When is Your Vehicle Manufacturer Liable? Understanding Lemon Laws in Florida

Owning a new vehicle should be an exciting experience, but sometimes, despite our best hopes, we end up with a vehicle that just doesn’t seem to function as it should. Even after repeated trips to the repair shop the vehicle never feels right, doesn’t perform as it should, and may even be missing features that were part of the package you paid for.

The problems may be specific to your vehicle, and not to other models from the same manufacturer or with the same specifications. You may be familiar with vehicle recalls to fix design defects that exist in all of the vehicles manufactured, but your vehicle may have defects or design problems specific only to it. A vehicle with these problems is often called a ‘lemon’. These cars are not sweet to own and often leave a sour taste in the mouths of their buyers after months of repeated trips to the repair shop or to the original dealer.

Florida has protections for these situations known as the ‘Lemon Laws’. The Florida Lemon Laws are there to safeguard consumers like you from the unintended consequences of owning a defective vehicle. This law provides clear criteria on what makes a vehicle a ‘lemon’ and defines what manufacturers are obligated to do if a vehicle falls into this category.

What It Takes for a Vehicle to Be Considered a ‘Lemon’

Owning a vehicle that consistently underperforms or malfunctions can be costly as well as frustrating. The Florida Lemon Law is designed to protect consumers like you from the costs of continuing repairs and being ‘stuck’ with the vehicle. How do you determine if your vehicle qualifies as a lemon? The criteria in Florida are specific.

For a vehicle to be labeled a lemon it must have manufacturing defects that impair its use, its value, or its safety. These defects should be persistent, meaning they are not fixed even after attempted repairs. The defect must also appear or be noticed within the first two years after the purchase or lease date, or within the initial 18,000 miles driven, whichever happens first. If your vehicle has been in the repair shop multiple times for various issues, or if it has been out of service for an extended period due to its defects, it might fall under the lemon category.

How to File a Lemon Law Claim in Florida

If you discover that your new vehicle could possibly be a lemon, you should begin taking steps to solve the problem right away. Owning a lemon can be both frustrating and expensive. Florida’s Lemon Laws provide a clear path to address the situation:

  1. Documentation is Key: Start by gathering all relevant paperwork related to your vehicle. This includes the purchase or lease agreement, warranty details, and all repair orders and costs. Each time you visit a mechanic or service center, make sure that you get a detailed report of the issues and all of the attempted repairs made.
  2. Notify the Manufacturer: Before taking any legal steps, it is critical to inform the vehicle’s manufacturer about the persistent problems. Send a written notice detailing the defects and all of the repair attempts. This gives them an opportunity to address the issue.
  3. Keep Track of Repair Attempts: Florida law has specific criteria about what constitutes a lemon. Typically, if the same defect has been attempted to be repaired three times without success, or if the vehicle has been out of service for 15 or more days, it may qualify.
  4. Seek Mediation: If the manufacturer does not provide a satisfactory solution, consider mediation. This involves a neutral third party who helps both sides reach an agreement.
  5. Legal Action: If mediation doesn’t resolve the issue, you will have to escalate the claim in order to find a solution. At this stage, you should begin consulting with an attorney who specializes in Lemon Laws.

Manufacturer Responsibilities Under the Lemon Laws

Purchasing a new vehicle is a big investment, and with it comes the expectation of reliability and performance. If your vehicle falls short of expectations, it is not just a personal inconvenience; there are legal obligations that manufacturers must meet under Florida’s Lemon Laws.

The manufacturer has a duty to correct any defects that qualify under the Lemon Laws. If your vehicle continuously fails to function correctly, despite several repair attempts, the manufacturer is required to either provide either a replacement or offer a full refund. This provision ensures you’re not left at a financial loss due to a defective vehicle. If your vehicle has spent extended periods in the repair shop, the manufacturer may also be liable for related expenses, such as the cost of a rental car or other transportation alternatives you had to use.

Why You Need an Attorney

While the Florida Lemon Laws offer consumers protection from the costs of defective vehicles, ensuring your rights are upheld can be complicated and time-consuming. This is where the expertise of the attorneys at Monge & Associates comes in.

Our experienced Tampa personal injury attorneys can provide added clarity on the Lemon Law’s provisions, helping you determine if your vehicle truly qualifies as a lemon. They can guide you through all the necessary steps, from gathering the right documentation to effectively communicating with the manufacturer in an attempt to find a resolution.

Beyond the initial stages, if disputes arise or if the manufacturer is unresponsive, our attorneys can represent your interests, ensuring that your voice is heard, and can negotiate on your behalf, seeking a resolution that aligns with your interests and recovers your costs.

While the Lemon Law is designed to protect you, having an attorney by your side ensures your protection. Our expertise can be the difference between a prolonged struggle and a swift, favorable resolution. There are Lemon Laws across the country, and Monge & Associates have offices in 32 locations across 19 states including Georgia, Alabama, Maryland, and two offices in Florida – one in Tampa and one in Panama City Beach. With our experience by your side, you can turn your lemon into lemonade. If you think you may own a lemon or require more information about Florida’s Lemon Laws and how they affect you, call now for a free consultation on (888) 477-0597 with a member of our team. You can join our long list of clients who have achieved a satisfactory resolution to their legal problems while enjoying peerless client service and care.