Inaccurate Repair Orders - How Consumers May be Affected

The importance of rigid lemon laws continues to be acknowledged by lawmakers. Last week, new legislation was signed into effect for the state of New Jersey expanding coverage to assist automobile and motorcycle drivers who suffer a defect within the first two years or 24,000 miles which cannot be fixed after three repair attempts, or whose vehicles are in the shop 20 or more days during the 2 year or 24,000 miles period. The previous period was limited to approximately a year of usage.

Additionally, if a defect which could cause serious bodily injury or death occurs in the first 2 years or 24,000 miles, the manufacturer has only one repair attempt to fix the problem before a consumer can file a lemon law claim.

But filing a lemon law claim—just as in any legal claim—means having proof. In this case, it means having proof that the dealer and manufacturer were given the opportunity to repair the defect. In many states, including California, this means four repair attempts. To substantiate a lemon law claim, a consumer must present work orders from the dealership documenting these attempts.

“When your vehicle is repaired, never leave without your copy of the repair order,” said Norman Taylor, leading California lemon law attorney. “Read it. Most important of all, if anything in the repair order is even slightly inaccurate in any way, do not sign it. If you sign something without reading it, it will be presumed accurate and you may lose the paper chase.”

Taylor understands such details well. He has been a lemon law specialist since 1987, and he and his firm, Norman Taylor and Associates, have handled over 8,000 cases for consumers with a 98 percent success rate.

“One of the tests for determining whether a vehicle is a lemon is whether there have been repeated attempts for the same problem,” Taylor explained further. “To avoid this, the dealership will often write up the same problem in different ways to make it look like different problems. This is subtle, and you might not even notice it, so pay attention when the service writer at the dealership fills in your repair order.”

As an example, you might describe a problem as “check engine light comes on, car stalls.” The service writer suggests it might be something wrong with the emission Control System, so he writes down “ESC problem.” This is not what you said, but if you sign it, you accept it.

The bottom line: make sure you always obtain accurate repair orders from a dealership. And if you think you are driving a lemon, contact a qualified lemon law attorney right away.

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