Legally reviewed by: California Lemon Law Attorney Jessica Anvar Stotz, JD / MBA
You can imagine how frustrating it is to bring home a new car only to immediately experience routine mechanical issues within months of owning it. Under California’s Lemon Law, an automobile manufacturer may be responsible for repurchasing or replacing your defective vehicle.
You may also be entitled to civil penalties if you can show that the automobile manufacturer willfully violated the lemon law. As the prevailing party, the auto manufacturer is responsible to pay for all of your attorneys fees and costs. This makes pursuing a lemon law claim an easy decision as there should be no out of pocket cost to you.
You may experience challenging and perhaps perplexing court processes when initiating a lemon law claim against a manufacturer. To help you with your case, we advise that you speak with a skilled California lemon law attorney.
If you want to pursue your lemon law case, you will need to take several steps as early as possible to make sure that you are fully prepared. We have outlined steps you should take if you are interested in filing a California Lemon Law claim.
1. Take Your Vehicle in for Repairs
The basis for a CA strong lemon law claim is multiple repair attempts for the same issue or problem. Oftentimes, consumers will not take their vehicle or other consumer goods in for repair work because the problem is intermittent or simply because he or she is too busy.
A manufacturer is not required to fix problems that they do not know about. By taking your vehicle or other goods in for repairs, you are allowing the manufacturer an opportunity to repair the vehicle or goods.
You should also consider bringing your vehicle to an authorized manufacturer repair facility or the dealer for repairs. This way, the manufacturer cannot claim that they never knew about the problem or that the mechanic caused the problem.
Remember – in order to have a valid lemon law claim in California, you have to allow the manufacturer a reasonable number of repair attempts. Therefore, it is crucial that you bring your vehicle in for repairs rather than ignore the problem or wait until it is too late.
2. Accurately Report Any and All Concerns
When you take your consumer goods or vehicle in for repair work, make sure that each and every concern you have is outlined and accurately reflected on the repair order.
Before signing the repair order, make sure it accurately reflects each and every one of your concerns. If it does not, make sure the service advisor makes the necessary changes.
3. Keep All of Your Documentation
Do not rely on the dealership or manufacturer to keep an accurate repair or warranty claim history for your vehicle or consumer goods.
It is your duty to keep all of your repair orders, invoices, and receipts. Over the past few years, many dealerships have gone out of business, and as a result, many consumers have been unable to get copies of their repair orders.
Make sure to be your best advocate and to save all of your documentation.
4. File Your California Lemon Law Claim Sooner Than Later
You should commence your CA lemon law claim once you have taken your vehicle or another consumer good in for multiple repair attempts. The sooner you file your lemon law claim in California, the better your chances of getting a more favorable result.
The California Lemon Law statute of limitations is four years. Consumers must file their claim within this period or risk being barred from recovery.
5. Hire an Experienced California Lemon Law Attorney
Oftentimes, consumers will ask if they need to hire a lemon law lawyer in order to present a lemon law claim. The answer is no, but doing so is highly recommended.
Filing a lemon law claim in California can be overwhelming for someone who is not experienced with the law or legal process. The California Lemon Laws are complicated and require a sophisticated level of understanding and application.
Hiring an experienced lemon attorney is important and can mean the difference between a successful lemon law claim and one that simply leaves the consumer still feeling sour.
6. Negotiate a Settlement
What happens after you file your lemon law claim? Once you have made your case in court, the automaker will have the opportunity to respond.
The manufacturer might deny your allegations in their response. If that happens, you will then go through the complicated process of a court case. This may involve exchanging documents, answering questions or having to attend or take a deposition. This phase of a case is called the discovery phase.
Throughout the proceedings, you and the automobile manufacturer’s attorney may engage in settlement discussions. If you truly have a lemon, the automobile manufacturer may agree to repurchase or replace the vehicle. To ensure that you receive everything to which you are legally entitled, you can seek the assistance of an expert lemon law negotiator.
7. Taking your case to court
If the case doesn’t settle, you may go to trial. At the trial, you are essentially the prosecutor of your claim against the automobile manufacturer. An experienced lemon law attorney can successfully present your lemon law case to the court and jury on your behalf.
Frequently Asked Questions
What is the average lemon law settlement in California?
There is no average lemon law settlement in California as your final settlement amount can be influenced by a range of factors. Generally, claims often result in settlements ranging from $4,900 to over $100,000.
Do you need a lawyer for a lemon law in California?
No, you legally are not required to have a lawyer represent you in a lemon law case, however, it is highly recommended. An experienced lemon law attorney can ensure that you receive the best final settlement possible.
How do you qualify for lemon law in California?
Generally, if you have experienced repeat repairs for the same or similar issues with a vehicle that you have leased or purchased in California and the manufacturer has been unable to repair it within a reasonable number of repair attempts, you may be in possession of a lemon. To know if you qualify for lemon law relief with certainty, you should consult with a lemon law legal expert.
What Happens After You File Your Lemon Law Claim?
Figuring out how to file a lemon law claim in California is only the beginning. After you’ve filed your case in court, the automobile manufacturer will have the opportunity to file an answer. They may deny your allegations in their answer.
Then, you will go through the complicated process of a court case. This may involve exchanging documents, answering questions or having to attend or take a deposition. This phase of a case is called the discovery phase.
Throughout the proceedings, you and the automobile manufacturer’s attorney may engage in settlement discussions.
If you truly have a lemon, the automobile manufacturer may agree to repurchase or replace the vehicle. They may try to deduct a high amount of “usage” from the value of the vehicle or try to avoid paying the full value of the car.
The automobile manufacturer may also push back at any suggestion that they pay you a civil penalty. You can enlist the help of an experienced lemon law negotiator to help you fight for everything that you are entitled to under the law.
If the case doesn’t settle, however, you may go to trial. At the trial, you are essentially the prosecutor of your own claim against the automobile manufacturer. You will have to use evidence to prove your California lemon law claim in court.
The judicial process can be difficult to navigate. An experienced lemon law attorney would be able to handle prosecuting your lemon law case on your behalf.
How Long Does a Lemon Law Case Take?
Each lemon law claim in California is unique. So too are the various automobile manufacturers that you’ll be fighting. Some cases settle quickly while others go to trial. Because no two CA lemon law claims are the same, we cannot say how long it will take for yours to be resolved.
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Hire an Experienced Attorney for Your Lemon Law Claim in California
Navigating how to submit a lemon law claim in California can be complicated and confusing. You do not have to try to figure it out on your own. Lemon Law Experts can help. We have attorneys with decades of experience representing people just like you on their California lemon law claims.