I've Tried Arbitration, But I'm Still Not Satisfied.

If you intend to file a lawsuit for replacement of the vehicle or refund of the purchase price, the dollar value will likely exceed the maximum allowed for Small Claims Court. Instead, you`ll need to file in Civil Court, where the expertise of an attorney is a necessity. The good news is, most consumer­law firms will not charge you any legal fees to handle your case. Rather, most state Lemon Law provide that the vehicle`s manufacturer must cover your legal expenses.

Sometimes the attorney and the manufacturer disagree over the requested attorney fees. As a result, despite the fact that the manufacturer has agreed to a fair settlement, the case can drag on for weeks or months while the two sides squabble over the attorney`s paycheck, which really isn`t any concern of yours.

As a result, attorney­represented litigation can be an expensive proposition for the manufacturer and a lengthy process for you.

For this reason, most cases settle before a suit is filed or tried. You can use this to your advantage by sending a demand letter directly to the manufacturer yourself, offering to settle the case prior to your involving an attorney. A demand letter generally states your claim, outlines your request for settlement and sets a time­limit for the manufacturer to respond.

Send your letter certified mail. Here are the addresses for the major US Auto manufacturers:

    General Motors:
    Business Resource Center Legal Group
    Customer Assistance & Relations Services
    Legal­Tampa
    C/O MSX International
    1464 John A Papalas Drive
    Lincoln Park, MI 48146­1460

    Ford Products
    Ford Lincoln Mercury
    16800 Executive Plaza Drive
    3NE­301
    Dearborn, MI 48126

    Chrysler Products
    Damlier Chrysler Corporation
    1000 Chrysler Drive
    Auburn Hills, MI 48326­2766
    Attn: Steve W. Goodrich

Negotiation
Give the manufacturer at least 30 days to reply. It`s their job to help resolve the case, so keep an open mind as the process plays out. Without appearing threatening, remind the manufacturer`s representative that you`re attempting in good faith to resolve the case without involving an attorney.

Be firm in your demand that the car be bought back. If your vehicle meets the definition of a lemon, don`t be intimidated by attempts by the manufacturer to have you return again to a service center for more diagnosis or repair attempts. Sometimes, the manufacturer will ask that a regional or corporate service manager be allowed to examine the vehicle. Really, the time for that was during any one of the numerous attempts they`d made to repair the car up to this point. Stick to your guns and insist that the car be bought back.

The representative may ask if you will accept a new replacement vehicle instead of a refund. This is entirely up to you. You may also be asked to take an offset for your use of the lemon vehicle, and should expect to conceed something in this regard. Typically, you should expect to pay a nominal charge for the mileage you put on the vehicle, and the charge should be calculated from the start of your ownership through the first documented repair only.

REMEMBER: IF AN OFFER IS MADE, MAKE SURE YOU GET IT IN WRITING.

Settlement Or Representation
Once you`ve agreed on a settlement, send a letter to the rep outlining the agreement as you understand it. In the following few weeks, arrangements will be made to have you return the vehicle and clear your loan. If you have any equity in the vehicle, that should be returned as well. Remember, if you purchased an extended warranty or credit life insurance, you are due a pro­rata refund of the premiums you paid when you bought the car. You will have to contact both the warranty company and the credit life company and advise them that you no longer own the car and wish to cancel the contracts to get your money back.

If you cannot reach a settlement, you may need to hire an attorney to proceed further. Look in your yellow pages for firms specializing in Consumer Law. All of your previous leg­work will come in handy, so make sure you bring your file to the initial consultation.

The information on this page is meant to provide a general overview of the law. The laws in your state and/or city may deviate significantly from those described here. If you have specific questions related to your situation you should speak with a local attorney.

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