State arbitration is a process that is available to you and the manufacturer in a Lemon Law dispute. Each of the parties is allowed to present its side of the story in a structured but informal manner. You, as the consumer, have the burden of convincing the arbitration panel that you, your vehicle and the defect are covered by the law, that you followed all the required steps, and that you are entitled to either the repurchase or replacement of your vehicle.
To be eligible, you must submit the completed application form to Georgia Department of Law's Consumer Protection Unit within one (1) year of the expiration of your Lemon Law rights period, or within 60 days from the conclusion of a certified informal dispute program proceeding, whichever occurs later. Call for an application from Georgia Department of Law's Consumer Protection Unit at 404-651-9397; complete and return it as soon as possible. Remember, you can only request state-operated arbitration if you have completed the applicable steps.
Along with your application, Georgia Department of Law's Consumer Protection Unit requires certain documents from you to verify your preliminary eligibility for a state-run arbitration hearing. Be sure to attach copies (not the originals) of any documents that help prove your claim. Keep your original documents, as you will need them for your hearing.
Georgia Department of Law's Consumer Protection Unit will review the application to determine whether you have met the requirements and, if so, will submit your application to a state-operated arbitration panel. If Georgia Department of Law's Consumer Protection Unit finds problems with your application, we will notify you.
If you submit a timely application after completing the previous steps and your dispute is deemed eligible for state arbitration, you should know that:
- If you leased your new motor vehicle, you will have to notify the leasing company (to whom you are making payments) that your dispute was accepted for state arbitration. The panel will send you information on this requirement and a form for you to complete and mail to the leasing company.
- An arbitration hearing will be scheduled at a reasonably convenient location within 40 days from the date your dispute was deemed eligible. The panel will notify you of the time, date and location of the hearing. The hearing will be held within 120 miles of your residence, if you reside in Georgia.
- Either one arbitrator or three arbitrators will be assigned to hear your case. The arbitrator will either be an attorney licensed to practice law in Georgia or an individual with at least two years’ experience in professional arbitration or dispute resolution. The arbitrator will not be affiliated with the manufacture, distribution, sale, lease or servicing of motor vehicles.
- Between the time your application is submitted and the hearing takes place, you and the manufacturer must exchange information on state-approved forms. Georgia Department of Law's Consumer Protection Unit will furnish you these forms, including instructions and deadlines.
- At your hearing, you will need to bring all relevant documents. You are not required to have an attorney present, although this is permissible. You may bring witnesses. A representative of the vehicle manufacturer will be present and may present evidence. Your vehicle should be present for the arbitrator(s) to observe the defect or condition if needed.
If the arbitration decision is in your favor:
- You will be awarded your choice of either a repurchase or a replacement of your vehicle.
- If the award is a replacement vehicle, you will also receive incidental costs, if applicable (see Step 3 for specific details regarding a replacement vehicle).
- If the award is a repurchase, you will also receive collateral charges and, if applicable, incidental costs, minus a deduction for use (see Step 3 for specific details regarding a refund to you).
- It is within the discretion of the arbitrator(s) to award you attorney’s fees and expert witness costs.
- The manufacturer has (30 days to either appeal the decision or 40 days to comply with it.
If the arbitration decision is in favor of the manufacturer, no remedy will be awarded and your case against the manufacturer will be dismissed.
What to Do Next
- If the decision is in your favor and the manufacturer complies with it, the process is complete. If the manufacturer does not appeal the decision and fails to comply with it within the 40-day period, contact Georgia Department of Law's Consumer Protection Unit at 404-651-9396.
- If the manufacturer appeals a decision in your favor, the decision is admissible in evidence. At this point, your dispute moves from arbitration to the judicial system and you should retain a private attorney to represent you. If you prevail in court, your recovery will include the arbitrator’s award and all costs and charges you incurred as a result of the appeal, including expert witness fees, attorney’s fees and court costs.
- If the decision is not in your favor, you have 30 days to appeal it in superior court. The decision is admissible in evidence. Should you seek an appeal, it is recommended that a private attorney represent you.
- If the decision is not in your favor and you do not appeal, the Lemon Law process has ended for the arbitrated defect or condition.