Is it okay to drive a car while we determine if it falls under lemon law?

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Jeffrey Johnson is a legal writer with a focus on personal injury. He has worked on personal injury and sovereign immunity litigation in addition to experience in family, estate, and criminal law. He earned a J.D. from the University of Baltimore and has worked in legal offices and non-profits in Maryland, Texas, and North Carolina. He has also earned an MFA in screenwriting from Chapman Univer...

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UPDATED: Jul 16, 2021

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If you find yourself in possession of a vehicle that falls under the lemon law (a vehicle found defective after purchase), you may still need to use the vehicle for transportation while the mediation and/or legal action is taking place. Many people are unsure whether or not they’re allowed to do this. The answer is yes, under lemon law, in most situations, there will not be a problem should you continue using the vehicle.

While you can drive a “lemon,” there are a few stipulations to keep in mind. One, if the vehicle is unsafe to drive, you should not continue to drive it. This seems like it would be self-explanatory, but many people will drive a vehicle knowing that doing so may cause damage due to some defect, but they mistakenly believe the manufacturer will be liable. This is not necessarily the case. If you knowingly drive a vehicle that should not be driven, you can still be held liable for accidents or damage to the vehicle that results, even if the damage was caused by the defect in the first place.

Should your lemon law case conclude with the manufacturer being required to take the car back and refund you your money, that refund will not be based on your original purchase price. It will be based on a calculated amount meant to represent the car’s current value. How this is calculated varies by state, but in most cases it is related to how often the car was driven and for how long, as well as the car’s condition. Therefore, you should be aware that if there is a chance of your lemon law case ending in a refund, any damage you do to the vehicle in the interim may result in a smaller pay-out.

To make sure you protect your rights in a lemon law case, consult with an experienced attorney who can provide you with advice and guidance. 

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