Posted On: May 18, 2012

One key difference between state versus federal lemon laws in Texas

Often times, when our office files a lawsuit against a car manufacturer (such as Chrysler, Ford, or General Motors) and/or dealerships; we cite to both state and federal lemon laws. Both laws provide consumers with limited protection and recourse against the wrongdoer. The federal lemon law applies to all 50 states and the District of Columbia; while the Texas lemon law only applies to vehicles that generally has been purchased in the state of Texas.

One key difference between the federal Magnuson Moss Act and the Texas Lemon Law (found in the Texas Occupations Code and Texas Transportation Code) is the attorney fee shifting provision.

The federal law allows the prevailing consumer's attorney to recover attorney fees and costs from the defendant (vehicle manufacturer/dealer). In other words, if your new car, truck, boat, motorhome, or recreational vehicle fails you multiple times and you win or settle your case, then manufacturers (such as Honda, Chrysler, Toyota, Kia, Coachmen, Gulfstream, Newmar, or Vogue) will have to pay for your attorney fees.

The attorney fee shifting provision of the Texas Lemon Law is slightly different and more cumbersome against the consumer. The consumer must partake in a judicial hearing. The only time that the manufacturer or dealership is required to pay for the consumer's attorney fees is if the manufacturer/dealer is represented by the attorney at the hearing. Manufacturers circumvent this loophole by never allowing their attorneys to go to these hearings. Instead, they send vehicle experts with legal background and experience to these hearings. These legal experts often time attend so many hearings through the years that even the administrative judge who is in charge of the hearing know them by name and background.

Why the Texas legislature did not consider this potential bias against the consumer when they wrote the Texas lemon law is beyond me? Or, perhaps Texas legislature did consider this and gave in to the heavy annual lobbying and campaign contributions of these large manufacturers -- who knows...

Posted On: May 8, 2012

Four tips on how to avoid the purchase of a new lemon vehicle.

Buying a new vehicle is statistically the second largest purchase that most consumers partake in their lifetime, behind purchasing a new home. Often times, the negotiation process itself is stressful enough. To avoid owning a lemon vehicle that will inconvenience and acquiring a headache down the road, it is important to be mindful of the following red flags... In the vehicle manufacturing business, there will be a small percentage of defects. Your goal is to avoid owning a lemon car in that small percentage; because taking a new Ford vehicle in the service center for warranty work is not the ideal situation to be in.

1) If the vehicle already has high mileages on it. A new car should not have over 300 miles on it. High mileage vehicles mean that other potential buyers test drove the vehicle and passed up on it, for a reason.

2) If the vehicle has visual defects or dings. Decline the vehicle and pick another vehicle from the lot, or go to a different dealership -- even if the salesperson (who wants you to buy the vehicle to earn a commission so he/she can quickly work on another deal with another consumer) promises you that the dealership will repair it before they hand it to you.

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3) Check the floorboard, cushions, under the hood for potential water damage or flooded vehicles. If your car has been submerged under water because it was sitting in a Hurricane disaster area (ie: hurricane Katrina in 2005) and is later transported to a different state to be sold to you, then you need to run away fast. Pull the seat belts out all the way and check for water damage on the cloth of the seat belt.

4) If the VIN numbers on components or parts of the vehicle does not match, then that is a sign that your vehicle has been subject to repair for various problems or defects from the time of manufacturing, to the time it reaches the car lot.