There are many important reasons to pursue lemon law claims in California with qualified attorneys. At one extreme, defective vehicles can be dangerous and a threat to personal and family safety and the safety of others. But lemon cars are also inconvenient, more expensive to own after express warranties expire, and lose more value than a vehicle with a normal repair history. Inconvenience alone can affect a family’s dynamics and increase stress, strain and anger of the consumer.
The value of the lemon vehicle can be substantially impaired. Private sales which net more money to the consumer selling a vehicle can be made more difficult or impossible if the vehicle is a lemon. Many consumers owning a lemon would not sell it directly to another consumer for fear the buyer will become angry down the road and come back to them. Even wholesale buyers may care about a vehicle’s repair history to the extent it appears on a CarFax or Auto Check report, and any damage caused by defects is certainly a factor in in reconditioning cost which affects how much a wholesale buyer will pay for a vehicle.
Claims under the Lemon Law can relieve this situation. Besides getting rid of a headache, and avoiding loss of value and a potential threat to safety, there are other reasons to understand why the lemon law may help you. Most claims result in repurchase of the defective lemon vehicle. The repurchase includes the original down payment, each monthly finance payment made, and the payoff the finance contract. Other damages include rental car expense, repair costs and towing and may include a civil penalty over and above the amounts a consumer has paid out of pocket for the vehicle. While the repurchase amount is subject to an offset for the mileage on the vehicle this limited to the mileage as of the first repair attempt, not all the mileage on the vehicle. Accordingly, the repurchase amount is always far in excess of the vehicle’s trade-in value. Under the lemon law in California, the attorney’s fees and costs are also paid for by the manufacturer which allows lemon law attorneys to take cases under the lemon law on a contingency basis at no charge to the consumer.
Sounds good so far, but there is more. What is important to consumers in lemon law claims, is the economic position they are in compared to the position they were in at the time they purchased the vehicle. What has happened since the sale of the vehicle is that vehicle has depreciated significantly while the consumer has paid a large sum towards car payments and many times owes a large amount to the finance company. For example, the consumer buys a $25,000 vehicle signs a contract for $27,500 out the door which includes sales tax and license, makes a $2500 down payment, has made 20 payments of $400 per month and still owes $20,000 on the vehicle. The vehicle, however, is worth only $15,000 due to depreciation. If the consumer gets tired of the headache and trades in the vehicle for the $15,000 the consumer must pay an additional $5,000 to the finance company which is rolled into the cost of the contract for the new vehicle. This is called being “upside down” in the trade in.
The lemon law, however, makes the consumer “right-side up” in the transaction. Instead of having to pay $5,000 to trade the vehicle in, the consumer gets back the $2,500 down payment, the $8,000 in monthly finance payments and gets the entire finance contract paid off. That’s a difference of $15,500.
This can have a beneficial impact on a consumer’s credit score. If the consumer buys an equivalent vehicle to the original purchase, he or she now has $15,000 to use as a down payment and will be financing only $12,500 instead of $25,000. The monthly payment is cut in half and the debt that appears on the credit report is also halved. Lower fixed monthly payments and less debt improves a consumer’s credit rating and obviously helps the monthly budget.
These factors are also important to choose a good attorney. Many lemon law firms attempt to charge consumers for their services either in the form of an upfront payment to take the case, or a percentage of the consumer’s settlement at the end of the case. Either way, the consumer does not enjoy the full benefit of his or her claim. Unethical lemon law attorneys may not even explain back-end charges to the consumer when they take the case. Read the retainer agreement carefully and ask for explanations of anything you don’t understand. If the answers to your questions don’t seem right, keep looking.
At Law & Kolakowski we do not charge any money for our services. We provide free consultations. If we agree to represent a consumer and pursue a claim, the California lemon law allows us to charge the manufacturer or dealership for our services, not our client. We have a pleasant knowledgeable staff and experienced lawyers who have been practicing lemon law for over 25 years. If you are looking for an attorney to handle your claim, you may contact us and as always – there will be no charge.