Lemon Law in Virginia
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Motor vehicles are big purchases, so you want to know that if you buy a lemon, you have some recourse. Fortunately, you do.
Virginia's lemon law is called the Motor Vehicle Warranty Enforcement Act. This Act:
- Protects consumers from unfair vehicle warranties.
- Holds manufacturers accountable for their products.
The act even covers leased vehicles and reasonable attorney's fees, making it one of the strongest lemon laws in the country.
What Makes a Car a Lemon?
To be a lemon, your vehicle must meet one of the following qualifications:
- Have unsuccessfully undergone 3 attempts at repair.
- Had 1 attempt at repair of a serious safety defect.
- Have been out of service for at least 30 days.
Your vehicle will legally qualify as a lemon if any of these these happened within the first 18 months of ownership by the first owner or lessee.
Manufacturers must make their vehicles conform to the warranties in place. If a lemon cannot be fixed in a reasonable amount of time, you are entitled to EITHER:
- A replacement vehicle.
- A refund of the purchase price, less a reasonable amount for your use of the vehicle.
Filing a Lemon Law Claim
To attempt resolution, you must provide written notice to the manufacturer. If the 3 attempts at repair or 30 days have already passed before you give notice, the manufacturer gets 1 final attempt to fix it within 15 days.
Using the Lemon Law to your advantage depends on a few things. To prove your case, first you must keep excellent records of both the problem and the repair attempts, not to mention any communications with the dealer or manufacturer.
If the manufacturer is not forthcoming with a refund or replacement, you will need to take some action within the first 18 months. This can mean:
- Trying arbitration (informal dispute resolution) via the Better Business Bureau (BBB) or the manufacturer.
- This avenue is for those who wish to resolve their disputes without going to court.
- You can still file a lawsuit if you're unhappy with the decision of arbitration.
- Filing a lawsuit.
In arbitration (informal dispute resolution), evidence is presented to a neutral third party who then decides on the matter. Some car manufacturers have their own arbitration programs, while others use third-party programs like that of the Better Business Bureau. Note that you can choose whether to use a manufacturer's arbitration program, but they typically take much longer than BBB-facilitated dispute resolution.
If your vehicle's manufacturer does not participate in the BBB Auto Line program or if you need more assistance, contact Virginia's Office of the Attorney General at (804) 786-2071.
If you are unsatisfied with the decision of arbitration, consider filing a lawsuit with the help of a lemon lawyer. Make sure that you keep all of your relevant documentation so you can present the strongest case possible in court.
Do I Need a VA Lemon Law Attorney?
Lemon laws may seem cut and dry, but they can get complicated, especially if you've lost any paperwork or made any potentially damaging statements that could hurt you.
Lemon law attorneys can help you make sure you have what you need to prove your vehicle is a lemon and get the compensation you deserve. Benefits of hiring a lemon law lawyer include:
- Knowledge of the law – Your attorney will understand the ins and outs of the lemon law.
- Experience – Your attorney should have handled lemon law cases in the past, which will make them better equipped to deal with your case and sensitive to certain issues that can harm your case.
- Trusted advice – Your attorney can explain the law to you and provide advice on how to move forward.
- Negotiating power – You'll have more leverage with your manufacturer with an attorney by your side than you would on your own.
You may even find that a lemon law lawyer can help you in your informal dispute resolution. They can help you gather everything you need and present the most compelling case possible.
Tips for Hiring a Lemon Law Attorney
When you set out to find an attorney in Virginia, be sure it's one that is familiar with lemon law cases and knows all the details of the law.
Ask about the attorney's:
- Track record.
- Knowledge of the lemon law.
Finally, always remember to trust your instinct. If something bothers you when you interview the attorney, continue your search. You want someone you'll feel comfortable with as you pursue your case.