You bought a new or used car that includes a written warranty guaranteeing its performance. Great! If your car breaks down or malfunctions, you can always send it back to the manufacturer or its agent for repair. If your car spends more time in the repair shop than is reasonable, however, it’s difficult to see what good the warranty is doing you, even though technically the manufacturer is fulfilling its end of the bargain. That’s exactly the problem that the California Lemon Law is designed to remedy.
Under the California Lemon Law (part of the Song-Beverly Consumer Warranty Act), you are entitled to a replacement vehicle or a refund of the purchase price if the requirements of the law are met. It is meeting those conditions, and convincing a manufacturer, judge or arbitrator that they have been met, that causes disputes and typically necessitates the involvement of a California Lemon Law attorney.
The Requirements of the Lemon Law
Following are the basic conditions for protection. Since the law is complex, minor requirements and certain exceptions have been omitted.
- Your vehicle must be protected by a written manufacturer’s or dealer’s warranty that covers the problem you are complaining about. Your protection extends to problems that arise during the warranty period, but no longer.
- Your vehicle must have been purchased or leased in California from a retailer.
- The problem you are complaining of must “substantially” impair the use, value, or safety of the vehicle.
- The problem must not have been caused by your own abuse of the vehicle.
- There must have been a “reasonable” number of attempts to repair the problem by the manufacturer or its agent prior to seeking replacement of the vehicle or refund of its value.
- In many cases, you must directly notify the manufacturer of the problem and give it an opportunity for repair before you can file a claim.
Words like “substantially” and “reasonable” sound like “weasel words” because, essentially, that’s what they are – they are so ambiguous that opposing parties (a manufacturer and a consumer, for example) might apply different interpretations to them. How many repair attempts are “reasonable,” for example? Fortunately, the law does provide some general guidelines:
- Two or more repair attempts within the first 18 months or the first 18,000 miles is presumed reasonable, if the condition is dangerous enough to risk death or serious injury and the consumer has directly notified the manufacturer of the problem.
- Four or more repair attempts within the first 18 months or 18,000 miles is presumed “reasonable” if the condition is not dangerous enough to risk death or serious injury and if the consumer has notified the manufacturer.
- One repair attempt is presumed reasonable if the vehicle spends 30 or more days in the manufacturer’s or agent’s repair shop during the first 18 months or 18,000 miles, even if the consumer has not directly notified the manufacturer.
Unfortunately, the California Lemon Law includes yet another weasel word: “presumed.” In this case, “presumed” means that you are not automatically entitled to a refund or a replacement even if you meet the minimum number of repair attempts or time in the repair shop – the manufacturer can argue that under the circumstances, it should be allowed at least one more repair attempt. These ambiguities are why you may end up needing a Lemon Law lawyer to assist you in enforcing your rights.
Questions to Ask to Determine Whether You Have a Case
- Do I have a written warranty covering this vehicle?
- Does the warranty cover the problem or problems I am complaining about?
- Did I purchase or lease the vehicle in California? (unless you are active duty military)
- To what extent does the problem I am complaining about impair the use, value, or safety of the vehicle?
- Does the problem elevate my risk of death or serious harm?
- How many times have I asked the manufacturer or its agent to repair the vehicle?
- How many days has my vehicle been out of service?
Remember that the Lemon Law is concerned with the condition of the vehicle after you take possession of it. If your complaint involves auto dealer fraud – for example, the dealer rolled back the odometer without telling you or used “bait and switch” tactics on you, you will not need to rely on the Lemon Law. Instead, you should let me know, so that we can proceed under auto dealer fraud law instead.
Call a Professional Today
As soon as you qualify as a California lawyer, you can immediately practice nearly any type of law – with or without experience. Obviously, however, building a practice around car accident law or family law is quite different from building a practice around the California Lemon Law and auto dealer fraud, as I have done. My 99 percent success rate and thousands of successful clients testify to my unparalleled experience. If you believe you may have a claim under the California Lemon Law, call my office at (888) 811-1271 or contact me online for a free case evaluation.