What can the Alaska Lemon Law do if I have a lemon vehicle?
Under the right circumstances, it can make the manufacturer replace or buy it back if your personal use vehicle had a defect that substantially impaired the use or market value of the vehicle and that was not, or could not, be fixed in a timely manner.
What vehicles are not covered by the Alaska Lemon Law?
The Alaska Lemon Law covers all registered vehicles used on public highways for personal, family or household use - cars, trucks, conversion vans, motor homes, motorcycles, etc. It does not cover farm or off road vehicles, although Alaska does have a separate lemon law for boats, ATVs, snowmobiles, etc.
How do I know if I have a lemon covered by the Alaska Lemon Motor Vehicle Law?
A lemon motor vehicle in Alaska is one where the same defect has been repaired 3 or more times or it's been out of service for a total of 30 or more business days, within the first year or the time length of the factory warranty, whichever comes first. The manufacturer's dealer is only allowed a limited number of chances to repair defects in your vehicle. If the manufacturer (through its repairing dealer) does not get it fixed in time, then it is automatically presumed that you've got a lemon.
I think I have a lemon under the Alaska Lemon Motor Vehicle Law, so what do I do now?
Contact the manufacturer directly and start negotiating. Write a letter, write an email, send a fax, make a phone call. 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, your choice. If they won't do it, then you may want to complain to the Alaska Attorney General's Consumer Protection Office 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 in Alaska?
Yes, but only a reasonable use allowance which the law defines as an amount attributable to the owner's use. There is a limit, however, to the depreciation amount calculated by a 7 year straight line method. That means you take the purchase price, subtract the salvage value at the end of 7 years, and divide the resulting number by 7. For example, if the price of your lemon vehicle was $23,500 and in 7 years its value would be $2,500, that leaves $21,000 to be depreciated over 7 years. If it turns into a lemon and you were only able to get a year of actual use out of it, then the manufacturer can deduct no more than $3,000 for your use of it during that time. If you got very little actual use, you can argue for even less to be deducted.
Should I file for arbitration? What if I don't want to go that route to get rid of my lemon?
You probably don't have to use it but many motor vehicle manufacturers have a settlement process they call "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 Alaska Lemon Motor Vehicle 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 Alaska Lemon Law and other Alaska consumer protection laws for lemon owners?
For more information, write to the Alaska Attorney General, Consumer Protection Office, P.O. Box 110300, Juneau, AK 99811. Or call the Attorney General's Office, 1.907.465.3600. For online information go to www.USLemonLawyers.com for more information or legal help. There are some links below too.
What should I do next to use the Alaska Lemon Motor Vehicle Law to get rid of my lemon in Alaska?
If you are not sure what to do, then you should probably talk to a local lemon lawyer near you. Your lemon law lawyer will 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 Alaska 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.
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