September 19, 2013

The first thing you should do if you own a lemon car.

Lemon law litigation may be complex and there are many important things you should do to preserve a strong case against the car manufacturer. The first thing you should do is to obtain, gather, and compile all paperwork relating to your case.

Most car manufacturers will need to review your paperwork to assess your claim. Without paperwork, it will be your word against theirs. Some of my clients contest that the car dealership and service center should have the paperwork, since they issued the repair orders and invoices,…Right? The answer is yes, but getting them to relinquish a second copy of the paperwork if they know you are planning on opening a lemon law claim may be difficult.

After you have your paperwork in order, you may contact the vehicle manufacturer directly or contact attorney with experience handling lemon law cases. Having a lemon law attorney represent your cause may help you obtain a better settlement.

Some examples of paperwork includes: your written notes, purchase documents, warranty booklets issued by the dealership, financing agreements, and repair orders/invoices.

May 30, 2013

7 Year Anniversary of Texaslemonlawblog.com

It's hard to believe that seven years ago, I started this blog to provide a forum to discuss information to the public about the Texas Lemon Law. As the years past, I was hoping the lemon law will adapt and change in a way that will help consumers for the better. Unfortunately, not much, in the Texas Lemon Law, has changed. Hopefully, the lemon law for the state of Texas will be more favorable in the next seven years.

A change to the Texas Lemon Law I would like to see happen in the near future include an attorney fee shifting provision that forces the manufacturer to pay for the consumer's attorney fee. Currently, the Texas Lemon Law program provides consumers with a chance to participate in an arbitration/hearing, the attorney fee shifting provision only applies if the car manufacturer first hires an attorney to attend the hearing.

March 8, 2013

Question: How long does it take for my Texas Lemon Law claim to finalize?

Often times, many Texas lemon law clients want to know how long a typical lemon law claim takes to adjudicate. The answer is that it varies. Sometimes, it can drag on longer than the consumer anticipates. Click here for a brief overview of the answer to this question.

There are many factors involved in determining how long a lemon law claim will take. Such factors include: (1) the facts of the case, (2) who the defendant car manufacturer is, (3) who the representing opposing counsel is, (4) the time of the year, and (5) how responsive the client/consumer is.

Next week, I will highlight the first factor involved in determining the time-frame of a typical lemon law case.

August 20, 2012

Do I have a case under the Texas Lemon Law?

Question: I took my vehicle in for repairs once or twice, but feel that the the problem will reoccur soon. Do I have a case?

Answer: Generally, everyone potentially has a case. The real issue is whether the case is strong or not, whether there is likelihood for recovery in the form of any cash settlement, repurchase, or replacement,...or, not.

Under the current Texas Lemon Law, the presumption is either: 2 or more repair attempts for a serious safety issue, or 4 or more attempts for the same non-substantial defect, or the vehicle has been serviced for a cumulative of 30 days or more.

Once the presumption is met, the case has a strong chance to prevail. Lemon law readiness is similar to that of eating fruits and vegetables. When the fruit or vegetable is not ripe, forcing yourself to eat it is quite bitter and sour. However, once it is fully ripe, then the timing is perfect.

Keep in mind that litigation has no guarantees. Contact a Texas Lemon Law attorney to assist you.

July 28, 2012

Question: How long does it take to get results from a lemon law claim filed in Texas?

Answer: I will hedge a bit and use an attorney-like response on this question. The answer to this question is "it really depends." Some factors involved consists of: the facts of each case, what time of year it is, who the defendant car manufacturer is, who opposing counsel is, client expectations, and sometimes luck.

Each case, although similar on some level, is different. Cases that are filed near the holidays (for example, Thanksgiving or Christmas season) understandably takes longer, as employees of involved parties are more difficult to contact, interview, and obtain evidence.

Some vehicle manufacturers drag their feet and purposely take forever to respond to a claim -- they have very little to lose by taking their time, their goal is to take advantange of an impatient and frustrated consumer. After a demand letter has been sent and a law suit is filed, the claim gets forwarded to an opposing attorney for the vehicle manufacturer and car dealership. Some attorneys are professional, while others like to play bulldog.

Sometimes, clients are patient, while others are uneasy and are ready to move on with their life. Clients have to ask themself what the value of stress in litigation is worth to them.

Believe it or not, luck plays an important role in litigation. Often times, I handle two lemon law cases that are very similar in fact pattern; one gets a repurchase settlement while the other takes up to 4 to 5 months and gets close to trial.

