This is part of a series entitled “Lemon Law: 5 Things You Should Know.” It is written by Sergei Lemberg, who is an attorney who specializes in lemon law. His site, Lemon Justice, offers detailed information about lemon laws, as well as an interactive Lemon Meter for consumers who want to see if their vehicle qualifies as a lemon.
When you engage in conflict with a car manufacturer over a defective vehicle, it feels a bit like David vs. Goliath. There are many avenues you can take – from going to arbitration to suing manufacturers in court – but my experience is that arbitration and court aren’t necessarily the only – or best – options. In fact, most lemon law cases settle through negotiation or mediation. When a vehicle has a serious defect and the manufacturer refuses to do a buyback or replacement, it sometimes only takes the threat of a lawsuit for the manufacturer to do the right thing. Mostly, this is because losing in court usually means that the manufacturer could face the prospect of paying punitive damages or a doubling or tripling of the consumer’s attorney fees. A reasonable settlement is a winning proposition for both sides – the manufacturer doesn’t have to go through a lengthy court battle that it would most likely lose, and the consumer can get relief without dragging out the process.
Negotiation and settlement is also an option for consumers whose vehicles don’t meet the stringent definition of a “lemon” under state law. We’ve often had clients who were able to get nice settlements for the hassle of having to repeatedly take their vehicles in for repair.
The bottom line is that negotiation and settlement are always sound (and often the best) options in lemon law cases. But it’s important to have the law on your side should a lawsuit become necessary.