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What is California Lemon Law?

Lemon laws are a set of laws in the United States that provide protections to consumers who have purchased a defective good. Lemon laws most frequently apply to vehicles — personal use cars, boats, planes, RVs, motorcycles, etc., that experience persistent mechanical issues while still under warranty. The details of lemon laws vary from state to state, but the overall purpose of these laws are the same: to fairly compensate consumers who have spent time and money on a defective vehicle.

Associated with the California lemon law definition, you often hear the phrase “reasonable number of repair attempts” when describing the lemon law process. In California, a manufacturer is only allowed a certain number of repair attempts before your car can be deemed a lemon. After a certain amount of repair attempts without success, you as a consumer are eligible to file a claim against the manufacturer.

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What are the California Lemon Law Qualifications?

To qualify for California Lemon Law in Los Angeles:

  • You must have a new or used vehicle that has been sold or leased in the state of California with a manufacturer’s warranty. This includes cars, pickup trucks, vans and SUVs.  The California lemon law even applies to dealer-owned vehicles and demonstrators. Further, vehicles purchased or leased for either business or personal can qualify for relief under the guidelines of Lemon Law.
  • To qualify for California Lemon Law, you must be familiar with the vehicle manufacturer’s warranty on the vehicle, as the law applies only to repairs made during the duration of the original warranty period. The law is guided by a 1970 protection bill, known as the Song-Beverly Consumer Warranty Act.
  • Your vehicle’s issues are such that they could cause death or bodily harm, the car has been in for repair two or more times, and the manufacturer has been notified of need for the repairs.
  • The car been in for repairs four or more times and the manufacturer has been notified of the need for repairs.
  • The issue has caused your car to be out of service for more than 30 days since your car was purchased.

Song-Beverly Act’s Lemon Qualification Guidelines

Within the Song-Beverly Act, there are guidelines used to qualify a “lemon” vehicle. It is presumed that if the following criteria are attained within 18 months of delivery of the vehicle to the buyer or lessee, or 18,000 miles on the odometer (whichever comes first), the vehicle is a “lemon” and the consumer is entitled to a refund or replacement vehicle:

  • The manufacturer or dealership has made two or more attempts to repair the warranty problem that could potentially lead to injury or death when the vehicle is operated;
  • The manufacturer or dealership have made four or more attempts to repair the same warranty problem;
  • The problem in question is covered by the warranty and could radically reduce the vehicle’s use, value or safety;
  • If stated in the warranty, the consumer must directly notify the manufacturer about the issue in writing, sent to the address shown in the warranty.

Should your vehicle fall under these parameters in Los Angeles, you may be entitled under the Song-Beverly Act or California Lemon Law to pursue legal recourse and receive a refund or vehicle replacement or some type of cash compensation.

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How Does California Lemon Law Work?

It only takes one unexpected trip to the dealership’s service center to make a person think they’ve been sold a lemon. While California Lemon Law does protect consumers from such unfortunate circumstances, there is a set of guidelines that govern how California Lemon Law works.

If the qualifications are met that define what a lemon vehicle is in California, then the customer may be permitted to request a refund for the purchase amount of the vehicle, or alternatively given a similar replacement vehicle or be provided some type of cash compensation. This only transpires when all of the requirements of a California lemon law claim are met, which places the utmost importance on a consumer to keep track of paperwork.  A California lemon law claim relies almost entirely on the repair orders during visits to the authorized dealerships.

One way to trigger relief under the lemon law is through the California state-certified arbitration process.  This is only recommended after speaking with a qualified lemon law lawyer.  If a consumer decides to pursue this process in Los Angeles, a neutral third party arbitrator will hear the case and make a determination as to whether or not a reasonable number of repair attempts have been made, as well as what form of compensation a consumer should receive. If the consumer accepts the arbitrator’s decision, the manufacturers have agreed to comply with their decision.  If the consumer does not accept the arbitrator’s lemon law ruling, the consumer is still free to file a lemon law lawsuit in either state or federal court.