Having discussed these variables, the average timeframe is anywhere from 1 month to 5 months. Cases that go to trial may take longer.

June 28, 2012

Two most important items to have in order to have a strong Texas Lemon Law case.

Having a strong lemon law case is not as difficult as most people think. Based on my experience over the years handling lemon law cases, the following are 2 items that make a case strong.

Keep in mind that this is not to be considered legal advice, but merely a guideline. Please contact my office or a Texas Lemon Law attorney for legal advice that is specific to your situation.

1) Repeated repair attempts for the same problem. The rule of thumb is at least 3 repair attempts for the same defect. If you have 2 repair attempts, it might be a good idea to begin exploring your optoions.

2) Documented attempts. In the world of litigation and law suits, having evidence is essential. You can have the strongest fact pattern, but without written evidence or documentation to back it up, then your case may not prevail.

Please feel free to contact my lemon law office if you want a free case review.

June 8, 2012

Question: Under the Texas Lemon Law, how do I know where to sue?

Answer: Most people who contact my lemon law office about a problem vehicle are everyday folks who never thought they would need to contact an attorney when they originally bought their new vehicle. Often times, it is their first time contemplating a lawsuit against any company. Suing a car manufacturer such as Kia, Chrysler, Ford, or Mazda can be a daunting task -- think David and Goliath. Finding out where to sue and which attorney to contact is also another often asked question.

Some clients find that they have relocated to a different state or county. Others wonder what happens when the car dealership closed down or moved.

The term jurisdiction is a legal term of art that basically means which court has the power to handle or hear your case. For lemon law cases, jurisdiction usually occurs at the county level; typically the county where the vehicle was purchased.

For example, if Bob bought his Toyota Camry at Super Dealer in Houston, Texas and Bob ends up moving to Austin, Texas; then Bob will need to file suit in Harris County, not Travis county. In terms of which attorney Bob needs to hire, my recommendation is to find an attorney who focuses his or her practice handling Texas Lemon Law cases. As long as the attorney is licensed in Texas, a Dallas attorney such as myself, can take on the case.

April 25, 2012

Lemon Law FAQ: What does "NPF" mean on a dealer's repair invoice?

Question:
"After purchasing my new truck at the dealership, I took it into the Chrysler service center. After waiting for over 2 hours, they told me that they could not replicate the problem and to keep my eye out for the problem if it happens again. I noticed that they hardly drove my vehicle because my odometer didn't change much when I got my truck back. On the repair order that they gave me, it says "NPF." What does that mean and what can I do? Does the Texas Lemon Law apply? It took me a long time to save for this truck and I am really frustrated."

Answer:
The NPF notation usually denotes "no problem found" -- indicating that the car manufacturer's trained techinician could not replicate your concern at the time the vehicle was examined. Keep in mind that the problem may be intermittent and will likely occur again. Technicians often times test drive the vehicle to replicate the problem. However, there are other ways they can diagnose the problems with your vehicle. For example, they may connect the vehicle to a diagnostic computer to "test" the collaboration and other electronic readings on your vehicle.

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There are several things you can do. Be persistent and take your vehicle in again the next time the defect manifests. Obtain and keep a copy of the repair invoice for each visit to the dealership. If you have a video recorder on your phone, then tape the defect when it occurs. Also, consider taing your vehicle to a different service center from the same manufacturer to obtain a second opinion. Contact a Texas Lemon Law attorney as soon as possible.

March 18, 2012

Lemon Law Tip: Know where (what country) your vehicle was manufactured at

Recognizing what country your vehicle was manufactured at is an important piece of knowledge. Often times, I have potential lemon law clients who contact my office for a free case review, stating to me that they were misled or misinformed by the car salesman or dealership -- they were told that the subject vehicle was assembled in the USA or Japan, when in fact, the vehicle originated in Mexico. Under the Texas Deceptive Trade Practices Act (DTPA), this might be a viable plaintiff's cause of action.

Every vehicle has a unique vehicle identification number, also known as a VIN. The VIN is the "social security" number for vehicles, as no two vehicle can have the same set of numbers. Standardized by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), the VIN contains specific characteristics about the specific vehicle and is 17 characters long. Tracking the VIN is the best way to identify cars that may have a history or potential of lemon law-related defects or problems.

To determine where the subject vehicle originates from, check the first digit of the seventeen character VIN. If the number starts with a 1, then it is from the USA (i.e.: General Motors, Chrysler, etc). If it starts with a 2, the it is from Canada...3 is from Mexico,...and, etc.

