When Your New Car is Constantly in the Shop
You recently bought a new car. It's still under warranty. But it's in the shop so often, you're on a first name basis with the service advisors at the dealership. What do you do?
You need to start considering a claim under the Lemon Law or the Magnusson-Moss Act. These laws might allow you to obtain a full refund if you bought a defective vehicle. Both statutes require the manufacturer to pay your attorney fees if the manufacturer fails to comply with the law. These are very potent consumer remedies.
Here are some tips to keep in mind if you think you may have a Lemon vehicle:
1. Obtain and keep all of your repair orders for each repair visit. Every repair shop in Wisconsin is required to give you a repair order for each repair visit. The repair order must detail the repairs made, whether repairs were covered under warranty, the date the vehicle was tendered back to you and other information. Repair orders are at the heart of any Lemon Law or Magnusson-Moss case. If you have your repair orders, it is much easier to review (and prove) your case.
If you don't have your repair orders, ask the servicing dealers to give you copies of the repair orders they have on file. Any warranty repair facility has the ability to give you copies of the repair orders related to your vehicle. They can also give you the warranty repair history.
2. Keep your purchase contract, all financing documents, the owner's manual and a copy of the written warranty in a safe place. We will need to review all of these documents and use them in making a Lemon Law or Magnusson-Moss demand. The Lemon Law and Magnusson-Moss Acts are warranty enforcement statutes. They are contract claims. The terms of the warranty and the purchase contract are very important.
3. Be polite to the service advisors and service technicians. Lemon Law and Magnusson-Moss cases are claims against the manufacturer, not the servicing dealer. The service advisors and service technicians are always important witnesses in these cases. They are more likely to be helpful witnesses, or at least not hostile, if they have been treated well in your interactions with them. It is frustrating to pay a ton of money for a new car that doesn't work properly. Save your ire for the manufacturer, it may help you recover a full refund on your Lemon vehicle.
4. Don't sign a release or other documents settling your case unless you have consulted with an attorney specializing in Lemon Law and Magnusson-Moss cases. Sometimes the manufacturer may attempt to settle your case by offering you less than you are entitled to under the Lemon Law or Magnusson-Moss Act. Don't fall for it.
If the manufacturer asks you to sign something, offers you a refund but tries to charge you for "damage to the vehicle" or attempts to "trade you up" out of the vehicle, it is likely an effort to get you to take less than you are entitled to under the law. Before you sign anything, check with a qualified attorney specializing in Lemon Law and Magnusson-Moss cases.
Attorney Terrence M. Polich is a Lawton & Cates shareholder. Attorney Polich is one of Wisconsin’s leading lemon law and consumer warranty lawyers, practicing in these areas for over 20 years.