3 Tricky Ways Car Automakers Cover Themselves for Negligence

All drivers would like to avoid purchasing a lemon, to begin with. If you find yourself with one, you need to learn how to avoid being taken advantage of by the automaker.

A vehicle may classify as a lemon if the manufacturing flaws interfere with the safety, use, or value of the vehicle while it’s under warranty. Lemon laws are designed to protect consumers who discover mechanical issues shortly after purchasing a vehicle. If the car is under the manufacturer’s warranty, the consumer is legally allowed to seek a full refund or replacement from the manufacturer.

However, automakers will often do anything they can to avoid this. Here are some common tricks automakers will use to avoid paying out a lemon.

1. Pointing the Finger Back at the Driver

The manufacturer will likely try to shift the blame of the mechanical issue away from themselves and direct it to the driver. Automakers often attempt to prove that the driver is the cause of the mechanical flaw to avoid the responsibility of buying back (refunding), replacing, or repairing the vehicle.

Manufacturers may try to argue that the vehicle owner’s claim does not meet the lemon law qualifications for the state in which the car was purchased. Each state has its own lemon laws, and the manufacturer will often look for legal loopholes to avoid refunding/replacing the vehicle. For instance, they may claim that the faulty vehicle is a result of careless driving, driver’s negligence, or routine wear and tear.

Therefore, you must have evidence that proves exactly when the issue(s) surfaced, what caused them, and how many times they were fixed.

You need to gather all the sufficient evidence possible to prove that your car’s issue is a direct result of poor manufacturing. It is important to keep a detailed timeline:

  • The date you noticed the problem
  • The date the vehicle was brought in to the dealership/manufacturer to be repaired
  • A detailed report of what problems the car had
  • What repair attempts were made to the vehicle

The repair invoice is crucial for your lemon law claim. It describes, in writing, all the repair attempts made on the vehicle. Many state laws give the manufacturer at least 2 chances to fix an issue covered by warranty. Without a properly written repair invoice, the manufacturers could evade responsibility by suggesting that the driver didn’t take the car in for the required number of repairs.

Each state has its own form of lemon laws, which means there are different requirements depending on where you purchased your vehicle.

For example, the number of repair attempts in California varies depending on the severity of the defect. If there are not enough closed repair invoices, you might not be able to prove the manufacturer has had enough of an opportunity to repair the issue.

2. Arguing the Issue is Not Substantial

Manufacturers might insist that the mechanical flaw does not qualify as a lemon under state law. This is why the driver needs to know what defects legally prove a car is a lemon. To keep going with our California lemon law example, your vehicle qualifies as a lemon if the issue affects several key components, including (but not limited to):

  • Brakes
  • Engine
  • Steering
  • Transmission
  • Mechanical doors
  • Electrical systems
  • Coolant systems
  • Suspension systems

Drivers must have these issues checked out by a mechanic through the dealership where they purchased the vehicle and have a detailed written record of the repair attempts to file a lemon law claim.

The fact is that any vehicle issue that negatively impacts the use, safety, or value of the vehicle, while covered under warranty, can qualify as a lemon law claim to receive a buyback or replacement.

This is why it’s highly recommended that you have a California lemon law attorney on your side to show that your vehicle meets the qualifications of a lemon law case.

It is common for an auto manufacturer to push back on lemon law claims to avoid responsibility and buybacks. A real-life example of this comes from an Indiana case in which a couple filed a lemon law claim against the Ford Motor Industry after their F-150’s engine began making strange noises, rough shifts, and misfiring at high speeds.

Ford fought the case for two and a half years. However, the couple had hired an experienced lemon law attorney who was able to prove that the car was a lemon and ordered Ford to buy back the car and pay for the couple’s legal fees.

3. Suggesting Out-of-Court Settlements

Another common trick that manufacturers will use on a driver is to suggest other settlement options to avoid a legal case. The legal process is costly, time-consuming, and can be damaging to the manufacturer’s reputation, so they will try to find ways to avoid it.

However, settlement deals could prevent the driver from obtaining the best possible result for their lemon.

The manufacturer may suggest arbitration instead of court. In this case, a panel of arbitrators will review the case and make a final decision. Lemon law arbitrations are a cheap option for the manufacturer and rarely result in the driver receiving a buy-back for the faulty vehicle.

There have even been instances where an arbitrator is found to be sponsored by the manufacturer, instead of a neutral third-party. In Ohio, a driver ended up losing her lemon law case to the automaker because she opted to go in front of a panel of arbitrators, which was sponsored by the manufacturer.

The woman decided to file a legal case against the manufacturer after the arbitrator ruled against her, however, the arbitrator’s decision was brought up in court and used as evidence against her case.

The manufacturer may also recommend a cash payout of a few thousand dollars or a replacement for the flawed car part. This may be tempting; however, you must remember that you are legally entitled to receive a full buyback or replacement if you win a lemon law case.

Don’t fall victim to a low-ball settlement if you believe that you have a strong case that your vehicle was not manufactured properly and instead file a claim through a lemon law lawyer. The manufacturer is also responsible for covering all your legal fees If you win the case.

In Conclusion

Automakers will try a variety of tactics to avoid buying back or replacing your lemon. They could point the blame towards the driver, arguing that the issue does not legally qualify as a lemon, or try to offer a lower settlement. You must know your rights if your vehicle problems occur while it is still under the warranty so you won’t fall for any of their tricks.

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