Under Connecticut Lemon Law there are two ways to gain relief: go to court or go to arbitration. It is generally in your best interest to have an attorney represent you. After all, vehicle manufacturers have teams of lawyers that do nothing but fight Lemon Law claims. As you consider your options, imagine the difference between going up against a team of lawyers on your own, versus having a Lemon Law attorney speak on your behalf. Also keep in mind that being represented by a Lemon Law attorney won’t cost you a dime; the law says that the car manufacturer has to pay your attorney’s fees in successful Lemon Law claims.
If you choose to go it alone, you can download a form available through the Attorney General’s website [link to http://www.ct.gov/dcp/lib/dcp/pdf/october2007_application_for_lemon_law.pdf] and send the completed form and a $50 fee to state officials. You may also be required to notify the manufacturer that you have filed a claim for arbitration. You should check the driver’s manual that came with your new car for more information.
If you are leasing your new vehicle, you must notify the leasing company that you are going to arbitration. The notification must be in written form and it must be sent via certified mail to ensure that the letter was received. You must also include a copy of the letter that you are going to send to the leasing company along with your arbitration application and your $50 processing fee.
The arbitration panel is made up of three arbitrators who are experienced in dealing with Lemon Law claims. The fourth member of the panel is an automotive expert. The panel is comprised of volunteers, but they have had training in hearing Lemon Law claims.
There is still one final hurdle you must overcome to have your case heard by the arbitration panel. While it is rare, it is possible that the panel will rule your case ineligible, even though it passed initial screening. If this happens, your processing fee will be returned to you.Finally, when you originally fill out your arbitration processing paperwork, you must choose between two different types of arbitration hearings. There is an oral hearing and a documentary hearing. While it is not always the case, the oral hearing often moves at a faster pace than the documentary hearing.
An oral hearing is similar to a trial. Both you (or your Lemon Law attorney) and a representative from the manufacturer speak before the arbitration panel. Typically, you (or your attorney) will speak first. The attorneys for the manufacturer can question you (or your attorney); when the attorneys for the manufacturer speak, you (or your attorney) can question them. You should bring your car to the hearing so that the automotive expert member can inspect it if the attorneys for the manufacturer make such a request. Remember that CT Lemon Law provides for attorney’s fees for consumers in arbitration hearings, so you can hire a lawyer and expect that the manufacturer will have to pay the bill if you succeed.
While the arbitration hearing is less formal than an actual court proceeding, you need to come prepared to present your case. You will need the records that outline all of the work done on your car and all of the diagnosed problems. It is also important that you have your records in chronological order and ready to present to the panel in an organized fashion.
You must prove to the panel that the claims you are making are true. It is absolutely vital that you bring proof of each and every point you plan on making. A “he-said-she-said” argument will never result in a ruling in your favor.The documentary hearing is not done in person. Instead, you and the manufacturer file paperwork with the state, including a sworn affidavit that goes over your case point by point. You will receive copies of the manufacturers’ statements so that you can respond to them, and those responses will also be sent to the state so that the arbitration panel can review them. The arbitration panel makes it decision based on the paperwork submitted; neither side can present oral testimony. You may, however, be present when the case is decided. It is possible that an inspection will be ordered; if so, it will be scheduled at a later date when all parties can be present.
If no satisfactory settlement is reached, litigation will begin.