How Does the Lemon Law Work?

How Does Lemon Law Work?

California Lemon Law protects consumers from vehicles that have unrepairable defects while under the factory warranty. Lemon law applies to some new, pre-owned and certified used cars (bought or leased vehicles) that meet specific criteria. Without this consumer protection, drivers would be stuck with cars that don’t function as they should.

Instead, consumers can earn compensation for the vehicle defects they face, but it’s essential to know the laws and regulations. To ensure a higher payout than the average lemon law settlement in California, you want to be prepared. It’s essential to be well-organized for the best outcome.

With the consumer protection laws and buyers rights available to you, it’s time to contact Lemon Law Lawyers to represent your case. Because our team understands the laws and regulations, we’ve secured compensation for thousands of other clients and will fight for you just as hard. Enjoy a free Lemon Law Consultation to see what you are owed.

To guide you through the process, we discuss what types of vehicles qualify as a lemon and discuss the agencies in charge of enforcement. We also look at your consumer rights, discuss the process of filing a lemon law claim, and examine what most lemon laws have in common.

What Qualifies as a Lemon?

What Qualifies as a Lemon?

A lemon vehicle is a new or used car with significant defects or mechanical issues that substantially impair its safety, value or utility, despite repeated attempts to repair them under the written warranty. Issues must first present themselves within 18 months of taking delivery of the vehicle or within 18,000 miles, whichever comes first. California Lemon Law provides consumers with legal recourse, through a refund or replacement, if the vehicle meets the criteria for being deemed a lemon.

The types of problems covered by lemon law encompass many areas. There are the standard mechanical defects one would expect, such as a dead motor, slipping transmission and defective power steering. Most people don’t realize that minor problems are also covered if they affect the vehicle’s safety, value or use. Therefore, air conditioning malfunctions, electrical system issues and corrosion can also be covered.

The Song-Beverly Consumer Warranty Act, also known as California Lemon Law, states that there must be some unsuccessful attempted repairs on the vehicle for it to be considered a lemon. In most cases, the reasonable number of attempts include the following:

  • Two or more for safety issues that could lead to death or serious injury
  • Four or more for the same non-safety issue, totaling no more than thirty days total

The dealership can hold your car for repair for 30 days, but after that, it’s going to qualify as a lemon. The thirty-day timeframe isn’t for one visit but the cumulative time that the car has been in the repair shop for the same issue.

If you believe your car qualifies for compensation, don’t hesitate to contact a lemon lawyer in California. California has some of the best lemon law protections, along with New Jersey, Massachusetts, Connecticut and Wisconsin. On the other hand, Arkansas, Mississippi, Wyoming, South Dakota and Alabama are often criticized for the lack of consumer protection. Some states only offer recourse for new vehicles, while others need more repair attempts or time before considering the vehicle a lemon.

How Does Lemon Law Work in California?

How Does Lemon Law Work in California?

In California, new and used cars are covered by lemon law protection. After a reasonable number of repair attempts, a replacement vehicle or compensation may be due to you if the dealer or manufacturer can’t fix the car.

We’ve already touched heavily on how California lemon law works, but how does it compare to federal protections? Both have regulations for consumers who purchase or lease a defective vehicle, but the two have varying provisions. The federal law is known as the Magnuson-Moss Warranty Act and it specifies the following:

Coverage: Federal law doesn’t specifically address lemons, but there is protection for warranty enforcement and dispute regulation. Manufacturers can be forced to honor the dealer warranty and provide remedies for consumers when the product fails to meet the vehicle’s warranty terms.

Dispute resolution: Both regulations encourage vehicle manufacturers to resolve issues with informal dispute options, normally through arbitration by a neutral third party.

Attorney’s fees: Both regulations allow the consumer to recover all attorneys’ fees and other costs from the manufacturer if they violate the warranty or obligations from related service contracts.

While there’s no set timeframe through the federal guidelines, the California lemon law time limit specifies that the issue must arise within the first 18 months of vehicle possession or 18,000 miles. If the vehicle meets that qualification and the others regarding the defect and number of repairs, you can proceed with the lemon law process.

