TALLAHASSEE – LAWFUEL – US Legal News – Attorney General Bill McCollum today issued a consumer advisory related to Florida’s Lemon Law. Florida’s Lemon Law applies to new vehicles sold or leased on a long-term basis in the state of Florida. The Attorney General’s Office has a process in place to protect consumers from being victimized by purchasing a “lemon.” The office also has additional information available on consumers’ rights under Florida’s Lemon Law.
Since the program’s inception, more than 13,300 consumers have received refunds or replacement vehicles.
Florida’s Lemon Law requires automobile manufacturers to make a reasonable number of repairs to remedy substantial defects in a motor vehicle. If the manufacturer fails to do so, they are required to buy back the lemon vehicle and either pay a refund to the consumer or provide a replacement vehicle, according to provisions in Florida statutes. Consumers are protected under the Lemon Law for 24 months after the date of delivery of the vehicle. Anyone who experiences problems with their new vehicle during that period should immediately take the vehicle to the manufacturer’s authorized dealer.
“Often, we view our vehicles as more than just a convenience – to many Floridians, their vehicle is essential for work, school or family obligations,” said McCollum. “The Attorney General’s Office wants to ensure that anyone who purchases a new car in Florida is aware of their rights and knows they are protected under the law.”
The Attorney General’s office administers the New Motor Vehicle Arbitration Board, which resolves disputes between consumers and manufacturers under the Lemon Law. The board holds arbitration hearings throughout the state during which consumers and manufacturer representatives may appear and give testimony in an informal setting. The panel must then determine whether the consumer’s vehicle meets the legal requirements to be declared a lemon.
Arbitration hearings conducted by the New Motor Vehicle Arbitration Board are open to the public. The process is free, fair and expeditious.
Consumers are not required to be represented by attorneys to participate in the arbitration process, but may do so if they wish. If hiring an attorney for the arbitration process, the Attorney General’s Office recommends the following informational tips:
– The New Motor Vehicle Arbitration Board cannot order any motor
vehicle manufacturer to pay attorney’s fees.
– Some law firms that advertise over the internet do not have physical
offices in Florida, nor is all of the information on the internet applicable to Florida. Often this information is very general in nature and is meant to apply to people throughout the country.
– Before hiring an attorney, consumers should understand exactly how
the attorney will calculate their fee and whether there will be additional charges, such as copying, faxing or telephone calls. The attorney should clearly explain the method by which their fee will be calculated.
– If the law firm is not in the city where the arbitration hearing will
be held or is located outside the state of Florida, consumers should obtain the name and contact information of the attorney who will attend the hearing. Floridians should also inquire about whether the attorney has prior experience with the arbitration process. An in-person conference or a telephone conference with the attorney is recommended before the day of the hearing.
– When consumers hire an attorney, the attorney is required to keep
their clients informed of the progress of their case. The attorney should return phone calls and be accessible. The attorney should advise their client if a settlement offer is made by a manufacturer and that it is then the client’s decision whether to accept any such offer.
– If an attorney advises their client to sue the manufacturer in court
instead of going to an arbitration hearing, the client should ensure that the attorney explains the reasons for this advice, the length of time it could take to pursue a court action and the risk associated.
The Florida Bar provides an attorney referral service and a complaint resolution process for clients on its web site at http://www.floridabar.org.
Every consumer who acquires a new or demonstrator motor vehicle in Florida, either through purchase or long-term lease, must be given a copy of the “Consumer Guide to the Florida Lemon Law” by the dealer. This booklet, published by the Attorney General’s Office, contains valuable information intended to assist consumers who may have to pursue their rights under Florida’s Lemon Law. Information about the Lemon Law also can be found on the Attorney General’s web site at http://myfloridalegal.com.