Lemon Law in Maryland
If you find yourself stuck with a lemon, there is recourse under the Maryland
Lemon Law, or Automobile Warranty Enforcement Law. It's important to know your options so that you can get a working vehicle, or compensation for the faulty car you've been saddled with.
Defining a Maryland Lemon Vehicle
For a vehicle to be considered a lemon under the Maryland lemon law, it must meet ALL of the following criteria:
- It was purchased new.
- It is still under warranty.
- It has a defect that prevents its safety, operation, or value.
- The manufacturer has, within the first 2 years or 18,000 miles:
- Made 4 attempts to repair the problem.
- Made 1 attempt to repair it if the defect affects the brakes or steering.
- Had the vehicle out of service for repairs for at least 30 days.
If your vehicle is a lemon, you have several responsibilities and options, including contacting the manufacturer and making a claim.
A lemon law attorney can help you determine the best course of action and can be especially helpful if you need to take the manufacturer to court.
Filing a Maryland Lemon Law Claim
Contacting the Manufacturer
To protect yourself, you should be in contact with the manufacturer early on in the process―even after the second attempt to fix the same problem. Keep all of the communication in writing. Make photocopies of all invoices and work orders to enclose in the letter you are going to need to write and send to the manufacturer.
At this point, you will want to:
- Mail out a preliminary letter (view a sample letter from the OAG),
- Begin a file at the
Consumer Protection Division (a section of the OAG).
The manufacturer has 30 days, allotted by Maryland law, to fix the problem. If the problems continue to the last repair attempt and the manufacturer starts hedging or resisting your inquiries as to a resolution, then it is time to file a claim. You may want to consider hiring an attorney who is familiar with the ins and outs of the state Lemon Law.
Usually if the situation between you and the manufacturer continues to result in a stalemate, an option of arbitration is put on the table to resolve the impasse. While some states may have an arbitrator of sorts, in most cases the arbitrator will be provided by the manufacturer.
This does not mean the whole affair will tilt to one side. Quite the contrary, considering the decision proffered by the arbitrator is only binding for the manufacturer. If you are displeased with the outcome, you can wander down other legal roads, which generally leads to a courthouse.
Taking Your Case to Court
If arbitration has proved unsatisfactory to you, you can file a lawsuit against the manufacturer and fight it out in front of a judge. In Maryland, you have 3 years from the date you originally took possession of the vehicle to sue the manufacturer. If you choose this path, it's advisable to hire a lawyer familiar with Maryland automotive law.
Choosing a MD Lemon Law Attorney
Once you decide that you want a lemon law attorney to represent you, your next step is choosing one from a long list of lawyers practicing in Maryland.
The tips below can help you narrow your list and choose the lawyer who's right for your case:
- Look for experience. An attorney who is familiar with Maryland's lemon law is probably a better fit than a criminal lawyer or divorce attorney.
- Get recommendations. Ask friends, family, colleagues, or others if they know a lemon law attorney they can recommend.
- Schedule a consultation. Meet several lemon law lawyers to learn about their background, experience, and fees before you hire one.
- Ask about fees. Ask the attorneys you meet with how much they charge and when they expect payment.
Choosing a lemon law attorney that you're confident in can give you peace of mind that your case is being handled effectively.
Benefits of Lemon Laws Attorneys
A lemon law attorney is usually one who has experience representing clients with vehicles that are considered lemons under Maryland state law.
These lawyers tend to have special knowledge in lemon laws, consumer protection laws, or other relevant fields.
While the guidelines for determining a lemon may be clear, the process for getting a refund or replacement vehicle can be complex, with several steps, paperwork, and deadlines for making a claim.
Instead of taking the risk of missing a deadline or filing the wrong form, many people choose to hire a lemon law attorney to handle the process.