By: Brett Shainfeld

Lemon Law Arbitration vs. a Lemon Law Suit

The lemon law arbitration process is different from a full lawsuit. In arbitration, a single person (or sometimes a panel) is appointed as an “arbiter” to determine whether or not you have a lemon and if the manufacturer owes you anything for your vehicle. You’ll discuss the requirements under the lemon law in California, and appoint a time for a hearing. After that, it’s up to you to gather as much evidence and as many witnesses as you can to help your case.

During the arbitration hearing, the arbiter has the power to determine which pieces of evidence, and which witnesses, are allowed to be presented for both parties. Once each side has made their case, the arbiter will determine if you do have a lemon and if you’re entitled to protection under the lemon law. They’ll also decide what compensation you’re entitled to. But if a lemon law case doesn’t go your way, you have limited options to appeal an arbitration decision.

In a lawsuit, you’ll hire an expert lemon lawyer to help you gather evidence and present your case in court, like the typical court proceeding you’re more familiar with. You’d also have a chance to appeal a decision if it didn’t work out in your favor.

Manufacturers Want You To Arbitrate

The arbitration process is set up so that it seems easier and less expensive than taking a lemon law case to court. But in reality, arbitration often works more in the manufacturer’s favor than in yours. So your chances of winning a lemon law arbitration aren’t as good as you’d hope.

One reason arbitration is cheaper is that it doesn’t permit much “discovery” of evidence — meaning there’s no opportunity to force the other side to answer questions under oath or present documents the manufacturer doesn’t want you to know about. The burden of proof is on you to present evidence with little to no help from anyone else. Having less access to information almost always ends up hurting the consumer, and helping the manufacturer.

You also won’t have an expert lawyer to help you out, which also reduces your chances of winning a lemon law case. The manufacturer will have a dedicated specialist available to present their case, who will have years of knowledge and experience in helping them win lemon law cases. And with no prior experience or knowledge yourself, it’ll be more difficult for you to win.

While you may have saved all your receipts and documentation for repairs and car problems, it might not be enough to prove your vehicle is a lemon. Which is why a lawsuit can increase your chances of winning.

A Lawsuit Will Increase Your Chance of Winning a Lemon Law Case

Pursuing a lawsuit rather than settling for lemon law arbitration can help you get the money you deserve much faster. You’ll have an expert lawyer on your side who will be familiar with every aspect of presenting your case, and who will know all the ins and outs of the lemon law. They’ll know what evidence to present, who to talk to as witnesses, and which tricks the manufacturer is likely to play to help swing the case in their favor.

What Happens When You Win A Lemon Law Case?

Most people don’t know what happens when you win a lemon law case, but if you win, the car manufacturer also has to pay all of your legal fees for presenting the case — making a lawsuit possibly much cheaper than the arbitration process. And while a lawsuit may be more time consuming, you aren’t the only party that will want to move things along at a faster pace. The car manufacturer will also be itching to get the process over with, which can work in your favor in a lemon lawsuit.

The manufacturer will have lower chances of winning if you take the case to court, and they’ll want to wrap things up as quickly as possible to lower the costs of paying your attorney and its own lemon lawyers. So you’ll often get a buyback or other settlement much faster if you take the case to court.

So while the lemon law arbitration process may seem more appealing in the beginning, be wary of any car manufacturer that tries to push you into choosing arbitration over a lawsuit. The arbitration process nearly always works out in their favor, and you could be stuck with a faulty car that’s dangerous to drive, and not at all worth the money you paid for it. Talking to an experienced lemon lawyer will give you a better understanding of how the lemon law works, and how it can be used in your favor to help you win your case. After all, the lemon laws were put into effect to protect consumers just like you.

What Is The Average Lemon Law Settlement In California?

Typically the winner of a lemon law settlement in California can expect to have the option of either a replacement vehicle or the cost associated with the vehicle reimbursed. What you should know is that the average lemon law settlement in California when it comes to a refund has advantages and disadvantages. On the plus side, you’ll usually be eligible to receive payment not just for the contract price of the vehicle, but also associated costs (such as sales tax, registration fees, etc.) as well as incidental costs (for example, rental car costs or repair fees). However, manufacturers are often able to argue for a mileage offset on the vehicle, which will reduce the amount of the refund using a calculation established under the state’s lemon law. Furthermore, should you opt for a refund, understand that the average lemon law settlement in California process should not take more than thirty days to be completed.

If you’re looking for leverage in your California lemon law claim, there are two primary ways that you can boost your case. The first is to document everything. This means service performed on the vehicle (with specific details about what was done), as well as conversations that you’ve had with the dealership or manufacturer concerning the issue. Retain dates, times, names, and any other information that you believe may be useful when it comes time to make a claim. The second thing that you can do is to hire an experienced lemon law attorney to stand on your side during the claims procedure. Not only will you benefit from their legal expertise, but the law in California further holds the manufacturer liable to cover attorney fees in these cases should your claim be accepted. This places a running clock on the manufacturer to come to terms of a settlement as quickly as possible to avoid further costs.

Find a Trusted Lemon Lawyer

If you have a lemon law case on your hands, you’ll want to work with a lawyer you can trust to see you get the compensation you deserve. The lawyers at Shainfeld Law have over a decade of experience in presenting — and winning — lemon law cases in California. You can contact us for a free consultation, where we’ll review your case and help you determine where you stand and provide any lemon law tips. Then we’ll fight for you every step of the way to make sure you get a buyback, new vehicle, or cash settlement from the manufacturer.

In the meantime, we have a robust library of lemon law resources, FAQs, and information that can help you better understand the state’s lemon law and how you’re protected.