Under Massachusetts Lemon Law there are three ways to gain relief: go to court, go to mediation, or go to arbitration. It is generally in your best interests 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 if you go to court; the law says that the car manufacturer has to pay your attorney’s fees in successful Lemon Law claims.
Mediation requires both your consent and that of the manufacturer and/or dealer. Consumer Affairs offers a mediation program for Lemon Law disputes, or you can use an independent mediator.
If you choose to go it alone and opt for arbitration, you can download a form available through the Office of Consumer Affairs and Business Regulation website and send the completed form and three collated copies of the application and all required attachments to state officials. The officials will determine whether or not you have a valid Lemon Law claim.
A hearing will be scheduled between 21 and 45 days from the date your arbitration application has been accepted. You will be notified of the date, time, and location of your hearing, and will have at least three weeks to prepare your case.
The arbitrator is trained and experienced in dealing with Lemon Law claims and will preside over your hearing. Both you and a representative from the manufacturer speak before the arbitrator. You will speak first. The attorneys for the manufacturer can question you; when the attorneys for the manufacturer speak, you can question them. You must bring your vehicle to the hearing unless it is inoperable or unsafe to drive.
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; an odometer reading; copies of correspondence with the dealer and/or manufacturer; statements from mechanics or other experts; statements from witnesses; appraisals or estimates of the resale value of the vehicle with its defects; proof that the manufacturer has had the opportunity for one final attempt at repair; and a variety of financial records. It is also important that you have your records in chronological order and ready to present to the arbitrator in an organized fashion.
In an Massachusetts Lemon Law Arbitration, you must prove to the arbitrator that the claims you are making are true, and that the defect negatively impacts the use, market value, or safety of the vehicle. 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.
You will receive a notification in the mail on the outcome of your hearing, typically within 45 days of the acceptance of your request for arbitration. It will outline whether or not your vehicle meets the standards for a refund or replacement. If so, it will include a calculation of the monetary award, which can include:
The amount of the monetary reward may be reduced by a deduction for the total mileage on the vehicle. This amount is calculated by dividing the total contract price by 100,000 and multiplying that amount by the mileage driven since delivery. For motorcycles, the use allowance is calculated by dividing the contract price by 25,000. The award may also be reduced by the total amount of dealer allowances and rebates or settlements.
Costs that are not recoverable through arbitration are attorney’s fees, excise tax, state automobile insurance, time lost from work, and emotional distress.
The manufacturer must pay within 21 days, offer a replacement vehicle, or appeal the decision.