California’s Lemon Law – the Song-Beverly Consumer Warranty Act – may provide legal protection if you’ve purchased a defective vehicle, but to exercise your rights under the Lemon Law, you will need the advice and services of the right California lemon law attorney.
In 2018, more than 28 million vehicles were recalled in the United States for potential defects – Fords, Chryslers, Audis, Volvos, and more. That means a lot of “lemons” are traveling on California’s streets and highways. In fact, you may be driving one now.
Which vehicles in California are covered by the Lemon Law? How does the law work? That is, how can it work for you? Is it better to have a lemon replaced by the manufacturer or to have the manufacturer buy the vehicle back from you and, in effect, give you a refund? Is it better to accept cash and keep the lemon?
In this brief introduction to California’s Lemon Law and your options under that law, you’ll learn the pros and cons of having your vehicle replaced or having it purchased back from you by the manufacturer or accepting cash.
You’ll also find out exactly what steps to take if you need to file a claim under the Lemon Law, and you’ll learn how to find the legal help you will need.
Which Vehicles Are Covered?
The first thing you should know if you’ve purchased or leased a lemon in California is whether it meets the criteria of a “lemon”:
1. Only vehicles that have been purchased or leased from a dealer here in California are covered by California’s Lemon Law – can be new or used.
2. The vehicle has to have repeat repairs while the warranty is still open.
3. The dealer cannot seem to fix the defect even though you gave them several chances to do so.
4. The defect is not a minor defect, but a defect that substantially impairs the use, value or safety of the vehicle.
Before You Can Claim A Lemon
As many as ten percent of the vehicles on California’s streets and highways may qualify as “lemons” under the state’s Lemon Law, and that law gives you the right to sue a dealership or a vehicle manufacturer that has sold you a lemon in California.
But before you can claim a vehicle is a lemon and try to get a refund, you must bring your vehicle to the manufacturer’s dealer for repair, and allow them an adequate opportunity to make the needed repairs. Before you can file a Lemon Law claim, there must be “repeated” repair efforts covered under the warranty.
Make and store a copy of every sales receipt, repair receipt, and any other document related to your vehicle and its repairs. These documents can help you as you work with the dealership and with the vehicle manufacturer. You will need those same documents later if you want a refund, replacement, or cash for your lemon.
How Are Lemon Law Claims Resolved?
Most claims under the Lemon Law are settled, privately and outside of the courtroom, in several months, but if you are not offered a reasonable out-of-court settlement, and you take a dealership or a manufacturer to court, the case could take a year or more to resolve.
But it’s extremely rare for Lemon Law cases to go to trial. Automobile manufacturers and dealers know the law and routinely deal with defective vehicles, so Lemon Law claims are typically resolved relatively quickly.
Should You Ask for a Buyback or a Replacement?
If you have a valid Lemon Law claim, the manufacturer is obligated to either buyback the vehicle or replace the vehicle. But, is it better to have your lemon replaced or purchased back from you by the manufacturer?
Most settlements under the Lemon Law result in cash or a buyback. In the case of a cash settlement, you keep the car and the manufacturer pays you an agreed upon amount for your troubles. Sometimes, this is a good deal for both the manufacturer and the consumer. It really depends on the consumer’s personal circumstances.
In a refund/buyback, when your claim is resolved, you’ll return the vehicle to the dealer, receive a check from the manufacturer, and the manufacturer will pay off the loan for the vehicle.
That check should reimburse you for all reasonable repair, towing, and rental car fees, any use or sales tax, license, registration, and other official fees, prepayment penalties, early termination charges, and earned finance charges if paid or incurred by the consumer.
If you want the vehicle replaced rather than bought back, the manufacturer must agree. This remedy is optional for both the consumer and the manufacturer. In this situation, you give back your defective vehicle, the manufacturer gives you a new vehicle (the same make and model), and you just continue making payments. You will get the benefit of the prior payments you made towards the defective vehicle. Replacements are rare. Most manufacturers do not agree to replacement settlements.
Should You Attempt To Resolve Your Claim On Your Own?
No. Don’t attempt to negotiate by yourself with Ford, General Motors, or with any other vehicle manufacturer. If you do, you may not receive everything that you are entitled to under the law. Instead, let a California consumer attorney handle your Lemon Law claim and negotiate on your behalf.
You don’t have to pay the attorney. The Lemon Law says the manufacturer has to pay your attorney. So, why take the risk of having the manufacturer take advantage of you and try to negotiate on your own? There are a lot of nuances in the Lemon Law. Your Lemon Law attorney will be able to negotiate the best deal for you.
How Will a Consumer Attorney Help You With a Lemon Law Claim?
The right California Lemon Law attorney can almost always negotiate a better settlement than you would be able to obtain on your own, and with the automobile manufacturer paying for your attorney’s fees, there’s no reason not to have an experienced consumer lawyer’s help.
In California, consumer attorney Sotera Anderson will hold a vehicle’s manufacturer responsible on your behalf. She will ensure that you receive what you are entitled to under the Lemon Law.
If your vehicle is a lemon, a good attorney’s help is your right, and the time to take action is now, before the manufacturer’s warranty expires.