mechanic examining car

In some situations where you’ve purchased a defective vehicle, you may have grounds for a lawsuit. Lemon Laws across the country state that after a manufacturer fails a certain number of attempts to repair the defect in your vehicle, you might be entitled to a refund or replacement, and you may need to take legal action to see that you’re compensated thusly.

For those unfamiliar with the process, though, there’s a lingering question: how are you supposed to know what falls under the umbrella of lemon law coverage and when to sue if need be. This short guide is intended to make that all a bit less ambiguous. Read on, and learn about what lemon laws typically encompass and the process for taking action.

What Are Lemon Laws? How Do They Work?

Generally speaking, lemon laws are a form of consumer protection—regulations that safeguard you in the event you buy some sort of product that is defective. If a vehicle, for instance, is a lemon, and repeated attempts at repair have been unsuccessful, the manufacturer is under obligation to repurchase or replace it. What qualifies as a lemon, you might ask?

By-and-large, qualification as a lemon requires a car to have a “substantial defect” that’s covered under warranty, and an inability to be repaired even after a reasonable number of attempts. A “substantial defect,” in this case, isn’t just referring to some minor issue—it’s talking about something that affects the safety of the vehicle. Think brakes, steering, and the like—something that would make the vehicle a serious issue to drive.

Provided that defect occurred within a certain time window after purchasing the vehicle (or a certain number of miles) and wasn’t caused by abuse of the vehicle, it meets the criteria. As for what constitutes a “reasonable” number of attempts to fix that defect, this can vary from state to state, but broadly falls under one of the following:

  • For serious defects, they must be fixed within a single attempt.
  • Less serious defects must be fixed within four attempts, in many cases.
  • Lengthy stays in the repair shop—exceeding a month—might be equated to multiple attempts at repair, and thus qualify a vehicle for being a lemon.

Remember that things can vary from state to state—a Bay Area lemon law firm, for instance, will give you different specific advice than one in Jersey City—but this info should give you a general sense of how lemon laws work and when they might be applicable to your circumstances. If your vehicle fits the bill, you may need to initiate the lemon law process by filing a court complaint against the manufacturer of your automobile.

You’ll likely need a lawyer to assist with your complaint, but they can help you detail the defects in your vehicle that warrant concern and send a copy of your complaint to the court and the manufacturer and/or dealer. From there, they’ll have a set time window to answer the complaint. It’s possible that they’ll settle with you, but it’s also possible that your case will go to court, in which case you’ll want to make sure you have a skilled attorney on your side.