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When a car turns into a West Virginia lemon

If you think the car you bought is turning out to be a lemon, you have reason to hope West Virginia’s “lemon law” will be on your side. Our state’s law protecting you from defective cars is ranked a respectable 14th on a list of lemon laws from all 50 states.

The list is from the Center for Auto Safety, which assigns rankings by the strength of state protections for consumers. Our position at number 14 places us just ahead of Massachusetts, Minnesota and Iowa.

Lemons are defined by law

You could say that a car becomes a lemon in West Virginia by fitting the criteria given in West Virginia’s Lemon Law. So, if your complaints about your car purchase have remedies described in our lemon law, then you’ve purchased a lemon.

There are also federal lemon laws that, in some cases, may help protect West Virginians in situations not covered by the state. If your car isn’t a lemon by Charleston’s standards, Washington might come to the rescue.

First, what is a car?

A West Virginia lemon must be a “passenger automobile” sold in West Virginia. To this law, passenger automobiles include pickup trucks and vans up to 8,000 pounds as well as most RVs and even farming tractors with 35 horsepower or more.

What are the tell-tale signs?

The car is supposed to work the way it should. That is, it’s supposed to “conform” to its warranties. If it doesn’t, the automaker (or an authorized dealer) needs to be given “a reasonable number of attempts” to make it conform or to “replace the new motor vehicle with a comparable new motor vehicle which does conform.”

If this still leaves you with “substantial impairment to the use or market value” of the car, then you have a genuine lemon on your hands, and you might have the ability of file a civil suit under the lemon law.

What can a court do about your lemon?

If the manufacturer has had plenty of chances to remedy your car’s problems, you can file suit. The law permits the court, if it sees fit, to make the manufacturer give you:

  • The purchase price, sales tax, license and registration fees (or, barring these, damages for diminished value of the car).
  • The cost of repairs needed to make the car conform.
  • Payment for not being able to use the car, annoyance or inconvenience, cost of alternate transportation.
  • Attorney fees.

Neither the manufacturer, nor the auto dealership, nor the judge will help you decide whether the car company has done enough, whether you’ve given them enough of a chance to repair the car or, if you’re not yet satisfied, the appropriate amount you should collect in damages. If you’ve got a lemon and want to do something about it, you should contact an experienced and dedicated lemon-law attorney.

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