Knowledge is a powerful thing, and with the advent of the “Information Highway,” a consumer has the ability to research and educate himself on a vast array of topics. I have generally considered this as a good thing. When it comes to legal matters though, this type of self-education proves to be dangerous. I receive countless calls from consumers who believe they had 4 or even 5 years to file a lemon law claim because they “read it on the Internet” only to find out when it is too late that the “Lemon Law Rights Period” [in Florida]…is the first 24 months after the date of delivery of the motor vehicle to the consumer.” Hearts are broken, spirits are crushed, trusts are betrayed, and rights are lost by this revelation. “Several sites had this information”, the guy at the dealership who I have been bringing my car to for years never said otherwise”, “the warranty is still in place.” Most of these unfortunate consumers so strongly believe what they read that they casually cast off my 30 years of experience as a Lemon Lawyer and actually engage in a debate with me.
Well, trust me, the service manager at the dealership is not going to advise you that your lemon law rights period is almost over, as he takes your car in for repairs for the umpteenth time. And many of these Lemon Law sites are dragnets for referral services, or out of state law firms that want to practice lemon law in Florida. These lemon law sites do not originate in Florida and are not based on Florida law. These sites mislead consumers into believing that Florida’s lemon law is the same as other states. And these sites do not have the consumer’s best interest at heart. I would be among the first to agree that many other states have a more attractive, consumer-friendly lemon law program that grants consumers the Manufacturer’s entire warranty period to file a claim, stops the miles at the first repair attempt, and reimburse the consumer for attorney’s fees. I applaud those states! However, I respect and appreciate the laws that govern the State of Florida, and am enraged that there is yet another opening for consumers to be misled and taken advantage of in the pursuit of their rights.
Where can you find accurate information on Florida’s laws? PLEASE, please, please make sure you get your information from the Florida State Attorney’s website, or from a lawyer that has an office in the State of Florida. Be wary of sites that cover all states, or law firms that do not have an office in Florida. Do not be afraid to ask the attorney for his office address. Finally, and most importantly, report these sites and lawyers to the State Attorney or the Florida Bar as misleading advertising, or the unlawful practice of law in Florida.
Here is the link to the Florida Office of the Attorney General’s Lemon Law program. Below I have pasted and copied the pertinent description of how the lemon law works in Florida.
How The Florida Lemon Law Works
The Lemon Law covers defects or conditions that substantially impair the use, value or safety of a new or demonstrator vehicle (these are called “nonconformities”). These defects must be first reported to the manufacturer or its authorized service agent (usually, this is the dealer) during the “Lemon Law Rights Period,” which is the first 24 months after the date of delivery of the motor vehicle to the consumer. If the manufacturer fails to conform the vehicle to the warranty after a “reasonable number of attempts” to repair these defects, the law requires the manufacturer to buy back the defective vehicle and give the consumer a purchase price refund or a replacement vehicle. The law does not cover defects that result from accident, neglect, abuse, modification or alteration by persons other than the manufacturer or its authorized service agent. DO NOT DELAY in reporting a problem as this may cost valuable time and protection.