Documenting Your Lemon Law Claim
By Aaron Larson
August, 2003; Last Reviewed Jan. 2011
- Keep Good Repair Records
- Maintain Your Vehicle
- Check Technical Service Bulletins
- Let The Manufacturer Attempt Repair
- Keep Copies of Correspondence
If you believe you have purchased a "lemon" vehicle, and that your state's lemon law may apply, it is important to be vigilant when seeking repairs, and keep good records. While new car dealers like return business and will usually do their best to repair a car to satisfy their customer, dealers and manufacturers are very aware of lemon laws and try to avoid their application. That may include playing games with the records to make it seem like lemon laws do not apply.
Please note that even if you do not end up being able to make a lemon law claim, careful documentation may permit you to bring a breach of warranty claim, or to get relief under a consumer protection law. Documentation is crucial. Without proper documentation, even the best claim can fail.
Keep a record of any trouble with your vehicle, starting with the very first repair. Make a note of the odometer reading when your car goes in for repairs, and the date and time when you take the car in and get it back. When you talk to service people, or the manufacturer's customer service representatives, record the date, the person's name, and make a note of what they said. Get copies of any warranty repair orders, and get an invoice for every car repair (even when there is no charge for the repair). If the dealership or manufacturer won't give you paperwork, record that fact.
If you have a recurring problem with your car, make sure that it is noted on your request for repairs that it is the same problem you had before. Don't let the dealership claim that you in fact had several different problems with your car to avoid the application of the law, based upon what they write on the repair records.
Make sure you also maintain your vehicle, and engage in appropriate use. Keep copies of your maintenance records. Manufacturers may try to avoid responsibility for lemon vehicles by blaming the problems on the purchaser.
Ask for Technical Service Bulletins (TSB's) relating to your car. Car dealers will not ordinarily provide copies of TSB's unless they are requested. However, TSB's can provide valuable information about common problems with a particular make and year of vehicle, and how they are best repaired.
Recall also that you must give the manufacturer the opportunity, and typically repeated opportunities, to repair the problem with your car. You may be angry with the manufacturer for selling you a "lemon" car, but if you wish to make a lemon law claim you must let the manufacturer try to fix the problem. If you don't let the manufacturer attempt to repair the vehicle, you will lose your lemon law protections.
If you send letters to the dealer or manufacturer, or receive letters from them, keep a copy in your file. When you make a claim with the manufacturer or apply for arbitration, make sure you keep a copy of any letters or forms you submit.
Copyright © 2003-2011 Aaron Larson. All rights reserved. No portion of this article may be reproduced without the express written permission of the copyright holder. If you believe you may lawfully use a quotation, excerpt or paraphrase of this article under the Fair Use exception to copyright law, except as otherwise authorized by the author of the article, you must cite this article as a source for your work and include a link back to the original article from any online materials that incorporate or are derived from the content of this article.