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1 = USA
2 = Canada
3 = Mexico
4 = USA
5 = Brazil
J = Japan
K = Korea
L = Thailand
S = Great Britain
V = France or Yugoslavia
W = Germany
Y = Sweden or Finland
Z = Italy


October 9, 2011

Lemon Law Question of the Day: I purchased my vehicle as a "demo." Will the Texas Lemon Law apply?

Answer: Yes, as long as the vehicle was purchased within a Texas dealership, a "demo" or demonstrator vehicle is protected under the Texas Lemon Law.

Other vehicles that are protected under the Texas Lemon Law includes: trucks (Ford Ranger, F-150), cars (Chrysler 200 or 300), motorcycles, motor homes (Winnebago or Fleetwood), or ATVs.

While towable recreational vehicles are also covered under the lemon law, it is essential that towable RVs are titled and registered in Texas.

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One issue that demo owners may encounter when a replacement or repurchase is offered as a remedy in a Texas Lemon Law case is the mileage deduction dilemma. When a vehicle manufacturer offers a replacement or repurchase, by law, they are entitled to deduct mileage for the consumer's use of the vehicle. Because the deduction formula is heavy handed against the consumer, the vehicle owner may find that the "demo" vehicle protection status offered by the Texas Lemon Law is quite limited.

June 25, 2011

What to expect when contacting a Texas Lemon Law attorney

Often times, when consumers contact my lemon law office, it is their first time to contact an attorney. Below is an outline of what to expect when contacting a Texas Lemon Law attorney:

1) Consumer calls, leaves a message, or submits an online form on a Texas Lemon Law attorney's website.
2) The attorney or his/her staff will ask the consumer preliminary questions regarding the consumer's situation. Questions include, but are not limited to: year, make, model, recurring defect, accident history, documents, price paid, representations made by the dealer's service manager, and etc... The attorney will also answer lemon law related questions.
3) If it is a strong case, then the consumer will be asked to fax or mail documentation to the attorney's law office.
4) Thereafter, the attorney will discuss options with the consumer...
5) If the attorney and consumer mutually agrees to move forward, then a representation agreement is executed and the attorney begins working on the case by sending a demand/notice letter to the vehicle manufacturer.

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For more information, please contact my office.

May 24, 2011

Were you offered an extended warranty for your lemon vehicle?

Anytime you contact an automobile manufacturer regarding your lemon vehicle (especially in Texas), the manufacturer's initial response will usually be a denial of your claim. In the denial letter, the manufacturer will normally state the the problems you have experienced with your new vehicle does not meet the requirements of the Texas Lemon Law. As a gesture of "goodwill," the manufacturer offers you an extended warranty.

Although the information contained in this blog should not be construed as legal advice, but common sense tells us that this is a BAD DEAL. If the vehicle manufacturer offers you an extended warranty, especially in circumstances where you have taken the new vehicle in for the same time at least three to four times, then chances are you may have a valid claim under the Texas Lemon Law.

Call a Texas Lemon Law attorney immediately (it does not have to be me that you call, but please call someone). Most Texas Lemon Law attorneys, including myself, offer a free consultation. Some use the attorney fee shifting provision of the Texas Deceptive Trade Practices Act (DTPA) to help you get a repurchase, replacement, or cash recovery.

If you speak Spanish, please click here.

March 17, 2011

Six Lemon Law Red Flags

There are no written rules regarding what makes a lemon law case in Texas an easy slam dunk or a case that is difficult to litigate. In the eyes of vehicle manufacturers (including cars, trucks, recreational vehicles, trailers), the following are lemon law and warranty guidelines that raises red flags:

1) After-market accessories: the vehicle manufacturer is quick to point the finger at the after-market accessory as being the root cause of the defect; even if the after-market component is not even remotely related to the complained of defect;

2) Tampering: in some cases, manufacturers and car dealerships are quick to blame that the consumers tampered with the vehicle. Avoid self installations!!!

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3) Excessive mileage: within the first 24 months of ownership, if the vehicle has excessive mileage, then the manufacturer may flag the vehicle as being used for commercial purposes. I have experienced cases where "hot shot" drivers were denied warranty coverage because there were so many miles on the truck;

4) A messy or unclean car: believe it or not, when manufacturers can not figure out the heart or cause of the defect, they will be quick to look to superficial conditions such as a messy interior or exterior car. For example, one of my clients raised issues of defective paint on the exterior of the car. When my client brought the vehicle in for inspection, the dealership said that it could be the "reflective dirt that is causing the paint to appear defective;"

5) Accidents: if the vehicle has been involved in even a minor accident, the manufacturer may suspect that the causation of the defect is due to the accident (or subsequent repairs of the vehicle) and not the quality control or manufacturing defect of the vehicle;

6) Missed payments: when a vehicle owners has multiple missed payments, the manufacturer has a tendency to think that the owner is opening a lemon law claim in order to return the vehicle or avoid the existing financial obligation to pay for the vehicle.

