an automobile with significant defects, they are rightfully concerned. No one wants to wind up with a “lemon.” The Lemon Law has specific requirements & limitations. In the State of Florida, we have a Lemon Law to protect consumers. It does not, however, apply to all vehicle purchases and it does have some fairly specific requirements and limitations. In general, the law covers defects or conditions that substantially impair the use, value or safety of a new (or demonstrator) vehicle. Such defects have to be reported to the manufacturer (usually through the dealer) within the first 24 months after delivery. Under the law, the manufacturer is afforded a reasonable number of attempts to correct such defects. Ultimately, if they cannot remedy such defects, then the manufacturer may either have to either buy back the vehicle or replace it.
It is important to note that the law does not apply to all vehicle purchases or all possible defects.
For example, it does not apply to:
- Trucks weighing more than 10,000 pounds
- Off-road vehicles
- Vehicles purchased for resale
- Motorcycles; or
- The “living facilities” of an RV
It also does not apply to defects that may result from accident, consumer neglect, vehicle abuse, or from modification or alteration by non-authorized providers. So what sort of opportunities must the consumer allow the manufacturer to repair the defects? Well, it depends on the circumstances. If the vehicle has been in for repairs for the same defect at least three times, then the consumer must provide the manufacturer with written notice by certified or express mail and allow one final opportunity for repair.
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Alternatively, if the vehicle has been out of service for fifteen or more cumulative days, then the consumer must give written notification of this fact to the manufacturer (not the dealer), by certified, registered or express mail and allow one final opportunity for repair. The consumer may be eligible for a refund or replacement if their vehicle is out of service for repair for a cumulative total of thirty or more days. Even after going through all of this, the manufacturer still may not provide a refund or replacement. If that occurs, then the consumer may pursue their rights through arbitration programs set up for this purpose. Arbitration decisions may, depending upon circumstance, be appealed to the circuit court.
As you may have surmised, lemon law claims can be fairly involved and do have some specific technical requirements. While a consumer would certainly be best served to act promptly in reporting any significant defects to the manufacturer and by keeping good records of all manufacturer activity related to same, the advice of a qualified legal professional may be of great assistance in this process.
If you believe you have purchased a lemon, you may wish to contact one of the experienced commercial litigation attorneys at Bogin, Munns, & Munns, P.A. to discuss your rights and to examine your options. Even if your purchase does not fall specifically under Florida’s Lemon Law, there may still be various legal options available to address vehicle defects and related issues with a vehicle dealer.