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How to Prove Your Car is a Lemon

Indiana vehicle owners must meet strict requirements or risk losing out on relief

Driving a brand new motor vehicle should be enjoyable for any car owner, but some struggle with their new purchase and, instead, find their new car at the mechanic more than on the road. If new vehicle owners continue to experience car trouble after several visits to the mechanic, they may qualify for relief under the state lemon law.

Is the vehicle a lemon?

To be covered, a vehicle must:

  • suffer a significant impairment to value, use or safety
  • have an impairment that is not repairable by the manufacturer after at least four attempts for the same repair, or the vehicle is out of service a total of 30 days or more

If the first repair attempt occurs within the first 18 months or 18,000 miles of the vehicle’s life, then the vehicle owner may have coverage under the state lemon law. If a consumer can show they are entitled to relief under the state lemon law, they will receive either:

  • A new replacement vehicle
  • A return of the money spent (minus a mileage off-set)

If a claim under the state lemon law is unsuccessful, that owner may still qualify for relief under the federal law due to a breach of vehicle warranty. Under federal law, an owner may receive damages for the loss in value of the vehicle, which will typically be less than a total refund of the purchase price.

Scott M. Cohen is a consumer law attorney who handles lemon law claims for vehicle owners in Indiana. He has significant experience with the state lemon law, as well as breach of vehicle warranty claims that fall under federal law in the Magnuson-Moss Warranty Act.

“For any client that qualifies under the state lemon law, we first and foremost want to get them the best relief possible,” he says. “We will supplement the lemon law claim with a federal breach of warranty claim because the federal claim is easier to prove and provides a fallback position if we are unable to prove the more stringent types of requirements under the state lemon law.”

Cohen’s approach gives his clients a solid chance of recovering something for their trouble—and his advice comes with no cost or risk to the consumer, thanks to an attorney “fee shift” that is part of the state lemon and federal breach of warranty law. Attorney fees “shift” to the manufacturer if the consumer is successful. If unsuccessful, the firm would swallow the cost—with nothing due from the consumer.

What do I do if my vehicle is a lemon?

Vehicle owners must be aware of the 18-month deadline in the law, as well as the requirement to submit their claim to the informal dispute resolution process. Vehicle manufacturers fund a process that is free to vehicle owners to informally resolve their warranty issue. This settlement process is often required of consumers before initiating a claim in court.

To begin the informal dispute process, a vehicle owner must contact their manufacturer-designated representative. This representative is likely disclosed in the paperwork that came with the vehicle, among the manual, warranty and service contract. Vehicle owners must ensure they contact the correct representative or they risk expiration of their claim within 18 months. This representative will provide paperwork to the vehicle owner to begin the claim.

A consumer law or lemon law attorney will take on a claim prior to the informal dispute process. Vehicle owners that are dealing with problems under their warranty can put themselves in a better position reaching out as soon as possible to a law firm and an experienced Indiana consumer law attorney. For more information on this area of law, see our overview of consumer law.

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