Although any consumer who has the following above-mentioned issue is not automatically out of luck, it is important to be aware of these potential red flags and adjust expectations accordingly.

February 21, 2011

Four possible outcomes of a Texas Lemon Law case

By the time that most potential clients contact my law office, they are pretty frustrated with the predicament that they are in. I empathize. I, too, would be frustrated if my new vehicle spends so much time at the auto repair shop.

Below are four potential outcomes of a typical lemon law case in Texas. Please be advised that every case is different and it is vital that you contact an attorney immediately if you believe that you have a claim; as there are strict statute of limitation deadlines involved.

Outcome #1: You win or settle a repurchase of your vehicle. Keep in mind that even with a repurchase, you are responsible for paying a mileage deduction. Also, any rebates or extended warranty applied or purchase at the time of sale will be subtracted from your total repurchase amount.

Outcome #2: You win or settle a replacement. Similar to outcome #1, you are for paying a reasonable mileage deduction, plus applied rebates, or extended warranty purchase.

Outcome #3: You settle a cash settlement. In this scenario, you keep the vehicle and retain ownership of it. If the vehicle was financed, you will continue to be responsible for paying the monthly payment on the vehicle. The benefit is that you can settle for a monetary amount to compensate you for your time and inconvenience with the new lemon vehicle. Some manufacturers, such as Chrysler or Ford, are more likely to offer a cash settlement and less likely to offer a vehicle repurchase or replacement.

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Outcome #4: You lose.

Please note that this post is not to be considered legal advice. There are other remedies or outcomes available and it is essential that you contact a lemon law attorney to discuss your options.

August 22, 2010

Your Basic Rights as a Consumer Under the Texas Lemon Law

As a Texas Lemon Law attorney, many potential clients call me to find out what their basic rights are under the Texas Lemon Law. Although the list below is not complete, I hope that it serves as a starting point for those who may be in possession of a defective lemon vehicle.

These rights are extracted from the Texas Lemon Law and are subject to change and interpretation. Please keep in mind that this should not be considered legal advice, but only as guidelines and suggestions.

- You have the right to request repair orders or invoices from the car dealer each time you take your vehicle in for repairs,

- You have the right to notify the car manufacturer in writing that you are in possession of a lemon vehicle,

- You have the right to open a lemon law claim with the Texas Department of Motor Vehicles,

- You have a right to a replacement or repurchase of your lemon vehicle, minus a mileage deduction, in the event that you win your lemon law case,

- You have the right to claim a rebuttable presumption once you have taken the vehicle in for a reasonable number of times as outlined by Section 2301.605 under the Texas Occupations Code.

July 25, 2010

Do-It-Yourself Texas Lemon Law without a Lemon Law Attorney

Many potential clients ask my Garland based lemon law office if it is possible for them to pursue their case against the car manufacturers without being represented by an attorney (aka pro se). My answer is yes. In fact, the Texas Lemon Law is written (perhaps with aggressive lobbying done by the car manufacturers) to make it more likely for consumers to open a case with the Texas Department of Motor Vehicles (formerly, the Texas Department of Transportation handles Texas Lemon Law matters) without attorney representation.

Why would car manufacturers want you to open your case without an attorney? Ask yourself, if you have a dental need (such as extracting a rotten tooth), would you do it yourself? If you have a medical problem, would you try to treat yourself without the advice of a licensed doctor? Theoretically, you can extract your own teeth and perhaps medicate yourself, but is it wise to do so?

For most consumers, opening your own case with the Texas Department of Motor Vehicle might be the way to go, but my suggestion is to explore all of your options before committing to represent yourself at the Texas Lemon Law administrative hearing. I know that it is self-serving, since I am a lemon law attorney, but it may be wise to get a free consultation with a lemon law attorney before you agree to any offers by the car manufacturers (such as Chrysler or Ford). Most lemon law attorneys offer a free consultation.

July 17, 2010

Texas Lemon Law Filing Fee and Attorney Fees

If you have opted to pursue your Texas Lemon Law case on your own without an attorney through the Texas Department of Motor Vehicle program, then please be aware that there is a filing fee involved. The filing fee is currently $35, but is refundable if you win your case.

