Wednesday, September 10, 2008

West Virginia Lemon Law: What Seniors Need to Know

That new car smell is the best. The feeling of driving around in a new ride is sensational. But what happens when the experience sours and your new car starts smelling like a lemon? Unfortunately, seniors – who are least able to afford it – are often victimized by unscrupulous dealers and manufacturers. However, West Virginia’s lemon law gives you the right to take action – and turn your lemon into lemonade. Sergei Lemberg, an attorney specializing in lemon law, offers an overview of our lemon law, and tips to make sure you can take advantage of your West Virginia lemon law rights.

According to Sergei, West Virginia Lemon Law covers new passenger vehicles, SUVs, vans, and trucks that are purchased in West Virginia. It also covers the chassis of new RVs. In order to be covered, though, the vehicle has to be used for personal (as opposed to business) purposes.

Not every new car is eligible for “lemon” status, however. In order to be considered a “lemon,” the defects have to affect the use, safety, or value of the vehicle. In other words, the need for a paint touch-up or a malfunctioning radio won’t cut it. In addition, the defects have to occur during the first year from the date you take delivery of the vehicle or the expiration of the warranty – whichever is later. You also need to have taken the vehicle in for repair three times for the same problem or it has to have been out of service for a cumulative total of 30 days. If the defect is likely to cause serious injury, though, you only have to take the vehicle in one time for repair. Finally, you have to send the manufacturer what is known as a “demand letter,” notifying them of the problem and demanding a replacement vehicle or refund.

Sergei notes that there are two options for pursing a lemon law claim: you can either go to court or go to arbitration. He’s quick to say, though, that manufacturers have teams of lawyers that do nothing but fight lemon law claims, and that you’ll only be on equal footing if you have a lemon law attorney at your side. The good news is that, if your court claim is successful, the manufacturer has to pay your attorney fees. Often, with the help of a lawyer, you can get a refund, replacement vehicle, or cash settlement without having to go through the entire lemon law process – and get your attorney’s fees covered in the process.

If you think you have a lemon, start keeping notes. Jot down every communication you have with the dealer or manufacturer, the times and dates that you have a problem with the vehicle, and the days that the vehicle is out of service, either because it’s in the shop or because it’s not in working condition. Remember to keep all of your work orders, other paperwork, and any written correspondence. It’s also important to contact a lemon law attorney after the second repair attempt. He or she can help guide you through the final steps that will legally establish your vehicle as a lemon.

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