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Three Basic NY Lemon Law Tips

Published February 20, 2008

So you think you may have a lemon.  That's why you're here, right?  Fair enough.  Here are some tips that can possibly mean the difference between getting rid of your car, or being stuck with it.

 #1 - Document EVERYTHING

If you speak with someone at the dealership, take down her name.  If your defect only occurs intermittently, keep a camcorder ready in the car.   And most importantly, be smart about your repair invoices.  These are the documents that your case will live and die on.  First off, don't lose them.  Second, demand that they give you one each and every time your car is repaired.  Call me up immediately if the dealership refuses to give you one.  Most importantly, third, when you get one, make sure it's accurate.  It should accurately reflect the date that you brought the vehicle into the dealership for repair, the date they informed you the repairs were completed, and a detailed description of the repairs that occurred.

Over the years that I have been handling Lemon Law cases, I have seen hundreds of examples of poorly drafted invoices which should have been rejected by the consumer at the dealership.  I have seen situations where an invoice was left open so as many as three separate and distinct repair incidents were reflected on a single invoice.   Or where the invoice states the consumer's complaint, but does not bother to show what type of repair was completed.  None of these situations are necessarily fatal to your case, but they make things more complicated.

#2 - If your car is broken, have it fixed.

You paid good money for your car.  But you didn't just buy a car.  You also purchased an obligation on the part of the manufacturer to repair certain covered defects over the course of a period of time.  Yes, you have a warranty.  So use it!

This is important.  It can never hurt you to get your car fixed in New York.  That isnt true in other states.  My friend in Texas, Darin Siefkes, has to deal with requirements under the Texas Lemon Law that the manufacturer be given a final attempt to repair the defect.  Thus, if a Texas client got his car fixed without first serving notice on the manufacturer, it could end up costing him his case.  In New York there is no such problem.  As I stated in a previous blog, Chrysler tried to convince the highest court in New York that Lemon Law relief should not be granted where the vehicle is finally made to operate properly.  The Court disagreed with that contention.  So long as you have the requisite repairs, you will not be precluded from taking advantage of the Lemon Law because your car is finally working properly.  So keep getting it repaired (and keep the invoices!).

#3 - Leave your car at the dealership as long as possible

For your Lemon Law case to succeed we need either multiple repair attempts or 30 days out of service for repair.  Very often, my clients are told by the dealership that their complaint has been verified, and parts are on order.  They are then told it is perfectly safe to continue driving the vehicle while you wait for the parts.  Don't do it.  First off, the car might not be safe.  I had a client recently tell me that the dealership had her take the car back while she waited for a replacement airbag module.  Doesn't sound safe to me!  Second, why give up those days out of service for repair?  I know it may be a hassle to be without your vehicle for those extra days, especially if you aren't given a loaner vehicle.  However, you should be aware that days out of service helps your Lemon Law case, so losing those days out of service hurts it.

#4 - Speak to an attorney ASAP

I'm throwing this extra tip in for free.  Why?  Because, generally speaking, your legal services for a Lemon Law case will be free!  Whether you retain me or another attorney, you should expect to pay nothing if you end up having your car repurchased or replaced pursuant to the New York Lemon Law.  It's a consumer protection law, and the fee-shifting provision of the statute requires the manufacturer to pay your attorney fees if you end up prevailing.

There are some very limited exceptions.  In the event that a negotiated settlement with your manufacturer is not possible, I will represent you for free in a lawsuit.  However, if you chose to pursue an arbitration through the NY Attorney Generals Office, then there is a flat rate fee as I cannot get paid by the manufacturer in that venue. 

So in the vast majority of New York Lemon Law cases, you will have to pay nothing.  You only pay out of pocket if you choose to pursue an arbitration, and you are never obligated to do that.  So it stands to reason that you are always better off getting an attorney involved as early as possible.  It costs you nothing.  Why not benefit from that expertise?

Eugene Krukas, Esq.

2704 Grand Ave

Suite 4

Bellmore, NY 11710

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