In comparison, most Texas Lemon Law attorneys and their offices usually will NOT charge you for legal services. Specifically, my office files under laws that requires the vehicle manufacturers to pay for my attorney fees under the attorney fee shifting provision.

Alternatively, some attorneys may take your case on a fee contingency, meaning that they will get paid only if they win or settle your case. If no settlement is procured, then you will not owe the attorney any amounts. Check with your attorney, as each attorney operate differently. Remember to always read the engagement letter or retainer agreement very carefully.

June 1, 2010

Two Signs of a Potential New Texas Lemon Car

Purchasing a new vehicle at a car dealership is both a stressful and exciting experience. The car salesman is trained to minimize and gloss over red flags that may be signs of a potential lemon car.

My best suggestion is to trust your instincts AND to stick to it. Remember, you are the customer! To avoid acquiring a new lemon car and having to go through the fuss, headache, and time consumption of the Texas Lemon Law or a lemon lawsuit, watch for the following two signs:

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1) "It's a new vehicle, yet the odometer reads over 100 miles" -- this should be red flag number one. If the car is new and if a potential buyer test drives an average of 10 miles each time, then there has been at least nine to ten potential buyers who did not want this car for a specific reason. Common sense tells us to politely ask the car salesman to find you a vehicle with less mileage or else you will need to take your business to the competing dealership nearby.

2) "During the test drive, I heard something abnormal" -- a client once told me that he had a suspicion that there was a problem with the new Ford truck he purchased, because he heard a subtle cranking sound during the test drive. The car sales manager at first told him that what he heard was normal... then, the sales manager told my client to buy the Ford truck anyway and they will fix it (to ease my client's concern). My client was told that the Ford service center at the dealership is first class! Subsequently, the client took the vehicle back 5 times after purchasing the vehicle. The vehicle is now a certified Ford lemon. Think about this, why would you purchase something new that already had a problem since day one?

Good luck on your new car purchase. There are many new car deals out there,..but make sure it is a non-lemon deal.

May 2, 2010

Texas Lemon Law Tip: When Taking Your New Vehicle in For Repairs at the Dealership

Often times, a frustrated Texas lemon law client will seek my advice on what they should do when taking in their new vehicle to the service center for repairs. Last week a client of mine from Houston, Texas was so frustrated with the Chrysler service manager, that he threatened to leave his truck parked at the dealership until they fix the "check engine light" problem.

I hear it often, the client will say, "every time I take in my car/truck, they tell me they can't find anything wrong with it... they tell me they can not duplicate the problem and put NPF... no problem found on the repair invoice."

My response to the client starts off with the following quote by Albert Einstein: "Insanity, doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results."

In the case of dealerships and service centers, it is important that the client or consumer be prepared BEFORE bringing the vehicle in to be looked at. I suggest the following:

Take photographs or video camera recordings of the vehicle's defect. Bring the photograph or video and show it to the service manager of the car dealership. For example, if it is an intermittent noise issue and the service manager has been unenthusiastic in replicating the problem, then showing this "video" evidence will help the service manager swallow his or her own words.

In this day and age, the consumer or client has no excuse not to have proof of their complaint,...a cheap cell phone should likely have a camera or camcorder functionality built into it.

For photographs, make sure that you keep track of when the picture was taken -- having a date and time stamp on the photo is recommended. For video recordings, make sure you state your name, the date, the time, the description of the vehicle, and the current mileage on the vehicle.

Continue reading "Texas Lemon Law Tip: When Taking Your New Vehicle in For Repairs at the Dealership" »

April 30, 2010

Texas Lemon Law - Why Repair Invoices Are Written a Certain Way

Each time you take your vehicle into the manufacturer, ever notice how the repair invoices you receive are stated a specific way? Most often, it will start off by stating “customer states…” Also, ever notice how the repair invoices are worded in a way that is mostly true, but not 100% accurate? Inaccurate repair invoices written by car manufacturers is perhaps the biggest reason that consumers in Texas lose when filing a Texas Lemon Law claim or lawsuit.

Service managers and employees who work for the service department of each manufacturer’s car dealership have been trained, if not over-trained, on how to write these repair invoices. Why? This is to protect the vehicle manufacturer and dealership.

In case you decide to open a Texas Lemon Law claim or file a Texas Deceptive Trade Practices (DTPA) lawsuit, these entities will already be 100 steps ahead of you. They have been prepared to be sued before you actually have purchased or brought your vehicle in for repairs.

