Articles Posted in Lemon Law Tips

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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.

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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.

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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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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.

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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,

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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.

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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.

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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:

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.

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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.
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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.