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Lemon Law in South Dakota

What's a "Lemon"?

Under South Dakota law, a "lemon" vehicle is one that has a single problem (or a series of problems) that "significantly impairs the use, value, or safety of the vehicle."

The problems must arise from routine use, not through acts of abuse or neglect. Also, the problems cannot be the result of an accident, or an alteration of the vehicle that is not authorized by the manufacturer.

Lemon Law in South Dakota

The lemon law in South Dakota covers both new and used vehicles up to 24,000 miles, or 2 years from their original delivery date, whichever is first.

The law defines a lemon as a vehicle with a defect that has not been fixed:

  • After 4 attempts to repair it.
    OR
  • After 30 days in the shop for repairs.

If your vehicle reaches one of these limits, you must still give the manufacturer a final attempt to make the repair by sending them a certified letter with:

  • A description of your vehicle.
  • The defect that has not been fixed.
  • The places and dates of each repair attempt.

The manufacturer must respond to you within 7 days. They then have 14 days to resolve the problem.

A lemon law attorney can help you during this process, from helping you determine if you vehicle meets lemon law criteria to determining how to move forward if the manufacturer can't (or won't) fix the problem.

Keep Records and Document All Issues

You must be diligent in your record keeping. Hang on to all repair orders and invoices. Make sure that all orders have the following information: date and time in, date and time out, and odometer readings, plus a detailed listing of all the work done on your vehicle. Do this even if you weren't charged for the work.

Make sure to describe the problem in the same way every time you take it to the dealer, so that it can be documented that you were having repeated trouble with the same problem.

And, remember to continue to follow the manufacturer's recommended maintenance schedule, in spite of your trouble. If you don't, the manufacturer may later attempt to show that you were negligent in taking care of your vehicle.

Filing a SD Lemon Law Complaint

So, you've done all of the above. Can you get your money back or even get a replacement new car? Well, not yet.

You still need to give the manufacturer 1 final attempt to fix your vehicle. To do this, you'll need to send a certified letter to the manufacturer indicating that you intend to seek resolution under the South Dakota Lemon Law if the vehicle isn't fixed.

You'll need to be specific in your letter, mentioning the following:

  • Description of the vehicle.
  • The problems you've had.
  • Repair attempts you've made (including name of repair shops and dates).

The manufacturer has 7 days after receiving your letter to respond to your complaint, and to tell you where to take your vehicle to have it fixed one last time.

Once you've taken the vehicle to the designated repair shop, they have 14 days to attempt to solve the problem.

In some cases, the manufacturer may decide to skip this last attempt, and just give you a new car or your money back.

Arbitration

If your vehicle still isn't working properly after this final attempt, one of two things can happen next.

If the manufacturer has an informal Lemon Law dispute board that complies with South Dakota regulations, you must try to resolve the issue with them before filing a civil case using the state's Lemon Law.

Although this arbitration is quicker than going through the court process, you'll still, most likely, have to wait several weeks for your hearing to begin. You don't need to have an attorney for this process; however, it can be difficult for a consumer to win an arbitration that forces the manufacturer to refund the purchase price. Also, you should be aware that most arbitration systems are funded by the manufacturers.

Most of the time the arbitration takes place via a telephone conference call among all of the parties involved.

It's important to note that, if you don't agree with the verdict, you don't have to accept it. However, if you do, then your worries are over.

Filing a Lawsuit

If the manufacturer doesn't have an informal dispute system in place, or if you're dissatisfied with the results of the hearing, you can seek relief by filing a civil case against the manufacturer using the Lemon Law.

You'll have to do so within 3 years of the original delivery date, and your claim will be strictly against the manufacturer, not the dealer or any repair shops.

If you win the case, you can force the manufacturer to provide you with either a new car of comparable value, or to give you your money back.

What's included if you request the cash?

  • Full purchase price of the vehicle (including dealer preparation, transportation charges, undercoating, non-refundable portions of extended warranties, and service contracts).
  • Collateral or extra charges (including excise tax, license or registration fees, other government charges).
  • All finance charges incurred after you first reported a problem to the dealer or manufacturer.
  • Any other incidental damages stemming from the vehicle problems (including rental car costs).
  • Attorney fees.

However, the manufacturer is allowed to subtract a "reasonable allowance" (using a predetermined formula) for the mileage put on your vehicle before you first reported the problem.

Need Assistance?

Yes, the Lemon Law can be a little tricky. Plus, you might already be exhausted from dealing with all your vehicle troubles.

If you need some help, you might consider contacting the South Dakota Attorney General's office at:

Division of Consumer Protection
1302 E. Highway 14, Suite 3
Pierre, SD 57501
Phone: (605) 773-4400
Help Line: (800) 300-1986

You can go directly to the source, and read about the Lemon Law from the SD legislature.

Hiring a Lemon Law Attorney in South Dakota

Many people decide to hire a lemon law attorney to help them better understand what to do to when their vehicle turns out to be a lemon.

A SD lemon lawyer can help in several ways, including:

  • Advising you on the best course of action to take.
  • Making sure you have all of the necessary supporting documents and other evidence.
  • Handling legal procedures and communication.

Whether you choose arbitration or a lawsuit, a lawyer can help you navigate the steps it takes to get a refund or replacement vehicle from the manufacturer.

Choosing a Lemon Law Attorney

Several lawyers in your area may specialize in lemon law or consumer protection cases.

To find the attorney who's right for you, you can contact several lemon law lawyers and schedule consultations to discuss your circumstances.

During these consultations, consider asking the lawyers about:

  • Their experience with lemon law cases.
    • How long have they practiced this type of law?
    • What kind of cases have they handled?
  • What you can reasonably expect.
    • What can lemon lawyers do on your behalf?
    • What will you be required to do?
    • How long might your case take?
  • Costs and payment.
    • What are the attorneys' fees? When will you pay them?
    • What other costs could you incur?

Getting information from several SD lemon lawyers can help you make a better decision about which lemon law attorney you should hire.

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