If you take your vehicle in for repairs and the service manager or agent fails to accurately document your concern on the repair invoice, then be prepared to escalate the matter to someone higher up at the dealership’s food chain. You will need to have accurate written documentation of the problems with your vehicle in order to have a strong case in the event you elect to pursue your claim under the Texas Lemon Law.

If the dealership refuses to accurately document your visit, you may let them know that poor documentation of your concern will be reflected in any “customer experience or satisfaction” surveys the manufacturer sends to you in the future. In fact, I would recommend going as far as writing both the dealership owner and the vehicle manufacturer a letter detailing your concern. Keep a copy of this letter; just in case it needs to be included as part of your evidence in court.

October 14, 2009

Win a Texas Lemon Law Case by making sure your repair invoices are accurate

Often times, potential clients will call me with a set of facts that meets the minimum requirements of the Texas Lemon Law. However, once I ask the potential client to fax me the repair invoices, I learn that the receipts were either inaccurate or unavailable.

Many dealerships, in preparation for a lemon law claim, would find ways to set up the situation against the consumer's favor. For example, the repair invoice always includes the legal jargon that the "customer states...." so-and-so. It never states that "we the dealership found or discovered a serious defect: -- because that would be considered an admission to liability.

Other times, the dealerships will merge two separate repair visits onto one invoice. In the eyes of most Texas Lemon Law administrative judges, one repair invoice equals only one visit. The rule of thumb is that once you've driven the car off the lot for a repair invoice and the same problem re-manifests itself, then you should turn around, have the dealership attempt to repair the defect and request a separate repair receipt.

Another inaccurate repair invoice situation is when the dealership mis-types that mileage in and mileage out area of the repair invoice. I have had a client that noticed that the odometer had 400 miles added to it when it was in the possession of the dealership. The repair invoice indicated that only 4 miles were driven.

Like anything, if you notice that the repair invoice is not accurate, then DO NOT sign the repair invoice.

July 8, 2009

Tips from the Texas Lemon Law Blog on Buying Used Cars

Although this article is related to used lemon cars, please understand that my office does NOT handle used lemon car cases. Please do not contact our office for legal advice regarding a used car -- you may want to look for an attorney that handles used car cases at NACA.net.

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Automobiles come in a variety of shapes, sizes and colors, and we buy them for a variety of reasons. Some of us look at the snob appeal and buy nothing but the best and most flashy cars in the market while others are more down to earth and prefer practical cars that offer good mileage and a comfortable driving experience. There are times though when we have to settle for a secondhand car, one that has already been driven by someone else and put through a considerable amount of wear and tear. The thing is, although your expenses are considerably lower, buying a used or “pre-owned” car is not as easy as buying a new one because you never know what you are going to get. If you want to protect your money and make sure you get bang for your buck, the Texas lemon law blog has these tips to offer:

* Choose a trustworthy dealer: Although consumers are protected from being stuck with used cars that are lemons, the law is not as supportive or pre-owned cars as it is of new ones. So if you must buy a used car, ensure that you choose a dealer who is reputable and known for their trustworthiness and dependability. Ask around, talk to other customers, and check out the reputation of the dealer before you do business with them.

* Never buy from people you know: At least not without a written agreement and warranty. Even so, if you do discover later that the car is a lemon and that you’ve been taken for a ride, it could get complicated and awkward because you cannot take to court someone you know pretty well. You’re also not able to recoup your investment and end up finding yourself out of a huge chunk of your savings.

* Always use a trusted mechanic to check out the car before you buy: If you know everything there is to know about cars, examine it thoroughly before you buy it. If not, get a mechanic you trust to check it out and test drive it before you put down any money on the table.

* Never buy cars that are advertised “AS IS”: This basically means that you’re not going to be covered by a warranty and that you’re taking the car as it is. These cars most definitely have something seriously wrong with them, so steer clear from them and put your money on something that has more value.

By-line:
This article is written by Kat Sanders, who regularly blogs on the topic of court reporter school online at her blog Court Reporter Schools. She welcomes your comments and questions at her email address: katsanders25@gmail.com.

April 2, 2009

Texas Lemon Law and its limitations on used cars...

With the downturn of the economy, a lot of people are now purchasing used cars and vehicles in order to save money. Generally speaking, new vehicles depreciate so aggressively that purchasing a pre-owned car makes a lot of financial sense.

