Have you had nothing but problems with your new vehicle? Does it spend more time in the shop than on the road? If you think that you may have purchased a lemon from a Wisconsin auto dealer, there are consumer protections available. Whether you bought a Kia Rio that’s gone kerplunk or a Ford Focus that’s flopped, the Wisconsin Lemon Law may apply to your car.
Does the Wisconsin Lemon Law apply to me?
The Wisconsin Department of Transportation has interpreted the Wisconsin Lemon Law statutes by identifying the key elements that comprise a lemon for legal purposes. Each of these five criteria must apply to your situation in order for the Lemon Law to protect you.
1. The vehicle must have been purchased or leased from a dealer in the state of Wisconsin. If you are a resident of Wisconsin but purchased your vehicle in a bordering state like Illinois or Minnesota, then you will need to pursue that state’s lemon laws.
2. The vehicle must fit one of four categories. In addition to cars and trucks, the law covers motorcycles and motor homes. While terms like “car” and “truck” are usually obvious, you may want to consult an attorney if you have questions about what counts as a “motor home” or a “motorcycle” for the purposes of the Wisconsin Lemon Law. In these days of mopeds and motorized scooters, for example, you may want to get clarification about what you own. Chances are that your moped is not considered a legal vehicle in this context.
3. The vehicle developed at least one defect during the 12 months after the purchase date, AND the warranty addressing that type of defect has not yet expired. It is important that both of these time-based criteria are applied. If your car is still under warranty but the problem developed in the car’s second year, the Wisconsin Lemon Law will not apply.
4. The defect or defects in question significantly affect(s) the use, safety, or value of the vehicle. Often these three are related, but they need not all apply for the Lemon Law to protect you. For example, if a defect affects your ability to use the car but is not related to its safety on the road, that’s okay.
5. One of two situations must apply. Either the dealer was notified of a defect and was unable after four separate tries to repair it OR the vehicle could not be used for a total of at least 30 days.
These statements in Number 5 require some further explanation. In the first instance, the dealer must attempt to fix the SAME defect four times unsuccessfully. For example, if your Saturn Ion has two different problems, each of which required three distinct trips to the dealer before resolution, the condition would not be met. Even though you may have experienced four unsuccessful attempts total (two for each defect), this is not enough to satisfy the Lemon Law Requirements, as the four unsuccessful repair attempts must be for the same defect.
In the second instance, the 30 days may be cumulative. They need not be consecutive. If your vehicle is out of commission due to a defect and the total amount of time is greater then 30 days (i.e., several days here and there for a grand total of 30), the Wisconsin Lemon Law will still apply.
[The above is merely a general restatement of existing state statutes along with some basic analysis. It does not fully describe all details, and it should not be use relied upon without further inquiry. You should consult an attorney to determine more definitively whether the Wisconsin Lemon Law applies to your vehicle. Nothing in this article should be construed as official legal advice.]
I’ve determined that my Lemon vehicle is covered by the Wisconsin statues. Now what?
You may be able to handle the Lemon issue directly with the vehicle manufacturer. If you’ve kept all your records from the purchase, as well as all the maintenance paperwork from the dealer, you can easily use a special form provided by the Wisconsin Department of Transportation to request a replacement vehicle or a refund calculated under the statutory provisions. You are not required to use this “Demand for Relief” form; however, it is a neat and convenient way to organize your request and send it to a manufacturer. You may download the PDF version of this form from www.dot.wisconsin.gov.
If you are not able to obtain a replacement vehicle or a refund, or you believe you did not receive a fair shake during the process, you may wish to consult an attorney. It’s best to locate a Wisconsin attorney who specializes in Lemon Law cases. The following law offices consider Lemon Law cases to be a significant portion of their caseload:
1. Krohn & Moss, Ltd.
www.yourlemonlawrights.com (click on the Wisconsin link)
2. Lisko & Erspamer, S.C.
Sunset Plaza, Suite 201
W229 N1433 Westwood Drive
3. Kmiec Law Office
3741 West National Ave.
4. Jastroch & Labarge, S.C.
640 West Moreland Blvd.