Your Rights Under the Lemon Law

Have you ever bought or leased a new car, SUV or truck with a defect or problem that the dealer cannot or will not fix or repair? If so, you bought or leased a “lemon.” Buying a lemon creates major headaches for the purchaser or lessee (the person who leased the car, SUV or truck).

You bought or leased a new car to avoid the hassles, headaches and problems that come with a used car or motor vehicle. Alas, your new car has a defect or problem. The result: you and your vehicle spend far too much time in the dealer’s repair shop, but the vehicle can’t be fixed. These defects or problems may or may not be known at the time of purchase or lease, but know that a buyer or lessee of a new vehicle does not have to take it on the chin, be at the dealer’s or manufacturer’s mercy, bear the loss, and have no options. The Lemon Law provides powerful and effective rights and remedies; however, the Lemon Law only applies to new vehicles. If you bought or leased a used car or vehicle, you still may have other remedies.

In today’s world, a passenger car, SUV or truck is a necessity. Without a car or vehicle, it is difficult or almost impossible to travel to and from work, school and church or place of religious worship, or to buy groceries, run errands, haul families and friends to their appointments, go to the doctor or dentist, visit family, or do the ordinary chores and tasks. Except for the purchase of a home, a passenger vehicle is most people’s most expensive purchase or lease. You choose to purchase or lease a new car or new motor vehicle because it is new, has no history of wrecks, has no reliability issues, is perceived or advertised as trouble-free, and for many, the feeling of choosing and driving a new car is exciting.

Many prospective buyers do their homework, read reports, and shop around for the best deal. They select the model, make, color, and options, determine the final price tag, the trade-in value, understand the financing, and bind themselves to monthly loan payments for several years.

Without the lemon law’s remedies, however, a purchaser or lessee of lemon would be left in a lurch, forced to make payments on a new but unreliable, problem ridden vehicle and have few realistic options. The Lemon Law leveled the playing field for when individuals bought or purchased new cars or trucks or SUVs that turned out to be a lemon.

Under the Lemon Law, a manufacturer can be forced to take back the vehicle and provide a new one and pay damages. What’s more, the law provides that the manufacturer can be required to pay the purchaser’s attorney fees.

Tennessee’s Lemon Law in General

In general, the Lemon Law applies to individuals who have purchased or leased a new vehicle with an express warranty. The Lemon Law protects a new car purchaser or lessee, usually for one year from the date of delivery of the vehicle, or within 6 months of the date that the express warranty expires.

To qualify as a “lemon” under the Lemon Law, the new or leased vehicle must be “substantially impaired,” meaning it is unsafe or unreliable because of a defect, or that the defect has caused the vehicle’s resale value to be less than the average resale value of a comparable vehicle.

If the dealer has unsuccessfully tried to repair the vehicle three times for the same problem OR the vehicle is in the dealer’s repair shop thirty days, the Lemon Law applies. If you have a lemon, you must notify the manufacturer of the problem in writing by certified mail. The manufacturer then has ten additional days to repair your car. If the manufacturer cannot repair your car and the manufacturer has an appropriate informal dispute settlement procedure, the refund and replacement provisions of the Lemon Law won’t apply until you submit to the procedure. You are not bound by the decision of the informal dispute procedure and can still seek available legal remedies, including asking a court to order replacing the vehicle or reimbursing the purchase price (less a reasonable allowance for use), plus attorney fees.

What do you have to do to ensure the protection of the Lemon Law?

If the purchaser or lessee does not meet the Lemon Law’s requirements, he or she can lose the Lemon Law’s protection. In short, there are legal hurdles you must cross. If you comply with the Lemon Law’s requirements and your new car, truck or SUV is still not repaired, and the manufacturer refuses to replace it, you may have rights and remedies under the Lemon Law.

Before you file a claim or bring a lawsuit, you may choose to participate in an informal dispute settlement procedure with the manufacturer even if it is not required by the manufacturer’s warranty.   A panel or arbitrator will determine whether you qualify for the Lemon Law’s protection and whether the problem with your car, truck or motorcycle has rendered it substantially impaired. They will examine whether the manufacturer violated the Lemon Law and determine whether you will receive a new car, SUV, or truck or a refund.

Regardless of the panel ruling, however, you may still file a claim or lawsuit for other relief.

The process may seem frustrating and overwhelming, particularly when you can’t drive your new car, SUV or truck and the dealer cannot fix it.

The Lemon Law has certain requirements. We have provided a general, but not exhaustive, overview of this statute. The Lemon Law is designed to favor new car or new vehicle purchasers and lessees, but not every new vehicle qualifies for its protection. For example, if you modified your vehicle, the Lemon Law may not apply. The precise facts are critical. However, even if the Lemon Law does not apply, you may still have other remedies.

Attorney Perry A. Craft represents owners and lessees of new cars, trucks or vehicles and will fight to obtain compensation or remedies that the Lemon Law provides, which may include requiring the manufacturer to replace the lemon, pay damages, or pay or reimburse you for attorney’s fees.

Learn more about your rights under the Lemon Law

If you purchased or leased a “lemon,” the Law Office of Perry A. Craft, PLLC is here to help, and accepts Lemon Law cases not only in Nashville and Middle Tennessee, but across the State of Tennessee. Perry A. Craft has nearly forty years of experience practicing law.  Call 615.239.1899 or fill out our convenient contact form to schedule an appointment.