I have previously written an article about how the Texas Lemon Law treats used car cases (go here for the article). Here's a paraphrase on the limitations of Texas Lemon Law for used cars on TXDOT's website:

A used vehicle may be covered under the Lemon Law. However, the coverage applies if your used vehicle is still covered by the manufacturer's original warranty. Keep in mind that extended service contracts do not apply. Coverage also applies if the problem started while under warranty and it continues to exist, but the remedies are limited to repair assistance of the warranty-related problem,...and not a repurchase or replacement.

Since buying a vehicle is arguably the second most expensive purchase that most consumers make, it is necessary to do your homework and to be observant of potential red flags that indicates that the used car is a lemon. See this blog post for some personal nonlegal tips on how to avoid buying a used lemon car.

Because of this recent growth in purchasing more used cars due to the economy, my lemon law practice also notices an exponential growth in potential clients calling to seek information about their lemon used cars. PLEASE NOTE that my office rarely accepts pre-owned car cases. However, we do accept some Chrysler car cases -- if you have used lemon Chrysler car that is at least a 2005 model, then please call my office.


March 25, 2009

2nd lesson learned from the TXDOT Texas Lemon Law Car Repurchase Program

In December of 2008, I posted a blog article about my experience with helping my friend, at the last minute, attend a Texas Department of Transportation Lemon Law hearing.

It was then discovered that my friend relied on the incorrect information provided by TexasDOT's representative (he called (800) 622-8682) and did not send the car manufacturer a notice letter by certified mail. The case was dismissed due to this reason alone.

My friend then asked me about what could be done at that point. Once a case has been referred by the administrative judge to be dismissed, the claimant has the option of appealing the decision, provided that he or she does so in writing and within the specified period of time. Alternatively, the consumer may elect to forgo the appeal process and hire a lemon law attorney to file a lawsuit under the Texas Deceptive Trade Practices and Federal Magnusson Moss Act.

My friend elected to hire my office to represent him. As of last week, the case was successfully settled for a monetary cash settlement. The lesson to be learned here is that you do have second chances if you are unsuccessful with your original lemon law hearing with TxDot. Having a lemon law attorney represent you could help you attempt to get a repurchase or replacement the second time around, or help you get a cash settlement in damages.

February 17, 2009

More tips on avoiding lemon pre-owned/used cars

This is a continuation on last week's post, on how to avoid your chances of purchasing a lemon pre-owned/used car. The same disclaimer applies; this is not legal advice, but are mere suggestions. Although I handle Texas lemon law cases, I do not handle pre-owned or used car cases.

Tip #4: Get a mechanic's inspection. Purchasing a vehicle is arguably the second most costliest item that most consumers buy in their lifetime. As a consumer, you do not purchase vegetables at your local grocery with blindfolds on,...the same logic applies in purchasing lemon cars. Without a mechanic's expert opinion, it is difficult to determine the condition of the vehicle underneath the hood. My lemon law office gets at least one call a day of unsuspecting car owners who subsequently learn that their 2007 Dodge Caravan has a 2005 engine or component on it.

Tip #5: Bring a friend during your visit to the dealership. During my pre-lasik surgery days, my friends always advise that four eyes are usually better than two. Buying a vehicle can be stressful and it is a good idea to have your friend look for potential red flags and defect cover-ups while you talk to the used car salesman.

All in all, good luck!


December 21, 2008

Lesson learned from Texas Lemon Law Hearing

Four months ago, a friend of mine called my office four days before his scheduled administrative hearing with the Texas Department of Transportation regarding his lemon vehicle. I asked him to forward the documents to my office before I agreed to attend the hearing with him.

Upon receiving the documents, I noticed that my friend's file did not include a copy of the notice letter to the car manufacturer. I asked my friend about this and he told me that when he called the 1 800 lemon law number to the Texas Department of Transportation, he spoke with a representative from the department and the person on the phone told him that he did not need to mail the manufacturer any.

I ended up attending the hearing with my friend anyways. At the hearing, the administrative judge focused on the fact my friend failed to provide written notice to the manufacturer. Further, the administrative judge stated that because of the failure to provide the manufacturer with a 30 day notice, that my friend also did not provide the manufacturer with a final opportunity to cure.

Several days ago, my friend told me that he received the proposed decision from the administrative judge in the mail. It looks like the proposed decision is to dismiss the case simply due to my friend's failure to send a written notice demand letter. At the end of the day, the lesson to be learned by this is that all consumers who plan on filing a case with the DOT should send a written notice letter to the manufacturer as soon as possible. I recommend making a copy of the notice letter and sending is USPS certified mail with return receipt requested (RRR).

