Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Arbitration Clauses - Don't Sign Away Your Legal Rights!

Arbitration Clauses - Don't Sign Away Your Legal Rights!

When purchasing a used car, truck, or motorcycle, don't sign away your legal rights!  Most car dealers today have an arbitration clause and/or jury waiver included in your stack of sales documents when they sell you a used vehicle.  It may be included on the front or back of your sales contract, often in small print, or in a completely separate document.

What is an arbitration clause and why shouldn't you sign one?  By signing an arbitration clause, you are agreeing with the car dealer that if you have problems with your vehicle, you will not file a lawsuit in Court, but you will instead file your claims with a private arbitration company.  This means that instead of having your case decided by a jury in a courtroom, your case will be decided in a conference room by an arbitrator paid for by the business.  In fact, many arbitration clauses actually require you to the arbitration fees and sometime the attorney fees of the dealership if you lose.  Worst yet, the arbitrator is not required to apply the rules of evidence, or Ohio law, and the arbitrator's decision will likely be enforced in most cases whether or not the arbitrator actually followed the law.  In the end, the arbitration process can actually take longer and cost you more money than if you had simply filed your claims in Court.  So, even if you win the arbitration and eventually get it enforced in Court, you are likely to have a long, hard fight to get from point A to point B.  This means more time with a defective vehicle.  

What is a jury waiver and why shouldn't you sign one?  By signing a jury waiver, you are agreeing with the car dealer that if you have problems with your vehicle, you can file a  lawsuit but that a judge and no a jury will decide your case.  While juries can be unpredictable, they are often your best bet in auto fraud cases involving concealed defects and or frame damage because they can relate to you and the situation that you were placed in by the car dealer.         

In the end, the best way to avoid an arbitration clause or jury waiver is not to sign one, but if you have already signed one, don't lose hope.  Depending on the language of the arbitration clause or jury waiver, you may still be able to get your claims into court and/or before a jury.  If you think that you may have claims against a local dealer, but signed an arbitration clause or jury waiver, consult a local attorney before giving up hope.

On the other hand, if you are about to purchase a used vehicle, then beware!  Pay attention to all of the documents that you sign, because you could be signing away your legal rights without even knowing it.  

Beth Wells
Helping Consumers Get Rid of Lemons, 9 Years Running

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Car Repair for the Female Consumer- Part 7: Contacting an Attorney

Get Beth Wells for Your Lemon Law Case
And Get Justice
If you have repeatedly taken your vehicle in for repair like we talked about before, but the defect has still not been fixed, then you may want to consider contacting an attorney who specializes in new and used motor vehicle lemon law in your state. 

For a nationwide listing of consumer law attorneys by state, click here.

If you bought your car in Ohio, click here and let me know about it - I'll get right to work to help you get rid of your lemon!

Beth Wells
Helping Consumers Get Rid of Lemons, 9 Years Running

Car Repair for the Female Consumer- Part 6: Returning for Repair

Step 6: Returning for Repair

When you return to the dealership for your next appointment, again follow the steps outlined in parts 2, 3, 4, and 5.   If you did any internet research on the NHTSA website, bring that with you, too. Make sure that the repair order references the previous repair attempt for the same defect, and any online research material which you have presented to the dealership.

Beth Wells
Helping Consumers Get Rid of Lemons, 9 Years Running

Car Repair for the Female Consumer- Part 5: Continuing to Document the Unrepaired Defect

Step 5: Continuing to Document the Unrepaired Defect

If the defect is not fixed, call the dealer right back and make another appointment. In the meantime, continue to document the defect in your defect diary, and in photographs or videos.

You may also want to go online to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration ("NHTSA") website to search for any service bulletins, safety recalls, defect investigations, or consumer complaints that are similar to the defect or defects which you are experiencing.

A service bulletin is a manufacturer’s repair for a known defect in a vehicle line which is issued to the manufacturer’s authorized dealers. 

A safety recall is a notice issued to a consumer by a manufacturer for repair of a safety defect in a particular line of vehicles. Consumer complaints can be initiated by other consumers to NHTSA regarding a defect or problem that the consumer is having with their vehicle. 

A defect investigation is initiated by NHTSA when it receives repeated consumer complaints regarding the same defect or problem which is considered a safety risk.

Once you are on the NHTSA website, you can search by year, make, and model of vehicle, or make a consumer complaint.

Beth Wells
Helping Consumers Get Rid of Lemons, 9 Years Running

Car Repair for the Female Consumer - Part 4: Picking up the Vehicle & Verifying Repairs

Step 4: Picking up the Vehicle & Verifying Repairs

When you pick up the vehicle, you will be asked to sign a repair invoice at the time of payment. Look carefully over the invoice– the mechanic’s notes should be included below each defect listed, explaining what repairs were done, if any. 

 If you have any questions, ask to speak with the service advisor or the mechanic. And, if the mechanic notes state either "no problem found" (NPF) or "could not duplicate" (CND) and the mechanic has not listed any repairs performed, but you provided a video or photograph verifying the defect, ask to speak with the service advisor and insist that the dealer keep the vehicle and perform repairs.  

