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Lemon Law Designed to Protect New Vehicle Buyers

If you have recently purchased a new vehicle in Maryland, you probably received with it a manufacturer’s warranty providing coverage for vehicle defects to be repaired at no cost within a set period of time or a certain number of miles. The warranty may contain limitations as to where the repairs must be performed (usually an authorized dealer, although not necessarily where you bought the car) and what parts of the vehicle are covered. However, the warranty may prove of little value if the dealer is unable to satisfactorily make the needed repairs.

The Maryland Lemon Law (Commercial Law Article, Sections 14-1501 to 14-1504) provides a remedy for the consumer when something that is wrong with a new vehicle cannot be fixed. The law applies to all new cards, trucks, and multi-purpose vehicles. IT also covers vehicles transferred to another person during the vehicle’s warranty period. In order to qualify for status as a “lemon,” the vehicle must (a) be registered din Maryland, (b) have been owned less than fifteen (15) months and (c) been driven less than 15, 000 miles.

If during the warranty period a defect or condition that “substantially impairs the use and market value of the motor vehicle” cannot be fixed after a “reasonable number of attempts” the manufacturer or factory branch must, at the option of the consumer, replace the vehicle with a comparable motor vehicle, or accept return of the vehicle and refund the purchase price including all license fees, registration and other governmental charges, less a reasonable allowance for the use of the vehicle (not to exceed fifteen percent (15%) of the purchased price) and a reasonable allowance for damage that is not just normal ear and tear. The law also applies to any number of different problems that substantially impair the use and market value of the vehicle and have caused it to be out of service for more than 30 days total.

If there is a problem with your new vehicle, the manufacturer or dealer is entitle to have the opportunity to fix it within a “reasonable number of attempts.” The law defines a “reasonable number of attempts” to remedy a problem for most defects is 4, but in the case of a brake or steering failure, once.

To trigger a claim under the law, the consumer is required to give written notice of the problems to the manufacture or factory branch by certified mail, return receipt requested. The new buyer must then provide an opportunity for the manufacturer or dealer to fix the problem. The problem must be fixed within 30 days of the manufacturer’s receipt to notification of the nonconformity, defect or condition.

Many manufacturers provide alternative dispute resolution methods such as arbitration or mediation to resolve complaints involving new vehicles. These methods can be employed even when the vehicle technically does not fall within the parameters of the Lemon Law. However, the use of such procedures does not bar a consumer from subsequently instituting a lawsuit. A manufacturer or dealer cannot compel you to waive, limit or disclaim the rights under the Lemon Law.

If all else fails, suit may be brought under the Lemon Law for up to three (3) years from the date of delivery o the vehicle. Unlike many other suits, the consumer may also recover attorney’s fees, if successful. The rights and remedies in Maryland’s Lemon Law are substantial, but are not the only ones available to assist the consumer. The uniform Commercial Code, and the Maryland Consumer Protection Act, may also apply in certain situations.

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