What is Utah’s Lemon Law, and How Does it Apply to Consumers Who Have Bought Defective Vehicles?
Discovering that your shiny new car has a serious defect is a frustrating (and expensive) experience. However, if the car qualifies as a “lemon,” you may be entitled to compensation or a replacement vehicle. You may also be entitled to compensation if the defect caused you to have a car accident or suffer an injury. Salt Lake City auto defect lawyer Darwin Overson explains how and when Utah’s lemon laws apply to consumers, and offers tips on what to do if you or a loved one purchased a lemon or was injured by an automotive defect.
What Makes a Car Qualify as a Lemon in Utah?
The Utah Division of Consumer Protection broadly defines a “lemon” as “a new automobile or motor home with significant defects that can’t be repaired.” However, in order to truly be considered a lemon under state law, a defective vehicle must also meet specific criteria. These criteria, which are rooted in lemon laws contained under Utah’s New Motor Vehicle Warranties Act (found under Chapter 20 of Title 13 of the Utah Code), are listed below.
- The car, truck, SUV, or other type of vehicle must have been bought in the state of Utah. If you now live in Utah but purchased your vehicle in another state, please refer to that state’s lemon laws, which may be very different.
- The vehicle must be new. Utah’s lemon law does not apply to used vehicles.
- The vehicle must be under warranty.
- The vehicle must weigh under 12,000 pounds. The weight limit is unlikely to be a problem, since most passenger vehicles weigh somewhere between 2,000 and 5,000 pounds.
- The vehicle must have either:
- Been sent to the manufacturer for repairs of the defect a minimum of four times.
- Been out of service for the consumer for 30 days out of the first year in the vehicle’s warranty period.
- The defect must be significant enough to “substantially impair the use, market value or safety of the vehicle.” A tiny scratch or dent, for example, is a minor aesthetic imperfection that does not qualify the vehicle as a lemon under Utah’s lemon laws.
- The defect must have been caused by a manufacturing error or other type of error. It cannot have come from “abuse, neglect or unauthorized modifications.”
- A consumer who suspects they have purchased a lemon must agree to go through the arbitration or dispute settlement process outlined by the manufacturer.
If all of these criteria have been met, and the defect is still persisting, the consumer may (and should) file a complaint with the Utah Division of Consumer Protection, which is part of the Department of Commerce. Importantly, under Utah Code § 13-20-6(1), “An action may be commenced by a consumer only after the claim has been investigated and evaluated by the [D]ivision [of Consumer Protection].”
If the vehicle is confirmed as a lemon by the Division of Consumer Protection, the consumer is entitled to a refund or replacement. An attorney can help you seek restitution at this stage of the process.
Hurt by a Defective Car Part? Contact a Salt Lake Auto Defect Injury Lawyer
It’s bad enough to be financially inconvenienced by a defective vehicle – but in the worst case scenario, vehicle defects can lead to serious or even fatal injuries.
A clear example of the dangers of automotive defects can be seen in the ongoing Takata airbag recall, which began nearly a decade ago after it was discovered that Takata airbags – which are found in tens of millions of foreign and domestic vehicles – could violently explode. This causes shards of shrapnel to be forcefully propelled at the chests, throats, and faces of drivers and passengers, which can cause lacerations, puncture wounds, facial injuries, neck injuries, abdominal injuries, permanent scarring, and head or brain injuries.
Takata airbags are installed in cars from nearly every popular brand, and for many brands, numerous models are affected. As of September 2016, over 100 people have been injured by exploding Takata airbags, while at least 10 instances of wrongful death have been attributed to the defect. The massive recall is unprecedented in scope, affecting approximately 100 million vehicles to date.
A General Motors ignition switch defect has led to another large-scale recall in recent years. While the Takata recall has affected more vehicles, the GM ignition switch defect has produced more injuries and fatalities, injuring 275 people and tragically claiming 124 lives. In vehicles that are affected by the defect, the faulty ignition switch can turn off the engine while the car is being driven, which means the airbags will not inflate when an accident occurs. Roughly 30 million vehicles are included in the GM ignition switch recall.
If you or one of your family members was injured by a defective car part or defective vehicle in Utah, you may be able to recover compensation. An experienced Salt Lake City product liability attorney can help. To set up a free legal consultation with a Utah car accident lawyer, call the law offices of Overson Law at (801) 895-3143 today.