Massachusetts Lemon Law: Did You Know…?

Posted by Sergei Lemberg, Esq. on August 22nd, 2008

Did you know that Massachusetts has two laws that protect consumers if they have a lemon? First, there’s the Massachusetts Lemon Law (Chapter 90, Section 7N1/2. Then, there’s the MA Consumer Protection Act (Chapter 93A) that covers unfair or deceptive practices on the part of merchants. If you have a lemon, it’s automatically considered an unfair or deceptive practice.

But what defines a lemon under MA Lemon Law? First, the car’s defects have to affect the use, safety, or value of the vehicle – so cosmetic problems don’t count. Second, you have to have taken the vehicle in three times for the same problem or you car has to have been out of service for 15 or more business days due to a series of unrelated problems. And, in a requirement that’s often overlooked by consumers, you have to notify the manufacturer of the problem and give them one final opportunity to repair the vehicle.

A-Plus Advocate Bob Kraft

Posted by Sergei Lemberg, Esq. on August 22nd, 2008

By definition, all attorneys advocate on behalf of their clients. But once in awhile an attorney comes along who gives a whole new meaning to the word “advocacy.” Dallas attorney Bob Kraft is one of those people. His blog’s tongue-in-cheek name, “Bob Kraft’s P.I.S.S.D” (it stands for Personal Injury, Social Security Disability) belies his passion for sounding off about the ways disabled and injured people get stepped on by the government and insurance companies.

From appeals to support the Muscular Dystrophy Association to information about state requirements for disability license plates, Bob covers a wide variety of issues. His insightful commentary on the health insurance crisis in Texas and on the necessity of increasing funding for the Consumer Product Safety Commission is a sure sign that he’s squarely aligned with consumers. Whether you’re looking for specific information on fibromyalgia or veterans affairs, or just want to stay in the loop about a number of interesting topics, P.I.S.S.D. is a great place to start.

Diminished Value: What You Need to Know

Posted by Sergei Lemberg, Esq. on August 21st, 2008

If you’ve ever been in an accident – even one where no one was injured – you know what a hassle it is to deal with insurance companies, get your car repaired, and get your claim paid. But the truth is that, even if the body shop does a great job in restoring your car so it looks as good as new, it simply isn’t worth as much as an identical car that’s never been in an accident. With resources like CARFAX, people who are in the market for a used car can find out that yours has been in a wreck, and as a result, expect to pay less.

The difference between the market price of a vehicle that’s been in an accident and one that hasn’t is known in the insurance industry as “diminished value.” What you may not know is that, if you weren’t at fault in the accident, in many states, the other driver’s insurance company should compensate you for that diminished value.

Here’s the twist: Diminished value claims are a lot like Lemon Law claims. Just as car manufacturers make you jump through hoops, put up roadblocks, and try to get out of paying Lemon Law claims, insurance companies use loopholes and roadblocks to get out of paying diminished value claims. Like Lemon Law claims, you can try to file a diminished value claim yourself, but it’s worth it to let the professionals handle it.

Every insurance company has a different procedure for handling diminished value claims, yet the burden of proof is always on you. There are online services that will, for a fee, send you a report or do a vehicle inspection substantiating your car’s diminished value, but you’ll still have to fight the insurance company yourself.

There is a company that I’ve run across that will file and settle your claim for you – and won’t charge a dime unless they get the insurance company to pay. Advocate Auto Claims will give you a free diminished value estimate, and answer any questions you might have about diminished value. Plus, they have a staff of licensed adjustors who can initiate, substantiate, process, negotiate, and settle your diminished value claim.

If, in the past four years, you’ve been in an accident that wasn’t your fault, your vehicle sustained more than $1,000 in damage, and your car’s worth more than $5,000, it’s definitely worth it to pursue a diminished value claim.

Predatory Lending Targets Native Americans

Posted by Sergei Lemberg, Esq. on August 20th, 2008

My blogging friend, Professor Robert Miller, the author of Native America, Discovered and Conquered, recently blogged about the insidious problem of predatory lenders targeting Native Americans. He highlighted a story in Indian Country Today that reported on a hearing of the U.S. Senate Committee on Indian Affairs into predatory lending practices.

Elsie Meeks, who wrote the piece, recounted that she was invited to testify as a consumer advocate before the Committee. She writes:

… days before the hearing, pressure from the payday lending industry prevented that from happening.

I am willing to bet that if you asked a hundred random people if they thought an annual interest rate of 350 percent is predatory, they would say, ”Of course!” Unfortunately, rates of 350 percent per annum are on the low side of the average rates charged by payday lenders. Credit cards that are charging 29.95 percent are thought of as predatory, but seem favorable when compared to payday lending rates of 350 percent.

Meeks advocates that tribal governments step up ongoing efforts to offer programs to promote financial education opportunities, and that Native groups offer consumer loan products with reasonable interest rates. She writes:

In the meantime, the best ”fix” to combat these predatory practices is to pass legislation that would limit the interest rates of payday lenders. Congress did pass legislation that limits the interest rate that payday lenders can charge to military personnel to 35 percent. This shows that Congress understands and acknowledges that some consumers are more likely to fall victim to predators than others.

That makes sense to us. All consumers, including Native Americans, fall prey to unscrupulous lending practices, as is becoming more and more evident with the unravelling of the real estate bubble. Thanks, Prof. Miller, for highlighting this important issue in your blog, and keep up the good fight!

Connecticut Lemon Law: Did You Know…?

Posted by Sergei Lemberg, Esq. on August 20th, 2008

When it comes to Lemon Law, a little information goes a long way. Did you know that Lemon Law in Connecticut dictates that, in order to be considered a “lemon,” the vehicle must have defects that affect the use, safety, or value of the vehicle? These defects must have occurred within the first two years of the original owner’s delivery date or the first 24,000 miles on the odometer (whichever comes first).

In addition, the law requires that the vehicle has been taken in for repair four times for the same problem (or two times if the defect is life-endangering), or has been out of service for 30 days for a series of unrelated problems.