Using California’s Lemon Law to Protect Car Owners in San Diego, San Francisco, Riverside, Los Angeles and throughout California
We Help You Get a Refund or Replacement. You Pay Us Nothing.
Under the Song-Beverly Consumer Warranty Act, better known as California’s Lemon Law, individuals and small businesses that purchase defective vehicles are entitled to a refund of nearly all their money (down payment, monthly payments, etc.) or, if they choose, they can have their vehicle replaced at the expense of the manufacturer. At Neale & Fhima, we take on the major auto manufacturers to enforce Lemon Law rights on behalf of clients throughout Orange County, Riverside County and across the state of California.
What do you do if your vehicle has a recurring mechanical problem? You have been to the dealership – maybe several times – and it is clear they do not know what to do. Your vehicle is still under warranty or has just come off warranty, and no one knows how to fix it. Are you stuck with a lemon? Or is there something you can do?
It is Time to Take Legal Action
At Neale & Fhima, we have years of experience helping clients win their Lemon Law claims. This includes obtaining favorable settlements and defeating many of the major manufacturers (and their teams of defense lawyers) in court. California’s Lemon Law provides important protections, but they mean nothing unless you decide to assert your rights. Further delay can hamper your ability to bring a successful claim. Contact our office now or continue reading to learn how the Lemon Law works.
The Song-Beverly Consumer Warranty Act
All 50 states and the federal government have enacted some type of Lemon Law to protect consumers. In California, the statute is known as the Song-Beverly Consumer Warranty Act (relevant portions of the law are also known as the Tanner Consumer Protection Act). The text of the Lemon Law can be found at California Civil Code sections 1792 to 1795.8. The attorneys at Neale & Fhima have extensive experience with the Song-Beverly Act, and they are available if you have any questions about specific provisions of the law.
Types of Vehicles and Defects Covered by the Lemon Law
Not all defective cars fall within the parameters of the Lemon Law. It generally applies to newer cars that the dealership has been unable to fix, but the law is quite detailed with respect to the specific qualifications.
Covered vehicles must:
- Come with a manufacturer’s warranty (new or certified pre-owned) that is still in effect at the time of the first repair attempt. Note that manufacturer’s warranties are transferrable, meaning that used cars with unexpired warranties may be covered by the Lemon Law.
- Be a car, truck, van, SUV, or other passenger vehicle with a gross weight under 10,000 pounds. The transportation-related parts of a motor home also qualify. Motorcycles, boats, and other recreational vehicles are considered “consumer goods.” They are covered, but the provisions of the law pertaining to automobiles (like the 18 months/18,000 miles Lemon Law presumption) do not apply.
- Have been purchased or leased through a retail transaction in the state of California. An exception to the in-state purchase or lease requirement exists for vehicles belonging to active members of the armed forces living in California at the time of the claim.
- Belong to an entity that has at least one – but not more than five – vehicles registered in California. As long as this requirement is met, it does not matter whether a vehicle was acquired for personal or business use.
Covered defects must:
- Also be covered by the manufacturer’s warranty. These warranties are sometimes referred to as factory warranties. They are included in the purchase price. Do not confuse a manufacturer’s warranty with an extended service agreement offered as an optional purchase from the dealership.
- Substantially impair the vehicle’s “use, value, or safety.” This legal standard is applied objectively – the car owner’s personal feelings and beliefs on the matter are irrelevant.
- Remain unresolved after a reasonable number of repair attempts by an authorized dealer. The number of attempts required to support a Lemon Law claim varies case by case, but courts have ruled that one attempt is never sufficient. Courts have also ruled that a repair attempt occurs each time the customer brings the vehicle into the dealership for that purpose, irrespective of whether the dealership actually tries to make the repair.
If the vehicle and defect qualify under California’s Lemon Law, the owner has two primary remedies with respect to the manufacturer:
The manufacturer must refund the amount of money paid for the vehicle, including finance charges and fees. It must also refund the cost of factory options, shipping, taxes, and DMV fees. Out-of-pocket costs for repairs, towing, and rental cars are likewise included. The total amount the manufacturer must pay is subject to a “use reduction” to account for the customer’s use of the vehicle prior to the onset of the defect.
The customer can elect to receive a new, similarly equipped vehicle that is free of the defect that led to the Lemon Law claim. The manufacturer must pay the taxes and other fees in this situation. However, both the customer and the manufacturer must agree to the replacement remedy. If the manufacturer insists on a repurchase, the customer will have no choice but to go with that option.
Understanding the Use Reduction
California’s Lemon Law assumes that drivers will bring their vehicles in for service immediately upon noticing a serious mechanical problem. As such, the manufacturer does not need to credit a car owner for anything prior to the date of the first service attempt. This is true regardless of whether the vehicle is repurchased or replaced.
The amount of the use reduction is calculated by dividing the odometer reading by 120,000, and then multiplying it by the purchase price. The formula can be expressed as follows:
For example, if a vehicle cost $30,000 and the owner brought it in for repair at 12,000 miles, the Lemon Law award will be reduced by $3,000.
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California Lemon Law Resources
>Do You Have a Lemon?
Figuring out how many chances the dealership’s repair department should get to fix a defect is never easy. Fortunately, the law creates a presumption in favor of the car owner if a certain number of repair attempts are made (or the vehicle is in the shop for a certain number of days) during the first 18 months or 18,000 miles.
>The Lemon Law Claims Process
A solid understanding of the claims process will help you make informed decisions about your case. Enforcing your legal rights under California’s Lemon Law involves multiple steps – from sending a demand letter to evaluating settlement options and (if necessary) preparing to litigate in court.
>What Makes California’s Lemon Law Unique?
While every state has a Lemon Law, California’s version stands apart. It is widely considered one of the most favorable consumer protection laws in the country for purchasers of defective vehicles. Individuals and businesses seeking to enforce their warranty rights should be aware of nine key facts that make California’s Lemon Law one of a kind.
>What to Do if You Have a Lemon
Once you are ready to begin the claims process, there are nine steps you can take to prepare for your California Lemon Law claim. These steps include finding out how to document your defect, collecting your repair records, and preparing for your free attorney consultation.
>Lemon Law FAQs
Everyone dealing with a defective new car has one thing in common – they all have questions that need to be answered. At Neale & Fhima, we may not be able to tell you why your car manufacturer failed to put better quality control measures in place, but we can answer some of the most commonly asked questions about California’s Lemon Law.
No Office Visit Required for Clients Seeking Lemon Law Representation
We settle most Lemon Law cases without our clients’ ever having to step into our office. If you live near one of our offices in Dana Point, San Diego, or Los Angeles, we welcome you to come meet with us in person to discuss your Lemon Law claim. If you live elsewhere in Southern California, or anywhere within the state, we can handle your consultation and case evaluation over the phone.
Think You Might Have a Lemon? Speak with a Local Attorney for Free
Biting into a lemon leaves a sour taste in your mouth – and so does paying hard-earned money for a new car that does not work properly. Even worse, a serious mechanical defect can put the safety of you and your passengers at risk.
Our firm has obtained countless Lemon Law settlements for consumers in California against nearly every auto manufacturer. Request a free consultation by calling Neale & Fhima at (888) 559-4904, or take a moment to complete our online consultation form. Together, we can take a stand against the car company and get your money back.