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    A car, truck, or off-highway recreational vehicle (OHRV) purchase can be very expensive. After you make the decision to buy a motor vehicle, pay for the vehicle, and bring it home you will be very disappointed if it doesn't work right.

    New Hampshire has a New Motor Vehicle Arbitration Board to deal with consumer complaints when warranties are not honored and defects are left unrepaired. Vehicles falling into these categories are often lemons.

    If you bought a lemon―a defective motor vehicle―how should you handle the situation?

    What's a Lemon?

    For a motor vehicle to be considered a lemon and eligible for arbitration under New Hampshire's Motor Vehicle Arbitration Law RSA 357-D you have to prove that the warranty was not honored. You will need to document one of the covered qualifying events:

    • 3 attempts or more by the manufacturer or their representative failed to fix the defect.
    • While the warranty period was in effect, you had 30 days or more with the vehicle restricted or out of service.

    You may find a Summary of Repair History, available online using the free Adobe Reader, useful in documenting these circumstances.

    Of course, like most products, the defect you are documenting can't be caused by your own neglect or modifications to the vehicle. For example, alterations to motor vehicles may be more common on snowmobiles, motorcycles, dirt bikes, or four wheelers.

    It may be stating the obvious, but be sure you haven't unknowingly contributed to the defect by modifying your vehicle.

    Motor Vehicle Arbitration Board

    There is a board assigned to arbitrating motor vehicle defect claims in New Hampshire. Arbitration is a legal process that takes the place of a courtroom; it is an alternative to expensive and lengthy lawsuits.

    The Motor Vehicle Arbitration Board consists of 5 members and 3 alternates that rotate. To represent citizens of New Hampshire, there are 4 consumer representatives on the board. There are also 2 dealer representatives and 2 mechanic representatives. The New Hampshire Department of Safety (DOS) believes this blend of informed and concerned members will be effective in dealing properly with Lemon Law claims.

    Under Warranty

    Product warranty is a massive and complex part of automotive law. If you are really interested, you can read up on the New Hampshire Uniform Commercial Code, which regulates commercial transactions in the state. You can also read your vehicle warranty to interpret what is covered and what is reasonable use. Or, you might need to get a lawyer.

    The seriousness of the defect will determine how you respond to the problem. Motor vehicles can be dangerous if they aren't working properly; it is therefore important for you know what is under warranty so you can get it corrected. The most serious defects are often recalled by the manufacturers.

    If you believe something is under warranty, but the manufacturer or dealer doesn't agree, you will need help from an attorney specializing in Lemon Law cases or from the Arbitration Board.

    Filing a Claim

    To file your claim, you must have documented the problem and the dealer's or manufacturer's inability to correct the defective motor vehicle. Other documents will be required, too, like the warranty paperwork from when you purchased the vehicle and any correspondence you've had with the manufacturer or dealer regarding the defects.

    There is a filing fee of $50 for the claimant. If the New Motor Vehicle Arbitration Board decides in your favor, the manufacturer must correct the problem within 30 days. Their decision can include a refund to you, reimbursement for your legal fees, and other costs you incurred as a direct result of the defective vehicle.

    In order to seek arbitration, use the Demand for Arbitration (Form CPMVA-2). Complete instructions for completing and submitting the form are included with the download.

    The State of New Hampshire hopes the valuable arbitration process will mediate a good outcome for the consumer, the dealer, and the manufacturer. After all, the dealer and the manufacturer have a reputation to protect and keeping customers happy is good business.

    However, if the dispute is not fully resolved by the arbitration you may have legal rights in court. While the lemon law protects the licensed motor vehicle dealer and you can't sue them, the manufacturer is not protected under the same law.

    The Department of Safety and the New Hampshire Division of Motor Vehicles want to be sure all equipment is safe for the road, free of dangerous defects, and well maintained. With everyone having a stake in the outcome, it is usually positive.

    For more information, call (603) 227-4385, or send an e-mail to lemonlaw@nh.gov.

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