Does My Vehicle Qualify as a "lemon" under Washington Law?
Learn whether your car is a Lemon.
A defective vehicle is unreliable, costly, and a serious safety threat. Contact us to protect your rights.
What is the Lemon Law?
The “lemon law” refers to the New Motor Vehicle Warranties Act, Chapter 19.118 RCW. It was enacted to help consumers who purchase or lease a new vehicle and have continuing problems that are covered by the warranty. The Law also establishes the Lemon Law Arbitration Board, which can conduct hearings to determine whether you have a “lemon” on your hands.
There are various other laws that may apply to your claim, in addition to the Washington Lemon Law. These include, but are not necessarily limited to: the Washington Consumer Protection Act and the Magnuson Moss Warranty Act.
What constitutes a “lemon?”
Your vehicle is a lemon if it has one or more substantial defects that have been subject to a “reasonable number of attempts” to diagnose or repair the problem(s) under the manufacturer’s warranty. Substantial defects are those which are life threatening, create a risk of fire or explosion, or which substantially impair the vehicle’s reliability, resale value, or safe use. The law does not cover problems caused by owner abuse or negligence.
"Reasonable number of attempts” is defined as:
- Diagnosis or repair of same serious safety defect has been attempted two or more times, with at least one during the eligibility period and it continues to exist; or
- Diagnosis or repair of the same nonconformity has been attempted four or more times (with at least one during the eligibility period) and the defect still exists; or
- A vehicle has been out-of-service for diagnosis or repair (whether or not repaired) for a cumulative total of 30 calendar days, with at least one attempt for each defect and 15 of those days occurring during the eligibility period; or
- Within a 12-month period, 2 or more different serious safety defects, each of which have been subject to diagnosis or repair one or more times, where at least one attempt for each serious safety defect occurs during the period of coverage of the manufacturer’s warranty and within the eligibility period.
How can you tell if my vehicle meets the statutory requirements?
The following information and documents are vital to us promptly beginning work on your case:
- Purchase documents;
- Written warranty materials;
- Any warranty disclaimers;
- Any towing charges or rental car receipts;
- Current registration; and
- Any and all repair invoices.
How do we start a Lemon Law claim?
Depending on the facts of your case, once you retain us, we will typically prepare a written letter to send to the manufacturer via certified mail, return receipt requested, demanding that they either repurchase or replace your vehicle. Upon request, we will provide evidence to the manufacturer if it will assist in promptly resolving your case.
Under the law, the manufacturer has 40 days to make a determination as to whether to buy back or replace your vehicle. If no settlement is reached at the end of 40 days after we have sent the letter, we commence litigation with your approval. Often times, manufacturers will not offer to buy back or replace your car before you have commenced litigation.
Do we need to file a lawsuit?
Maybe. The litigation process entails filing a Complaint for damages in Superior Court in the County of your residence or filing a lemon law arbitration claim, depending on the facts of your case. We may ask for rescission of contract, repurchase of the vehicle, payment of incidental and consequential damages, and payment of attorney’s fees and costs.
We cannot guarantee a successful result in any case, but many cases do settle if the car in question is, in fact, a lemon. You are always free to settle a case before or after litigation has commenced. That is your decision to make. We will advise you on our recommended best course of action based on our experience, the particular facts of your case, and what we know of the manufacturer in your case from previous litigation.
Most settlements include: repurchase or replacement, payment of incidental and consequential costs (for example, towing charges or rental car fees, and any payments you have made on the financing, as well as your down-payment), and payment of our attorney’s fees and costs. It all depends on your case.
Frequently Asked Questions
How long will the process take?
Unfortunately, it depends on the facts of your case. Some cases are resolved in as short as 30 to 60 days, whereas some cases take a year. We will be able to give you a better answer once we receive the manufacturer’s response to our written demand.
How much do we have to pay you for your representation?
In most cases, our clients never pay us anything. This is because the applicable laws require that the manufacturer pay us directly. We advance all costs of litigation.
Do I have to continue making payments during this process?
In most cases, yes, you have to continue making payments. This is because the manufacturer and the lienholder are almost always different entities and your obligation to make payments on financing has nothing to do with whether the vehicle works or not. The only person who will be hurt if you stop making payments is likely you, as defaults on your debt obligations may be reported to the credit agencies, thus harming your credit score.
How likely am I to win?
While we do have a good success rate, each case speaks for itself and depends on its own facts. We can never guarantee a success in any case. We will, however, guarantee that we will do our best to obtain a great recovery for you.
When in doubt, give us a call
If you believe you have purchased a lemon vehicle, give us a call for a free and confidential consultation at (509) 381-5091, or use our contact form below. A representative will be in touch with you shortly.