Under South Dakota Lemon Law, prior to pursuing a Lemon Law claim in court, you must notify the manufacturer in writing of the problem and give them a final opportunity to repair the vehicle.
You must also participate in the manufacturer's informal dispute resolution process (if one exists) before you are eligible to file a Lemon Law claim in court. If you do file a lawsuit, you must do so within three years of the original delivery date of the vehicle.
Wherever you are in the Lemon Law claim process, 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 if you go to court; the law says that the car manufacturer has to pay your attorney's fees in successful Lemon Law claims.
Typically, a manufacturer's dispute resolution process involves an arbitration hearing.
In the hearing, an arbitrator who is trained and experienced in dealing with Lemon Law claims 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 can bring and question witnesses. You should 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; 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.
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.
If you decide to hire a lemon attorney, it's likely that your case will proceed to court. The litigation process is usually divided into several stages, and your lawyer will do most of the heavy lifting for you.
To avoid the delays and expenses associated with litigation, lawyers usually try to resolve most cases before going to trial. If a consumer doesn't have an attorney, most manufacturers don't resolve consumer complaints in the hope that the consumer won't pursue his or her case. Once you hire a lemon lawyer, however, manufacturers understand that they will ultimately be responsible for your attorney's fees, and so many settle cases before litigation even begins.
If no satisfactory settlement is reached, litigation will begin. Read more.