PROTECTING THE CONSUMER

Lemon Law FAQ’S

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Vehicles purchased from private parties are not afforded protection under the California lemon law. The vehicle must be purchased from a retail seller, i.e., a dealership. Even if the vehicle has its original manufacturer’s warranty left of the vehicle, if it was purchased from a private party, you’re not entitled to California lemon law protection. A consumer may still be entitled to protection under the Federal laws, but with more restrictive remedies.

Under the California Lemon Law, a vehicle may qualify for a refund or a replacement if it meets just one of the following criteria:

1) The vehicle has the same problem repaired FOUR or more times;
2) The vehicle has the same problem repaired TWO or more times if the problem is a major safety defect;
3) The vehicle is out of service for THIRTY or more days, total.

The problems with the vehicle must substantially impair the use, value and safety of the vehicle, and must have occurred at least partially during the original vehicle warranty.

“Major safety defect” has yet to be explicitly defined by the courts. However, we know that it must be a potentially life threatening problem with the vehicle or the vehicle’s failure forces the owner into a dangerous situation. These failures include, for example, stalling, failures to start, overheating, significant braking issues, fuel issues, air bag and seat belt issues, transmission failure, instrumentation failures, and the like.

If you bring the vehicle in for repairs on a Monday, and the repairs are completed on Wednesday, it will count as three days. Likewise if the vehicle is inoperative on a Sunday, but cannot be brought in for repair until Monday and is repaired on Monday, it will count as two days.

No. You can have repairs made at any service center authorized by the manufacturer to make repairs on your vehicle. Your independent mechanic is probably NOT considered an authorized repair facility for the manufacturer of your vehicle.

Just about anything wrong with a vehicle will affect its use, value, or safety. “Minor” or “cosmetic” problems, such as a moldings, a cigarette lighter, an outside thermometer, a change holder, coat clips, and the like will likely not count towards use, value, or safety problems.

Once a vehicle qualifies under the Lemon Law, the consumer is entitled to either a refund for the vehicle or a new vehicle. A refund includes the down payment, all monthly payments, taxes, licensing fees, rental expenses, reasonable attorney’s fees, and, in rare instances, penalties. The manufacturer will also pay off the balance of your remaining loan or lease. In the alternative, the manufacturer will provide you with a new vehicle that is substantially similar to the lemon vehicle. For example, if you own a 2014 Ford Explorer, but there are no more 2014 models available, Ford will now give you a 2015 Ford Explorer.

Yes. This charge is known as the usage/mileage deduction. Simply put, the manufacturer is entitled to an offset for the miles placed on the vehicle before the first major problem that became the basis for the refund. The calculation formula is set forth in California Law, but some manufacturers interpret the formula differently, making the offset calculations sometimes complicated.

The average, NON-LITIGATED case should take about ninety days to be fully completed. This is an average: Some cases take longer for various reasons, some take less time. If the case needs to be litigated, the case could take substantially longer to be completed. Fortunately, very few cases ever require litigation.

Yes. Failure to continue making payments could lead to a repossession and/or damage to your credit.

Any damage beyond ordinary wear and tear to the vehicle must be repaired prior to returning the vehicle to the manufacturer, or the manufacturer will deduct the cost of any damage from the settlement. Door dings and minor scratches are considered ordinary wear and tear. Dents, major paint damage, and interior damage such as cigarette burns are not considered wear and tear and must be repaired.

The California Lemon Law requires the manufacturers to pay reasonable attorney’s fees to your attorney. Because every manufacturer pays a different amount of fees to your attorney, your attorney may or may not charge additional fees beyond those paid by the manufacturer. Our cases are all handled on a contingency fee basis and requires no up-front monies.

Despite what you may read or hear in the news, only about one percent of all civil cases eventually go all the way to trial. Only about ten percent of Lemon Law cases are litigated, with about ninety percent of those litigated cases settling prior to trial. Some auto manufacturers are very unfair to consumers, and force cases into litigation, despite our best settlement efforts. Because litigation is extremely expensive, we make all efforts to settle Lemon Law cases without litigation.

This is a very tricky situation that will sometimes occur if you have an intermittent problem with the vehicle, such as sudden stalling. In these situations, it is best not to drive the vehicle but to insist that the dealership make all efforts to find the problem. Sometimes a different dealership will make a more comprehensive effort to locate the problem. If possible, ask the dealership to put in writing that the vehicle is safe to drive. If the vehicle then becomes involved in an accident due to the unrepaired item, you may have grounds for a potential negligent repair case against the dealership in addition to the Lemon Law case.

No. You may proceed with your case regardless of whether the manufacturer has notified you of your right to arbitration. You may also still bring your Lemon Law case after you have been to arbitration, but lost.

No, but without the repair invoices, determining whether a case even exists is difficult. Sometimes you may go to your dealership and ask it to print out a full history of all repairs, which will be helpful in determining whether or not there is a case. But this report may not provide us with ALL of the necessary information to make a fully informed decision.

No! The California Lemon Law also applies to trucks, boats, small watercraft, motorcycles, computers, motor homes, and any other “consumer goods.” There are some exceptions to this. Because automobiles and light trucks are most commonly seen as Lemon Law cases, other consumer goods usually prove more difficult to pursue. For instance, cases involving a boat will usually be more time consuming to pursue.

Yes. As long as the vehicle was purchased in California, we can still represent you.

Yes. As long as most or all of the repairs occurred while it was still under the original manufacturer warranty, your claim is still valid. Sometimes dealerships will even make “courtesy” repairs after the original warranty has expired. These also count as repairs. However, repairs made under an extended warranty (service contract) do not count toward lemon law repairs, with few exceptions. It is always preferable to have the repairs done while under the original manufacturer’s warranty.

No. If enough repairs were made before 18,000 miles or within 18 months of ownership, the vehicle is presumed to qualify as a lemon under the law. However, as long as the repairs continue while under the full warranty (for instance, within 3 years or 36,000 miles) the vehicle will still qualify, but the presumption may not apply.

Yes. Recent case law states that even though the owner (or lessee) of a vehicle no longer has possession, the Lemon Law case is still valid.

Yes. A lemon law case can still be brought if the vehicle was leased, rather than purchased.

Yes. As long as the repairs to the used vehicle occurred while the vehicle was still under the original manufacturer’s warranty. Many Certified Pre-Owned vehicles come with very good warranties, which are still considered “original” warranties as they are granted by the manufacturer.

No. The Lemon Law will only apply to vehicles purchased within the state of California. However, if you have purchased the vehicle in California, then move out of California, the California Lemon Law will still protect you. For vehicles purchased outside of California, you may be protected under that state’s laws.

 

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