- December 10, 2021
- Categories: Lemon Law
California’s Lemon Law provides legal recourse to motorists who have purchased defective vehicles. The law offers remedies to consumers, including a manufacturer buyback, a replacement vehicle or, in some cases, a cash settlement. But a vehicle owner must first prove that they’ve actually purchased a lemon. You may be asking yourself, “How many repairs before a car is a lemon?” The answer depends on the danger and safety threat that the defect poses.
A vehicle defect that threatens “to cause death or serious bodily injury” can require as few as two repair attempts before being labeled a lemon in the eyes of California law. On the other hand, a less dangerous (but troublesome or annoying) defect could require as many as four trips to the mechanic before qualifying as a lemon. If your vehicle has been out of commission for at least 30 days due to repairs, it may also be considered a lemon.
The Song-Beverly Consumer Warranty Act (California Civil Code, beginning at section 1790) codifies the California Lemon Law. And the Tanner Consumer Protection Act — California Civil Code section 1793.22(b) — lays out the requirements for repair attempts as follows:
(b) It shall be presumed that a reasonable number of attempts have been made to conform a new motor vehicle to the applicable express warranties if, within 18 months from delivery to the buyer or 18,000 miles on the odometer of the vehicle, whichever occurs first, one or more of the following occurs:
(1) The same nonconformity results in a condition that is likely to cause death or serious bodily injury if the vehicle is driven and the nonconformity has been subject to repair two or more times by the manufacturer or its agents, and the buyer or lessee has at least once directly notified the manufacturer of the need for the repair of the nonconformity.
(2) The same nonconformity has been subject to repair four or more times by the manufacturer or its agents, and the buyer has at least once directly notified the manufacturer of the need for the repair of the nonconformity.
(3) The vehicle is out of service by reason of repair of nonconformities by the manufacturer or its agents for a cumulative total of more than 30 calendar days since delivery of the vehicle to the buyer. The 30-day limit shall be extended only if repairs cannot be performed due to conditions beyond the control of the manufacturer or its agents.
If you have a chronically malfunctioning car, SUV or truck and are wondering whether you can seek recourse under the California Lemon Law, the best thing to do is speak to a skilled and experienced lemon law lawyer. At Neale & Fhima, our lawyers are highly successful at winning lemon law claims. To find out more about how we can help, call us at 888-407-2955.
How Many Times Does a Car Need to Break Down to Be a Lemon?
It’s important to remember that you don’t have to suffer a traditional “break down” on the side of the road to qualify for a lemon law claim. For example, malfunctioning mirrors or automatic seats won’t leave you stranded on the highway, but they may still qualify for a lemon law claim because they impair the use and safety of your vehicle. A car or truck in California is usually considered a lemon if the defect is one that substantially impairs the vehicle’s …
- value, or
The more serious the defect, the greater your chances of success in a lemon law case. But less serious defects can also result in a successful claim — while these don’t threaten death or severe injury, they do reduce the usefulness or value of your vehicle. California’s Lemon Law is extremely consumer-friendly, and it is designed to provide significant protection for motorists.
The lemon law states that your vehicle must have “nonconformities,” which are defined as any defect or malfunction that is covered by the manufacturer’s warranty. There are many defects that could affect the vehicle’s safety, but there is no requirement under the law that the defect actually endangers you.
Common defects that affect safety include:
- Poor acceleration
- Radio and navigation problems
- Door locks don’t work
- Engine issues
- Electrical issues
- Noise complaints
- Braking problems (not just squeaking)
- Fuel gauges and speedometer don’t work
- Battery dies regularly, or drains irregularly
- Steering issues
- Transmission issues.
These are just a few of the many defects that could be the basis of a successful lemon law claim.
Keep All Repair Receipts and Proof of Repair Attempts
To ensure your chances of a successful lemon law claim, you must prove that you’ve made the required number of attempts to get the vehicle fixed. How do you do this? The best way is to keep copies of work orders, appointment reminders, payment receipts, and even replaced automotive parts resulting from repair attempts. These provide hard evidence that you’ve made a good-faith effort to get the vehicle in working order.
Is There a Time Limit on Filing a California Lemon Law Claim?
Yes. The statute of limitations under California’s Lemon Law is four years. Generally, the sooner you file, the better. The four-year clock starts from the time you first noticed, or should have noticed, the vehicle defect. If you miss the four-year window to file a claim, then you will likely have little legal recourse. That’s why it’s important to contact a Neale & Fhima attorney right away if you suspect that your car is a lemon.
Which Lemon Law Remedy? The Choice is Yours.
A successful lemon law claim puts you in the driver’s seat when it comes time to select the form of compensation. Here are the two primary remedies:
Option A: Repurchase
The manufacturer will take possession of the vehicle and issue you a refund of the purchase price (reduced by the value of your use of the vehicle prior to the first repair attempt). If you financed the vehicle, the manufacturer will refund the payments and down payment, and pay off the loan. You will also receive a refund of registration fees, taxes, etc.
Option B: Replacement
The manufacturer will take possession of the vehicle and provide you with a new one. It must be an identical or substantially similar vehicle. The manufacturer will pay the registration and taxes on the new vehicle, but you will not receive a refund of fees or finance charges paid on the original vehicle. This option requires the consent of both parties.
In some circumstances, we may be able to negotiate an additional option called a “cash and keep.” This would allow you to retain possession of the vehicle and receive a cash payment to compensate for the defect.
Neale & Fhima Has a Record of Success
At Neale & Fhima, we know exactly what to do if you have a lemon. Our lawyers have decades of hard-won experience representing clients just like you. Here are just a few reasons to choose us:
- Our Lawyers Win Cases. Neale & Fhima enjoys a 99% success rate. We think this says a lot about the skill of our attorneys. While we cannot guarantee the outcome of any particular case, you can take comfort in knowing that your claim is being handled by lemon law lawyers who have a track record of success.
- Years of Experience. Our attorneys have more than 40 years of combined experience representing clients throughout Southern California.
- We Know the Law. California’s lemon law is a fine example of how the state legislature can empower consumers. When it comes to clarity, however, the text of the statute leaves much to be desired. Our attorneys understand the quirks of the statute, as well as the many court opinions interpreting it. We put this knowledge to work for you.
We also receive outstanding testimonials and reviews from our satisfied clients. We know that consumers listen to other consumers, so we’re proud that we receive such positive feedback from the clients we’ve served. Our legal team is among the best and the brightest. If you’d like to learn more about whether you could have a successful California Lemon Law claim, call us for a free initial consultation at 888-407-2955. We are tough on manufacturers and their insurance companies when it comes to getting the justice our clients deserve!