After picking the vehicle up, drive the vehicle under the circumstances which the defect or defects have previously occurred. If the defect is fixed, then congratulations! If not, then continue to the next step below and take the vehicle back to the dealer for repair.

Beth Wells
Helping Consumers Get Rid of Lemons, 9 Years Running

Car Repair for the Female Consumer- Part 3: Dropping the Vehicle off for Repair

Step 3: Dropping the Vehicle off for Repair

On the day of the appointment, make sure to bring your defect diary with you to the dealer, as well as any photographs or videos. When you arrive at the dealer, the service advisor greeting you will most likely have a repair order ready for you to sign based on the information you previously provided by telephone.   

Whether the repair order is already complete or is completed at the time of your arrival, read it over carefully to make sure that every defect and every circumstance is listed before signing it. If you have a photograph or video, make sure that it is referenced on the repair order as well. Take your time and don’t let the service advisor rush you. If there is anything missing, ask the service advisor to add that information and reprint the repair order. Remember, the repair order is your only direct contact with the mechanic, and the more information you give the mechanic, the more likely the repairs will be successful.

Beth Wells
Helping Consumers Get Rid of Lemons, 9 Years Running

Car Repair for the Female Consumer - Part 2: Making the Appointment

Step 1: Making the Appointment

Most dealers won’t accept your vehicle for repair if you just stop by the shop expecting to drop your vehicle off. Instead, you will need to call your local dealer beforehand in order to set up an appointment. When you call, have your diary with you so that you can best explain the symptoms that you are experiencing and the circumstances under which the defect or defects most often occur. And, if you have any photographs or videos, then mention those to the individual that you speak with at the dealer. 

Some manufacturers will not allow dealers to make repairs under warranty unless they can verify the defect, so providing a photograph or video to the mechanic will help to verify the defect for the mechanic and for that reason should be noted on the repair order.

Beth Wells
Helping Consumers Get Rid of Lemons, 9 Years Running

Sunday, April 8, 2012

Car Repair for the Female Consumer - Part 1: Documenting the Defect

Are you a female consumer sick and tired of how you are being treated when you take your car into the shop for repairs?  Then follow my 8 part blog!  I'll give you some helpful hints for getting your car repaired and getting the respect that you deserve at the dealership.

Step 1: Documenting the Defect
The keys to identifying the cause of a motor vehicle defect are to be able to describe the defect to the mechanic in a way that he will understand, and to be able to identify under what circumstances the defect most often occurs. The best way to do this is to keep a notepad and pen in the vehicle. When you experience the defect, note the time, the mileage, the temperature, how long the engine has been running, what speed you are going, whether you are accelerating, at idle, or turning, and how long the defect occurs.

Additionally, if the defect is something that can be seen visually, then you may also want to take a video or photograph of the defect which you can present to the service adviser when you take the vehicle into the shop for repairs.

Your defect diary, photograph, and/or video should arm you with the information that you need for a successful repair, and make it much more likely that you will be taken seriously when you take your vehicle into the shop for repairs.

Beth Wells
Helping Consumers Get Rid of Lemons, 9 Years Running

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Thinking of upgrading your brand new motorcycle? Think again!

Thinking of upgrading or personalizing your brand new motorcycle?  If it is still under warranty, think again.  

More often than not, if you end up having problems with your bike that the authorized dealer cannot fix, the manufacturer will blame the problems on the non OEM add-on and possibly void your warranty.  And, you typically cannot trust the authorized dealer when they tell you that the part won't void your warranty, because the manufacturer is unlikely to stand behind its dealer when it comes down to it.  In fact, when push comes to shove, most bike manufacturers don't care if you are a loyal customer-- they will void your warranty in a heartbeat to avoid admitting that they built a defective product.

Still set on purchasing and installing that non OEM part or accessory on your brand new bike?  Here are some tips:

1. Take a look at your bike warranty.  Most bike manufacturers have warranty exclusions for racing parts, non OEM parts, or parts that cause the bike to exceed local emissions requirements, etc.  See what your warrant excludes.  Then, contact the manufacturer of the non OEM part or visit their website.  Does that part fit into any of your warranty exclusions?

2. Contact the manufacturer of your bike.  Ask them about the non OEM part and if installation will affect your warranty.  If they tell you that installation will not affect your warranty, then be sure to get it in writing.

3. Have the authorized dealer install the part.  This way if the manufacturer later argues that the part was not properly installed, it is their own dealer that is to blame and not you.

4. The best bet is always to wait until your warranty expires.

Unfortunately, most bike manufacturers these days will not stand behind their product or support a loyal customer if doing so means taking a financial loss.  So, before installing an add-on onto your brand new bike, think long and hard-- you could be left with a bike that doesn't run and a warranty that is void.

Beth Wells
Helping Consumers Get Rid of Lemons, 9 Years Running