Whether the car is new or used, it must also be covered by a manufacturer’s warranty or extended protection (service contract). The manufacturer’s warranty is the protection plan provided when the vehicle is new, typically lasting around four to five years. Extended car warranties in California start once the manufacturer’s coverage expires and can vary in length.

With the help of a lemon lawyer, you don’t have to worry about every tiny detail in the regulations. A lemon law attorney can navigate the process for you, reducing the stress on your shoulders.

What Is the Purpose of California Lemon Law?

What Is the Purpose of California Lemon Law?

California enforces lemon laws to ensure consumers aren’t driving around in defective, potentially unsafe vehicles. The laws hold the manufacturer and the car dealer accountable for the vehicles purchased. Aside from lemon laws, there are other reasons to sue a car dealership through the court system, including a breach of contract, fraud, negligence and warranty disputes. An experienced attorney helps you determine which course of action to take for maximum compensation. 

How Is Lemon Law Enforced?

Several agencies and organizations provide guidance and help with lemon law disputes. Here are a few you should know about.

California Department of Consumer Affairs (DCA): The DCA oversees consumer protection programs and resources while providing information on consumer rights.

California Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV): The California Department of Motor Vehicles is for more than titling your car and providing vehicle registration. While the DMV isn’t going to handle any lemon law cases directly, the organization does protect consumers with resources and information that can be relevant to a lemon law dispute.

California Attorney General’s Office: The state’s attorney general enforces consumer protection laws and will intervene if a manufacturer has violated rights. Consumers can file complaints directly with the Attorney General’s Office.

Better Business Bureau (BBB): The BBB provides consumer advocacy, business accreditation and dispute resolution services. Consumers file complaints with the BBB regarding lemon law issues, allowing for possible mediation and resolution between the consumers and manufacturers.

Private Lemon Law Attorneys: Private attorneys specializing in lemon law cases offer legal advice, representation and advocacy during the lemon law claims process. Services include negotiation, arbitration or litigation when necessary.

Consumer Rights and Protections in the Lemon Law Process

Consumer Rights and Protections in the Lemon Law Process

While it may feel like you are being victimized by the manufacturers when you have a lemon car, it’s important to remember that you have rights. If there have been a reasonable number of repair attempts and your vehicle qualifies under the other guidelines, you may be due a refund or replacement vehicle. With a lemon law buyback, we can have the manufacturer take the defective vehicle back and compensate you for your loss.

Aside from the standard compensation, you may also be due other fees. Any sales tax, registration costs and miscellaneous expenses may also be included. The best part is that the manufacturer is responsible for paying your legal costs if you win, leaving you to pay nothing out of pocket.

What Not To Do if Your Car Is a Lemon

While lemon law protection is available for new and used vehicles under California law, most manufacturers aren’t going to concede easily. They are more concerned with their own financial well-being and protecting their reputation. Manufacturers may also incentivize dealerships to contest claims or provide minimal compensation to protect their own interests. For these reasons, it’s important to have solid legal representation before you file a lemon law case. When the manufacturer or dealership sees that an experienced attorney is handling the case, they are more likely to negotiate and avoid a drawn-out court case.

During the process, there are several ways to ensure everything runs smoothly. For starters, you want to carefully document all of the communication with the authorized dealer and manufacturer. Every time your vehicle goes in for repair, you should have a work order with the advisor’s name and the outcome. Following that, the demand letter sent to the manufacturer must be well-crafted and professional if you hope to get results. Not documenting the process and failing to send the demand letter are the top mistakes that consumers make.

If you aren’t very careful, you could make a small mistake that the dealership or manufacturer will capitalize on. They are looking for a way to get out of paying the claim, so you need to be careful.

The Process of Filing a Lemon Law Claim

The Process of Filing a Lemon Law Claim

If you have a lemon vehicle, it’s best to file the claim immediately. A qualified attorney can explain the differences between lemon law for used cars in California and lemon law for new cars in California, giving you the steps necessary in your situation. A lawyer looks over the documented issues you’ve recorded, helps you notify the manufacturer or dealer and starts the arbitration process to negotiate a payout. Attorneys also provide a list of the documents needed, including the lease or purchase contract, warranty paperwork, record of the repair attempts and communication with the manufacturer or dealer.

