By: Brett Shainfeld
Going on a journey to find the perfect used car can feel like a perilous one, as you’re forced to dodge tricky car salesmen, clever lenders and faulty vehicles along the way. Because of this, many will opt to drop the extra coin on a new or certified pre-owned vehicle from a dealership or manufacturer, thinking they’re paying extra for peace of mind and stability in their driving experience. Unfortunately for some, they discover that this is just simply not the case, as they’re met with the sudden challenge of a vehicle that’s not operating up to par with their expectations when they drove it off the lot. Repair after repair, bills mounting and loaner or rental car change after change can wear even the most patient of us down, and we’re left wondering why we purchased a vehicle with a warranty in the first place.
Because of this woe, legislatures stepped up and created consumer protection acts to insulate buyers from both predatory dealerships and the overwhelming legal power that major automobile corporations have in their possession. The results included pieces of legislation like the Song-Beverly Act that protects California consumers from purchasing “lemons” from these manufacturers and being stuck with what they’ve got.
Despite the term “lemon” being around for ages, particularly in automobile circles, and the passage of many California consumer protection pieces decades ago, there remains much confusion amongst consumers as to how these pieces of legislation work in a court of law. How does one initiate the lemon law process? What situations qualify as a lemon and which don’t? Is it true that you can get either a replacement vehicle or your money back on a lemon?
With this law comes countless myths about how it works. Today, we’re going to tackle some of these myths, as well as provide a few tips on how to navigate the murky waters of lemon law successfully so that you can get back safely on the road.
Myth #1: Lemon Law Litigation Can Take an Eternity
The first thing that we hear all too often is this myth that lemon law cases are complex and get tied up in court for months (or even longer). While it may be true that sometimes a lemon law case can last a while, most often the process can be sorted out in a matter of weeks (or less).
Of course, this depends on some circumstances that we’ll provide our first tip on: keep as much documentation as possible at all times on your lemon vehicle. This includes everything from paperwork at the time of purchase, all the way up to detailed records of service and repair work performed (particularly as it relates to the issue specified in the lemon case). When you sense that you vehicle may have an issue and you take it in to be inspected, you may feel inclined to believe that the dealership will maintain digital records of the service for your convenience. Don’t assume anything; after all, you may wind up on the other side of a lawsuit with the dealership. At that point, you don’t want to rely on them to provide your evidence for you. Double-check service write-ups and make sure that there are detailed notes about the service as it relates to the repair, a matter which is crucial when proving that the dealership had an adequate number of opportunities to correct an issue.
The other matter that speeds up lemon law cases is having an attorney to represent you. This isn’t just for the legal expertise though; per California lemon law arbitration codes, the manufacturer is responsible for paying your attorney’s fees on top of payments or replacement vehicles owed to you in the process. When you speak with your experienced lemon law attorney, they’ll be able to determine rather quickly if the case should be a success, and in such a case you’ll pay no cost in the process. This added cost, however, gives manufacturers a valid reason to expedite the process to avoid paying your attorney’s mounting fees, making it a relatively speedy legal battle.
Myth #2: Your Buyback Will Not Be for the Full Amount
Many consumers worry that their vehicle will be bought back at a used market value, something akin to a Kelly Blue Book amount, or that they’ll lose out in other finances sunk in the process. The truth is that the amount that may be deducted is based on a formula regarding mileage driven prior to problems happening with the vehicle, and is truly a rather advantageous figure for the customer.
On top of that, you may be entitled to reimbursements for service fees, insurance costs, rental vehicle costs, and associated financing and registration fees for the vehicle. However, you will not be compensated for aftermarket parts, and another tip is to avoid aftermarket parts or service outside of dealerships while your vehicle is under warranty; the work could make a lemon case more complicated.
Myth #3: Used Vehicles Don’t Qualify Under Lemon Law
This may be the biggest myth in all of the lemon law. In California, used vehicles may be deemed a lemon and eligible for a buyback or replacement. The biggest determination in used vehicles comes from whether it’s still under a factory or dealership warranty; if it is, it’ll be treated much like a new vehicle. If it’s not, and you expressly sign-in paperwork that you’re purchasing ‘as is’, you may be on the hook for the faulty vehicle. However, even in this case, you may be protected under a facet of lemon law that refers to “implied warranty of merchantability”, which protects consumers from unsafe vehicles. A tip here is to reach out to an experienced lemon law attorney for used carcasses; they’re often not quite as simple.
Myth #4: The Arbitration Process Means I Don’t Need An Attorney
While it’s true that California providers for an arbitration process for you to present your case, automobile manufacturers retain some of the toughest litigators in the business that has the sole job of beating your case. They’ll argue a myriad of defenses, from defects not qualifying under lemon law codes, to building a case of vehicle neglect or abuse on your behalf.
This brings us to our last tip: find a qualified lemon law expert like Shainfeld Law to represent your case. As mentioned already, California lemon law places the burden of cost on the manufacturer should your case win in arbitration, and many end their cases owing nothing in legal fees. For quality representation and a swift, victorious process, reach out to Shainfeld Law and inquire about your lemon law case today!