Federal Lemon Law

 Have you heard of the federal lemon law? Most people haven’t. Lemon laws are generally determined by individual state statues. However, the federal law, also referred to as the Magnuson-Moss Warranty Act, applies to all products sold with warranties.

What is the Federal Lemon Law?

The Magnuson-Moss Warranty Act is the federal lemon law that protects the buyer of any product which costs more than $25 and comes with an express written warranty. This law applies to any product that you buy that does not perform as it should. Obviously your car is a significant investment.

It is not unreasonable to expect an automobile to be safe, trouble-free, and a dependable source of transportation. Unfortunately, sometimes these principles do not hold true and automobiles do not perform as expected. Although one defect is not qualify, repeated issues can qualify as a breach of warranty.

Under the Magnuson-Moss Warranty Act, the warranty should allow for adequate repairs in at least two, and possibly three, attempts to correct a particular defect. Further, the Magnuson-Moss Warranty Act’s reasonableness requirement applies to your vehicle as a whole rather than to each individual defect that arises.

Although most of the Lemon Laws vary from state to state, each individual law usually require a warrantor to cure or fix a specific defect within four to five attempts or the automobile as a whole within thirty days. If the warrantor fails to meet this obligation, most of the lemon laws provide for a full refund or new replacement vehicle.

One of the most important potential applications of the federal lemon law is regards to used cars. Most state lemon laws do not have provisions for used cars. However, if your state does not have lemon laws for used cars, the Magnuson-Moss Warranty Act may apply. The key is whether your used vehicle was sold with a written warranty. If so, the federal statute may provide for possible restitution not covered by your state statutes.

The Federal Lemon Law and Legal Fees

One of the most important parts of the Magnuson-Moss Warranty Act is its fee shifting provision. This provision provides that you may recover the attorney fees incurred in the prosecution of your case if you are successful, independent of how much you actually win.

That rational behind this fee shifting provision is to twofold: (1) to ensure you will be able to protect your rights without having to expend a large amount of money on attorney's fees and (2) because automobile manufacturers are able to write off all expenses of defense as a legitimate business expense, whereas you, the average consumer, obviously does not have that kind of economic staying power. Most of the state lemon laws contain similar fee shifting provisions.

Restitution Under the Federal Lemon Law

Restitution under the Magnuson-Moss Warranty Act is different than under than under state statutes. Instead of a refund for the defective vehicle, restitution is the difference between the Kelly blue book value of the car in excellent conditions vs. the value of the car in good or poor condition. Again, if you are unclear if the federal law applies to your situation, a lemon law attorney can be consulted at no cost to you to review your case.

What Should You Do If You Have A Lemon?

The first step in determining your course of action is to evaluate your situation based on your state’s lemon laws. Click in the link to your state on the left of this page, read through the information, and determine if your situation qualifies.

If your case does qualify under your state’s statutes, utilize the resource listed in order to organize your records before contacting the dealer and manufacturer. Contacting your state’s attorney general’s office can also be helpful in guiding you to take the necessary steps to seek restitution.

If your situation does not specifically qualify under your state statues or if there are variables that make your situation not clearly fit, consider contacting a lemon law attorney. An attorney can evaluate your individual situation, determine if your case qualifies under your state statues, and determine if the Magnuson-Moss Warranty Act may apply.

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