If you buy or lease a new motorized wheelchair or scooter for use by persons with disabilities, under state law you have protection if the chair or scooter has chronic defects. Section 134.87 of Wisconsin statutes is known as the Wheelchair Lemon Law. It entitles the owner of a chair or scooter that meets the statutory definition of a "lemon" to a refund or a replacement.
WHAT EQUIPMENT IS COVERED?
The law applies to new three- or four- wheel scooters for use by people with disabilities and to new motorized wheelchairs that were purchased on or after November 1, 1992. All motorized wheelchairs and scooters purchased after that date must be covered by a one year express warranty, effective from the day the consumer receives the product. If the manufacturer does not offer the warranty, the chair or scooter is still considered by law to be covered by a one year express warranty.
WHAT IS A LEMON?
A "lemon" is a motorized wheelchair or scooter with a "substantial" defect which the manufacturer or its authorized dealer has unsuccessfully attempted to repair at least four times, or which has been out of service because of "substantial" defects for a total of 30 calendar days. The 30 days do not have to be consecutive.
Although it is not necessary to begin proceedings within the first year, the repair attempts or time out of service must occur within the term of the one year express warranty.
WHAT DEFECTS ARE COVERED?
The defects covered must significantly impair the use, value or safety of the chair or scooter. For example, a defective motor would be included, but a rattling noise would not. Defects that are the result of any abuse, neglect or unauthorized modification of the equipment by the owner are not covered by the law.
WHO HAS RECOURSE?
You have recourse under the law if you own or lease the motorized wheelchair or scooter within the term of the one year express warranty.
WHAT ARE THE REMEDIES?
If you have purchased or leased a wheelchair or scooter that meets the definition of a "lemon," the law entitles you to choose either a comparable new replacement or a refund.
If you choose a replacement, you are also entitled to receive collateral costs, which are defined under the law as expenses incurred by the consumer in connection with the repair of a defect, including the costs of obtaining an alternative wheelchair or other assistive device for mobility.
If you decide to get a refund, you are entitled to the full purchase price, including any other charges paid at the time of sale, and all costs associated with the repair of the defect, minus an amount based on your use of the chair or scooter.
The remedies are similar under a lease agreement.
HOW DOES ONE GET A REPLACEMENT OR REFUND?
To receive a replacement or refund, you should notify the manufacturer that you wish to return the chair or scooter for a replacement or a refund. Your dealer can supply you with the manufacturer's address. If the manufacturer refuses your request, you can discuss your legal options with an attorney or advocacy group familiar with the law. The law does not designate any governmental agency to receive complaints.
It may be possible to settle with the manufacturer without going to court, but if you do go to court and are successful, you are entitled to recover double the amount of any monetary loss, as well as costs and reasonable attorney fees.
Your success in obtaining relief through the law may be dependent upon the repair invoice documentation you can present.
Each time your equipment is in for repairs, make sure you obtain a repair invoice that shows the problems you reported. You should obtain a repair invoice even if the shop cannot determine or fix the problem, or if you are complaining about a continuing problem. If your equipment is in for repairs more than one day at a time, make sure the warranty repair order specifies the date it was brought in and the date it was returned.
Keep copies of all purchase contracts, warranties, warranty repair orders, letters and other materials on the equipment and its problems.