Legal Procedures and Requirements

You are required to file a formal complaint, requesting that the manufacturer or car dealer take action. From there, the manufacturer may offer mediation or arbitration options that will keep you out of court. While this is the fastest option, it may also benefit the manufacturer more than litigation, so it’s essential to get legal advice before proceeding.

Possible Outcomes and Resolutions of a Lemon Law Claim

The most common outcome is the lemon law buyback, in which the manufacturer pays you to return the vehicle. However, the manufacturer can also request more time to fix the vehicle, or you may be offered financial compensation to keep the car. If you decide to keep the car, the issues may show up on the vehicle’s repair history and the vehicle manufacturer is no longer responsible for further repairs related to the same issues, so these are factors to consider. However, all of these outcomes are negotiable, so you don’t have to settle for the first offer.

Challenges and Considerations of Lemon Law Claims

Challenges and Considerations of Lemon Law Claims

The biggest challenge you may face is proving that the vehicle is a lemon. Your new or used vehicle has to fall under the guidelines outlined above to have the lemon law apply. Even then, having the manufacturer agree can be an uphill battle unless you have all the repair process documentation you need, which is why it is important to keep accurate records of all repair orders and communication. With a record of everyone you’ve spoken with and the outcome of every appointment, you have a better chance of proving your case.

Dealing with manufacturers and dealers is the second challenge. They aren’t as motivated to deal with a consumer as they are with a lawyer, which is why legal representation is a must.

Another challenge is getting every penny you deserve. You want to get the purchase price back for the car while it’s under the manufacturer’s or extended warranty period. It’s also important to receive compensation for your troubles, the attorney fees and other costs that have been incurred, especially if negligence is apparent. Thankfully, you shouldn’t have paid any repair costs for issues covered by the warranty, so that’s one less thing to think about.

Be willing to negotiate, but don’t be a pushover. It’s wise to concede when a good offer is presented, but you don’t want to immediately take the first offer that is thrown at you. A good lawyer can help you discern when it’s time to take the offer.

A Brief on Lemon Law

A Brief on Lemon Law

Lemon law can be seen as early as the middle of the 20th century when consumer advocacy groups tried to get more consumer protections for lemon vehicles. The term “lemon law” was derived from a slang term used by mechanics and dealers to identify defective vehicles, with an implication that it was undesirable or sour, just like the fruit.

State laws were organized at different times, while federal laws gained momentum during the 1960s and 1970s. The earliest legislation can be seen in the Uniform Commercial Code (UCC) as a set of standardized laws governing commercial business in the United States. From there, California was among one of the first states to implement lemon protection in the 1970s. In 1982, the Tanner Consumer Protection Act was also released to add further legislation for consumer rights.

Have Questions on How Lemon Law Works?

If your used or new car has significant defects that can’t be fixed after the dealership’s best repair attempt, you may be due compensation. We know that you may have a lot of questions regarding the difference between an original manufacturer’s warranty and extended warranties, how the lemon laws apply to your specific case and how to get the vehicle manufacturers to pay. We have the answers you need.

Contact a lemon car lawyer in California to get those answers and let us fight for compensation. We simplify the legal process and seek compensation for both you and your troubles. Get your free Lemon Law Consultation today and see what you are owed.

You should never be stuck driving a lemon. Visit our Lemon Law Attorney Practice in Beverly Hills to get out of the defective vehicle.

Call us today for a free consultation before time runs out to pursue your claim.

Phone: (800) 917-7147


Why Choose The Lemon Pros?

Our specialty is Lemon Law, that is why we only handle Lemon Law claims. When you hire us, our attorneys will do all the legal work for you, because we understand the stress that consumers like you deal with when they have a Lemon.

We have an excellent success record in representing consumers just like you! We are award winning attorneys, but that has not gotten to our heads. We are attorneys who care and give personalized attention to each and every client, our attorneys directly handle your claim.

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