November 19, 2007

Essential documents to bring at the Better Business Bureau's (BBB) Arbitration or the Texas lemon law administrative hearing

Regardless of whether you are scheduled to attend either the Better Business Bureau's (BBB) Arbitration or the Texas lemon law administrative hearing (in order to get a lemon vehicle buyback or replacement), it is important to be prepared with essential documents that will help you win your case.

Before proceeding further, I must caution you that although I am an attorney who concentrates my practice to Texas lemon law related cases, that the information found here is not and should not be treated as legal advice. The reason is because every case, regardless of how similar, is different. Therefore, this information is simply a public service presentation and you should contact a Texas lemon law attorney as soon as possible in the event that you have recently purchased a new lemon car.

Because both of the above-mentioned programs generally do not have an attorney fee shifting provision that requires the car manufacturer to pay for your attorney fees if you prevail -- having an attorney represent you in these hearing can be cost prohibitive. Under Texas lemon law, the only time the attorney fee shifting can be invoked by the consumer is when the automobile manufacturer is represented by an attorney at the hearing.

Documentation is key at the hearing. You must have written proof that your car meets the rebuttable presumption of the program. For example, if you are arguing that your car is a lemon because it has been subject to repairs for the illumination of the check engine light, then having for documented repair invoices issued by the service center will solidify your case, rather than relying on the arbitrator or administrative judge to take your word for it.

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November 5, 2007

Texas lemon law deadline or statute of limitation (SOL)

The single most important information that consumers need to know about the Texas lemon law is the deadline to filing a timely claim. Unfortunately, the law does not require car dealers or manufacturers to affirmatively disclose this information. Therefore, new car buyers often find themselves ineligible for the Texas lemon law because they rely on the dealer's promise that the car is fixed and have waited to long to assert their rights.

Under Texas lemon law, a consumer must open a case with the Texas Department of Transportation (DOT) within 24 months from the automobile's date of purchase or within 24,000 miles, whichever occurs first. Please note that there is a 6 months grace period after the expiration of the deadline, but such grace period is very difficult to assess.

It is recommended that if you suspect that you have a lemon car, that you contact a Texas lemon law attorney as soon as possible -- or, at minimum, open a claim with the DOT immediately.

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October 4, 2007

Texas Lemon Law coverage in the Fort Worth Star Telegram newspaper

Too often, when faced with a new broken car, consumers are unfamiliar with their lemon law rights. Burdened with frustration and the runaround from car dealerships and the manufacturer, some consumers resort to trading in their vehicle at a substantial loss.

Recently, the Fort Worth Star Telegram wrote a brief summary about the Texas lemon law. Personally, I think that this public announcement is a very commendable thing that our local newspaper is doing.

In summary, the newspaper article accurately states that a consumer with a suspected lemon should contact the Texas Department of Transportation by calling the local toll free number immediately. In addition, there is a $35 fee, which is refundable to the consumer if the consumer wins the lemon case via the Texas DOT.

However, the article is silent on the deadline for filing a lemon law complaint. The statute of limitation for Texas lemon cases is usually 24,000 miles or 24 months from the date of purchase, whichever occurs first. If you have missed this deadline, then all hope is not lost, as other laws such as the Texas Deceptive Trade Practices Act (DTPA) or Magnuson-Moss Warranty Act may still help you.

Please contact a local Texas lemon law attorney for more information. Most lemon law attorneys practice statewide. For example, although my office is based in Dallas and a consumer with a problem car may live in Weatherford or Hillsboro, as long as the vehicle was purchased in Texas, then my office may be able to assist.

September 3, 2007

Dallas, TX: How-to prepare for your Better Business Bureau (BBB) Lemon Law Arbitration Hearing

In Texas, most car manufacturers participate in the Better Business Bureau (BBB) Lemon Law Arbitration program. Because this arbitration program does not award consumer attorney fees, a car owner may often find himself/herself going through the arbitration process on his or her own. If this is your situation, then below are some helpful suggestions on how to win your lemon law arbitration hearing.

* Please note that the information below and on this website are not legal advice. Contact a lemon law attorney for information that is specific to your situation. These suggestions are based on my experience with the BBB lemon law arbitration program here in Dallas, other locations may vary. If you are in Dallas or anywhere in Texas, then feel free to contact my office.

Tip number 1: Take a deep breathe. Most arbitrations are less formal than a trial. The arbitrator understands that this will be your first time.

Tip number 2: Bring the lemon vehicle to the hearing. The arbitrator will most likely want to test drive it to verify the problems with the vehicle. Make sure that the vehicle is clean so that the arbitrator does not get the impression that you are not following all maintenance schedules for the vehicle.

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