California Lemon Law attempts to encourage consumers to seek arbitration as a first option given the courts are so backed up.  They do this by using the law to state that before consumers can use what is known as the “Lemon Law Presumption” in a California court of law, they have to first attempt to reach a decision via a manufacturer’s State-certified arbitration program. Because of this, many vehicle manufacturers have decided to seek out a certification from the California Department of Consumer Affairs’ Arbitration Certification Program in an effort to find conclusions to problems earlier in the process, avoid expensive court fees and reduce their overall liability risk.

The arbitration process is a free way for consumers to settle warranty disputes, but it can be a challenging process for someone to undertake on their own. Though the manufacturers fund the programs, under California codes and ACP law the arbitration rules and monitoring are distinct from the manufacturer to avoid irregular or inappropriate influence in determinations. Still, manufacturers have dedicated teams ready to present their case in arbitration and understand the in’s and out’s of California Lemon Law, giving them a distinct advantage over consumers that have to set aside time to attempt to resolve their case.

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What do the California Car Lemon Laws Do?

California car lemon laws specifically protect consumers that have purchased or leased a new or used vehicle that is under warranty. The California lemon laws don’t just remedy the situation for the consumer by providing them with a new vehicle or refund; the consumer’s incidental financial costs incurred must be covered as well, which is typically where arbitration comes into play. Just as well, an experienced lemon law attorney will be able to provide a more nuanced determination as to whether or not your vehicle was repaired an adequate number of times, or if the dealership had long enough to address the repairs. In the most general terms, manufacturer problems that relate to the safety of the vehicle, particularly those that are detailed in ongoing recall reports, require fewer attempts and less time for the consumer to address the proceeding as a lemon law case.

The California lemon laws pertaining to vehicles and other manufactured goods state that the manufacturer is required by law to do all of the following:

  • In the event of a manufacturing error, the manufacturer provides consumers with adequate repair facilities locally within their state that can be accessed without difficulty to the consumer 
  • When repairs are initiated, the manufacturer does not take longer than thirty days to complete the repairs
  • Only take a set number of attempts to correct the defective product for the consumer
  • Should the manufacturer not be able to correct the error within the aforementioned attempts or time frame, they should then offer the consumer a replacement product or refund the amount paid, minus any value use or additional costs to the consumer (such as tags, taxes, financing fees, rentals, towing or repair fees)
  • Should the lemon law case proceed to arbitration, the manufacturer should be responsible for the consumer’s attorney fees

A consumer must be able to prove at least one of the above criteria in a court of law for a judge to presume your vehicle a lemon. However, even if your vehicle does seemingly meet these requirements, manufacturers have the opportunity to fight against this, which is why it’s important to have an experienced lawyer on your side. Even if you don’t think your car qualifies under California lemon law presumption, reach out to us today. You may still be eligible for compensation.

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Consumer Rights and its Application to California Lemon Law

Lemon laws, in California or elsewhere, are designed to protect consumers from products that may be defective, providing monetary compensation for such instances. The variety of consumer rights available to protect consumers are designed to grant monetary compensation for faulty goods, including providing a right to a number of solutions for an ongoing lemon law problem, such as:

  • Repurchase by the dealership or manufacturer of the faulty vehicle (refunding the amount paid for the vehicle less any “trouble-free” usage, noted as the mileage that the vehicle was driven prior to the first report of issues)
  • Replacement of the lemon vehicle with a similar vehicle (with consumer rights dictating that the consumer must approve of any replacement vehicle prior to it being agreed upon)
  • Cash settlement for other fees incurred and damages suffered
  • Attorney fees for arbitration in lemon law proceedings

Should a manufacturer not be living up to their end of the law as it applies to the terms of California lemon law, you should understand that you have all of the aforementioned rights as a consumer to remedy the situation. Manufacturers are beholden to a number of consumer protection acts, dependent on the state that the proceeding occurs in, and through these the consumer is able to secure restitution through legal means.

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