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Sometimes You Can’t Turn Lemons into Lemonade – Understanding Louisiana’s Lemon Law

Buying a new car can be exciting. Choosing all your options, waiting for the delivery, and then finally dropping off your old junker that has been giving you problems, and driving off the lot in problem-free new car. But what do you do when you discover that your problem-free new car isn’t exactly problem-free? Contact an attorney. Just kidding…

You don’t need to get a lawyer involved just yet. But, you do need to know the law, because the dealerships sure do and they will use it to their advantage. So what do you need to know?

First, everything mentioned below has to happen within one year of the purchase date or while the car is covered under a warranty, whichever ends first. For example, if you have a 36 month warranty, the one year period applies; but if you have a 6 month warranty, the warranty period applies.

You can take advantage of Louisiana’s Lemon Law if the car is out of service by reason of a repair for a cumulative total of at least 90 days (disclaimer: there is a discrepancy in the statutes where one says 45 days, and another says 90, but just to be safe, let’s go with 90) or if the car has been brought in for repair for the same malfunction 4 or more times. If either of these happens, you have a lemon, and upon notice to the dealership and manufacturer the dealer can choose whether to replace your car with a comparable new one, or take the car back and provide you a full refund less a reasonable allowance for the use of the car.

What if the dealership doesn’t cooperate and follow the law? Now you get an attorney, because the clock is ticking to file a lawsuit. There are two provisions in the law that usually incentivize the dealerships to settle with you once you have an attorney. First, if a court decides that the car is a lemon, the dealer must post a warning in all capital letters on the car if it wants to re-sell it: “IMPORTANT:  THIS VEHICLE WAS RETURNED TO THE MANUFACTURER OR DEALER BECAUSE IT DID NOT CONFORM TO ITS WARRANTY AND THE DEFECT OR CONDITION WAS NOT FIXED WITHIN THE TIME PROVIDED BY LOUISIANA LAW.” This should provide an incentive for the dealers to negotiate without too much fuss and accept the lemon car back without the need for formalities. Second, the law mandates that the dealer must pay your attorney’s fees if you have to take the dealer to court and you win a judgment.

Remember when I told you that the dealers know the law and use it to their advantage? Have you ever taken a car in for repairs and been told that they will need to order a part, but that the car is safe to drive in the meantime? That is one of the tactics they use so that the car is not “out of service” for more than 90 days. So, you should let them know that you don’t feel comfortable driving the car in its current condition and leave it at the dealership until the repairs are completed.

But what are you supposed to drive? The law is, again, on your side. When your car is at the dealer for repairs, the dealer must provide you with a replacement vehicle or reimburse you $20 per day for a rental if either (1) the repair period exceeds ten work days; or (2) the car has been brought in for repair for the same malfunction on 2 previous occasions. And again, if they fail to do this they have to pay your attorney’s fees plus reimburse you for the rental by paying you the actual cost of the rental or $200 (whichever is more).

Now that you know the law, you can negotiate with the dealership in confidence. And once they realize that you know the law, they will be less likely to take advantage of you.