What can the Delaware Lemon Law do for me if I have a lemon motor vehicle?
It can make the manufacturer replace it or buy it back if your passenger motor vehicle had a defect that substantially impaired the use or value or safety of the vehicle and that was not, or could not, be fixed in a timely manner.
What kind of motor vehicles are covered by the Delaware Lemon Law?
The Delaware Lemon Law covers cars, trucks, vans and the non-living facilities of a motorhome. Motorcycles are not covered by the Delaware Lemon Law. But you may still have lemon law rights under the federal Lemon Law (technically called the Magnuson Moss Warranty Act), if your product was designed for consumer use. This federal Lemon Law requires the manufacturer to repair a warranty-covered defect within a reasonable amount of time and a reasonable number of chances. You can read about it at this How-To Guide: How to Get Rid of a Lemon Rv or a Lemon Motorhome, http://www.avvo.com/legal-guides/ugc/how-to-get-rid-of-a-lemon-rv-or-a-lemon-motorhome
How do I know if my motor vehicle is a lemon under the Delaware Lemon Law?
A lemon motor vehicle in Delaware is one where the same defect has been worked on at least 4 times and didn't get fixed by the end of the 4th repair attempt, or it's been out of service for a total of 30 or more days during the shorter of the warranty length or one year. The manufacturer's dealer is only allowed a limited number of chances to repair defects in your vehicle. If one or more of the lemon definitions occurs, then you've got a lemon.
I think I have a lemon under the Delaware Lemon Law, so what do I do now?
Contact the manufacturer directly and start negotiating. Write a letter and send it by certified mail. Tell them why you think you have a lemon and that you are willing to give them a final chance to fix it if they contact you within 15 days. The Delaware Lemon Law requires you to give them a written notice with one last repair chance. You can also write an email or send a fax or call to complain. And make notes of everything as it happens. And send copies to the dealer too. If the problem has not been fixed and you meet any one (or more) of the definitions of a lemon vehicle, ask them to replace it or buy it back. You get your choice. If they won't do it, then you may want to complain to the Delaware Attorney General's Consumer Protection Division or contact a private attorney. Make notes of everything that you say to them and they say to you, so you have a record in case you need it later.
The manufacturer wants to charge me for my mileage (a "usage fee"), do I have to do that under the Delaware Lemon Law?
Yes but only a reasonable amount for your use of the vehicle prior to the first time it went in the repair shop for the defect that caused it to ultimately become a lemon. The Delaware Lemon Law assumes that you expected your car to last 100,000 miles so divide the total sales price by 100,000 and then multiply it by the miles on the vehicle when your vehicle went into the shop on that first lemon-related repair attempt. For instance if your car cost $35,000, then divided by 100,000 would mean 35 cents a mile. If you only had 5,000 miles on it when it had its first repair attempt of the lemon defect, then 5,000 multiplied by 35 cents would mean that you got $1,750 worth of use out of it so you have to pay that in order to get your lemon law remedy from the manufacturer. Note-the state law uses a different formula but it comes out the same as our simple formula does.
Should I file for arbitration? What if I don't want to go that route to get rid of my lemon in Delaware?
Most car and truck manufacturers have a settlement process that is sometimes called "arbitration" and you can use their process if you want and you don't have to hire a lawyer to do it, but you may at your own cost. If you don't want to go through the factory's "dispute resolution process" (that's what they sometimes call it) you may not have to but you should talk to an experienced Lemon Law attorney about the advantages and disadvantages of it. If you aren't satisfied with the offer the manufacturer makes, or with the result of arbitration (if you try it), then you should discuss your case with a Lemon Law attorney and find out just how strong (or weak) your case may be.
Do I have to hire a lawyer to use the Delaware Lemon Law?
No, but you probably would do better if you did. There have been some studies done and they all come back the same way. You get paid more when you have a lawyer on your side. Why? You have to realize that when you try to negotiate with a manufacturer you will be dealing with professional negotiators who are paid to settle with you for as little as they can and, they are hoping it will be nothing at all if they can. This isn't going to be easy. They often tell you what they think the law is and why your case doesn't fit it and if you don't know the law then you probably don't know how to argue back with them. So how do you get ready for a lawyer? First decide what it is that you want and what the minimum is that you will settle for. Next, get all your paperwork together and write out a diary of everything that happened from beginning to end and then make an appointment to meet with your local Lemon Law attorney.
How can I find out more about the Delaware Lemon Law and other consumer protection laws for lemon owners?
Write to the Delaware Attorney General, 820 North French Street, Wilmington, DE 19801. Or call the Division of Consumer Protection, 1.302.577.8600. For online information go to www.USLemonLawyers.com for more information or legal help.
What should I do next to use the Delaware Lemon Law to get rid of my lemon?
Talk to your lemon law lawyer. Together you can decide whether to file a lawsuit or attempt to negotiate "pre-suit" (which means without filing a lawsuit). If they don't make an offer that you can live with then you can expect that a lawsuit will likely be necessary. Your lemon law attorney can discuss the court process with you in detail and tell you how long it may take and what you can expect out of it. Most importantly, you should discuss with your attorney things like your continued use of the vehicle, what to do if more defects arise, the desirability of hiring an independent expert witness, and what you can do to help win you case.
Additional resources provided by the author
The Delaware Lemon Law can help you get rid of your lemon vehicle but you should work with your lemon law attorney closely to get the best result. Here are some more resources you can turn to for more information, answers, and help.