California has one of the nation’s most extensive consumer protection laws: the Song-Beverly Consumer Warranty Act of 1970, often called the “Lemon Law.” But if you need the Lemon Law to work for you, you will need help from an experienced San Diego lemon law attorney.
California’s Lemon Law applies to both purchased and leased new and pre-owned vehicles (that are under warranty) when an authorized dealership has made multiple repair efforts under warranty to fix the same mechanical or safety problem with a vehicle – to no avail.
At first glance, the California Lemon Law looks simple. You buy or lease a vehicle, and if the vehicle has a problem, after several failed efforts to fix that problem, the dealer buys back the vehicle or replaces it. Of course, almost nothing in the law is quite that easy or straightforward.
WHY WILL YOU NEED AN ATTORNEY IF YOU FILE A “LEMON LAW” CLAIM?
That is why you must be represented by an experienced California consumer attorney if you make a claim under the California Lemon Law. Far too often, consumer lawyers work for clients who at first attempted to represent themselves and their claim under the Lemon Law – and failed.
In southern California, if you need to file a claim under the state’s Lemon Law, do it the right way from the start – and seek the help of an experienced San Diego consumer attorney.
HOW DOES THE LEMON LAW WORK?
If you buy a vehicle in California, and if that vehicle turns out to be a lemon, here is what you can expect when you seek a buyback from the dealership and manufacturer.
You have purchased a new vehicle or a used vehicle that is still under warranty, and you take it multiple times to the dealership to have the same problem repaired. After several repair attempts that fail, you determine that the vehicle is a lemon and cannot be repaired.
At this point, you will need to contact an experienced California lemon law attorney for a consultation. That consultation should be free, with no obligation, and if the attorney takes your case, he or she should try first to settle your claim out-of-court in private negotiations.
HOW SHOULD YOU CHOOSE A LEMON LAW ATTORNEY?
Do not work with an attorney who requires cash up front for a first consultation, and do not work with an attorney who recommends filing a lawsuit without first trying to negotiate an out-of-court settlement. A lawsuit may be necessary, but most of these claims are settled privately.
In fact, most claims under the California Lemon Law are settled within ninety days, but if you have to file a lawsuit and take a dealership or a vehicle manufacturer to court, your case could take as long as two years to resolve. With a Lemon Law claim, a lawsuit is your last resort.
Always keep every receipt, repair bill, and any other documents related to your vehicle’s purchase and repairs. Your attorney’s most likely first step will be sending a buyback demand to the manufacturer, and you may need to include copies of that paperwork with the buyback demand.
EXACTLY WHAT ARE CONSUMERS ENTITLED TO UNDER THE LEMON LAW?
If the vehicle’s manufacturer agrees to buy your lemon back from you, that manufacturer will provide your attorney with an itemized offer. In most cases, you will be entitled to the payments you’ve already made minus any deductions authorized by the California Lemon Law.
A great deal goes into determining the exact amount you are entitled to from a manufacturer, but your lawyer will see to it that you receive every dollar that is rightfully yours. Your lawyer will almost certainly arrange a better “deal” than you would be able to arrange on your own.
Once the buyback is arranged, you will need to sign a release form which stipulates the terms of the buyback and your agreement to those terms. At that point, a check from the manufacturer for the buyback amount should be issued within two to six weeks after you return the vehicle.
When the buyback payment and the amount have been agreed to by the manufacturer, your attorney will schedule a specific time for you to return the vehicle to the dealership.
WHAT ABOUT WEAR AND TEAR THAT YOU’VE PUT ON THE VEHICLE?
Small dents and scratches are normal wear and tear, but if the vehicle has any major dents, dings, scratches, scrapes, windshield cracks, or bald spots on the tires, you will either need to pay the dealership for the repairs or have the repairs done independently prior to returning the vehicle.
After the vehicle has been returned to the dealership, the manufacturer will send your lemon law attorney a check for your settlement amount, and your attorney will either mail you the settlement amount or arrange to deposit it directly into your checking or savings account.
Don’t worry. If you use your settlement to purchase another new vehicle, your odds of purchasing two lemons in a row are astronomical – even if you buy precisely the same make and model as the lemon you just sold back to the manufacturer.
WHAT IF YOU WANT A REPLACEMENT RATHER THAN A BUYBACK?
If you want a manufacturer to replace your vehicle rather than buy it back, the manufacturer must also agree to a replacement. Manufacturers in these cases are not obligated to replace a vehicle. Their only obligation is to buy the vehicle back if your lemon law claim prevails.
If both sides agree to a replacement, the manufacturer must replace the defective vehicle with a new, essentially identical vehicle, and your full warranty period begins again.
When a manufacturer replaces a vehicle under the California Lemon Law, the manufacturer pays all additional charges including the sales tax, registration, licensing, and other necessary costs. The manufacturer cannot compel you to pay for any of these costs.
WHEN SHOULD YOU SPEAK WITH A LEMON LAW ATTORNEY?
In southern California, if you’ve purchased a lemon, if you suspect that the vehicle is a lemon, or if you are already speaking with a dealership or manufacturer about a buyback or a replacement, contact an experienced San Diego lemon law attorney immediately.
Your attorney will hold your vehicle’s manufacturer accountable and see to it that you receive everything that you are entitled to under the Lemon Law. It is your right to seek justice with a good attorney’s help, and it’s the right thing to do.