Almost every new car has a couple of kinks that need to be fixed, but after you have a few miles on your new vehicle, you expect it to run like a charm – and it should. But what can you do when your new ride has a serious defect and the dealer can’t (or won’t) fix it? Under Indiana lemon law, you do have rights. Sergei Lemberg, an attorney specializing in lemon law, offers an overview of our lemon law, and tips to preserve your Indiana lemon law rights.
Q: What vehicles are covered under the lemon law in Indiana?
Sergei: Indiana's lemon law covers new passenger vehicles, SUVs, vans, and trucks with a gross vehicle weight rating of less than 10,000 pounds. It also covers used vehicles that are sold during the new car warranty period.
Q: What’s considered a “lemon”?
Sergei: In order to be considered a “lemon,” the vehicle must have one or more defects that affect the use, safety, or value of the vehicle. The defect must first manifest itself during the first 18 months from the delivery date or the first 18,000 miles on the odometer – whichever comes first. In addition, the vehicle must have been taken in for four unsuccessful repairs of the same problem or been out of service for 30 business days and the problem still exists. Plus, you have to notify the manufacturer of a claim after the four repairs or 30 days but while the problem still exists.
Q: How do you pursue a lemon law claim?
Sergei: First, look in your owner’s manual to see if the manufacturer requires that you file a request for arbitration with the manufacturer’s arbitration program. If so, you need to go through arbitration first – but only if the manufacturer’s arbitration is certified by the Indiana Attorney General (as of April, 2008, this included General Motors, Volkswagen, Mitsubishi, Saturn, Kia and Isuzu). If not, you can take the manufacturer to court. Keep in mind, though, that manufacturers have teams of lawyers that do nothing but fight lemon law claims, and that you’ll only be on equal footing if you have a lemon law attorney at your side. Because Indiana’s lemon law says that, in a successful lemon law action, the manufacturer has to pay your attorney fees, you shouldn't have to. Often, with the help of a lawyer, you can get a refund, replacement vehicle, or cash settlement without having to go through the entire lemon law process.
Q: What kind of award can you get with a lemon law claim?
Sergei: If you’re successful, you can get a replacement vehicle or a monetary award, which includes the full contract price, credits and allowances for any trade-in vehicle, finance charges, tax and registration fees, dealer-installed options, vehicle towing and rental costs, and attorneys’ fees. If you opt for a refund, there will be a deduction for your use of the vehicle, which is calculated according to a specific formula.
Q: What should you do if you think you have a lemon?
Sergei: There are a number of steps you should take if you think you have a lemon. First, keep a log of every communication you have with the dealer or manufacturer. Also, note every time and date that you have a problem with the vehicle, as well as the days that the vehicle is out of service, either because it’s in the shop or because it’s not in working condition. Second, keep all of your repair records; never leave the shop without a copy of the work order. Third, keep any written correspondence you have. Indiana requires that you send the manufacturer a demand letter prior to filing suit, so make sure you have the paperwork to back that up. Finally, contact a lemon law attorney, such as Robert Duff at the Indiana Consumer Law Group, after the third repair attempt. He or she can help guide you through the final steps that will legally establish your vehicle as a lemon.
Q: What should you do if your vehicle isn’t considered a lemon under the law?
Sergei: Even if your vehicle doesn’t meet the stringent definitions of Indiana lemon law, there are other types of federal and state laws that can help you get the compensation you deserve. Consult an attorney to find out your options.