Take Legal Action and Talk to a California Lemon Law Attorney
At Neale & Fhima, our California lemon law attorneys 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.
Using California’s Lemon Law to Protect Car Owners throughout California
We Help You Get a Refund or Replacement.
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, our California lemon lawyers take on the major auto manufacturers to enforce Lemon Law rights on behalf of clients throughout Orange County, Riverside County and across the state.
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?
What Is a Lemon Worth?
Under California’s Lemon Law, defects that substantially impair the use, value or safety of a vehicle must be repaired within a “reasonable number of attempts.” If the manufacturer is unable to do so, then it must offer a “lemon law buyback.” This can be either a full refund of the purchase price (less certain deductions permitted by the law, as explained below) or a replacement of the vehicle with another one that is materially identical.
The value of your lemon (for purposes of replacement or repurchase) is subject to a reduction for your use of it. The amount to be deducted from its value is found by dividing the odometer reading by 120,000, then multiplying it by the purchase price. So, let’s say your vehicle cost $30,000 when you bought it, and you started bringing it in for repairs at 12,000 miles. To make up for depreciation caused by those 12,000 miles, your lemon law award would be reduced by $3,000.
Recent Settlements for Our Clients
- > John of San Diego County, had a Mercedes-Benz SL63 AMG that he experienced tremendous problems with the steering wheel due to a column defect. We fought for him and he was awarded $185,000 by a jury trial verdict.
- > Bianca of Los Angeles County had a Jeep Wrangler that had an engine/transmission defect when she purchased it that she was unaware of. We assisted her in getting the auto manufacturer to repurchase her vehicle.
- > Pete bought his Jeep Grand Cherokee in Orange County and had no idea it had an engine/transmission defect. We helped him until the auto manufacturer agreed to repurchase the vehicle from him.
- > Amber purchased a Ford Focus in Riverside County that ended up having an engine/transmission defect. We fought on her behalf and eventually, the auto manufacturer repurchased her car.
- > Ken, from San Bernardino, bought a Dodge Ram 2500 that was suffering from an engine defect at the time of purchase, unbeknownst to him. We worked on his side until the auto manufacturer finally repurchased his vehicle.
Lemon Law Review
“I had a lemon case and I am so happy I went with them. They settled the case FAST and EFFICENTLY. Answered all my questions, no matter how stupid. Great communication through the whole case, I was always informed & he always answered my calls. Aaron is amazing & I could not be happier!!!”
5 / 5 ★★★★★
The Lemon Law: Essential for Consumer Protection
For many Americans, buying a new car is one of the greatest experiences one can have. When you drive away from a dealership in a shiny, new vehicle, you take great pride in your purchase. You show it off to friends and family, you take extra-long routes to your destination just to enjoy the ride, and you know that the vehicle is going to be reliable – after all, you just paid a hefty sum for a brand-new car.
But then the unthinkable happens. Shortly after you buy your new car, it starts to show signs of trouble. Check-engine lights are flashing. Strange sounds start humming from the engine, and you can tell that something is not quite right. So, you finally break down and take it to the shop to get it repaired. But the problems continue. After repeatedly trying to get the thing fixed, you’re now starting to realize that something is seriously wrong with this vehicle…
What Is 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 California lemon law 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.
Tips for Dealing with the Dealer / Manufacturer
- Document every concern and describe each one clearly before signing your Repair Order. If you are visiting multiple times for the same issue, be consistent in your description of this thorny issue that causes you to have to make repeat visits. This allows you to prove that the car was not successfully repaired on each visit, and that you gave the dealership an AMPLE number of chances to repair your vehicle.
- Make sure that all work performed on your vehicle by the dealership is documented. Check the work completed against the problems you described.
- If a problem on your repair order was not fixed, ask the dealership to write the reason why it wasn’t on your repair invoice.
- If an issue was not repaired because a mechanic could not duplicate your concern, demand that either the service manager, shop foreman or your service tech take a test drive with you to duplicate the complaint. If successful in duplicating, make note of that on the paperwork and include the name and job title of the person who verified it on the test drive with you.
- Never leave the dealership without a copy of your Repair Order. Make sure that it’s accurate and that you have signed it and keep it in your records.
If the vehicle and defect qualify under California’s Lemon Law, the owner has two primary remedies with respect to the manufacturer:
- > Repurchase:
- 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.
- > Replacement:
- 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:
[Odometer at first repair attempt ÷ 120,000] × Purchase price = Use Reduction
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.
How a California Lemon Lawyer Can Help You in the Process
It is nearly impossible to win against an opponent if you don’t know the rules of the game, but your opponent does. California’s Lemon Law, though effective, has plenty of holes in the fine print that you aren’t aware of, but the dealers know them, and seasoned California lemon law attorneys do, too.
Lawyers who win lemon law claims are paid by the dealer, not by the vehicle owner. So what have you got to lose?
What Qualities Should You Look for in a California Lemon Law Attorney?
The qualities that our clients have told us they appreciate include the following:
- We know California’s lemon law inside and out.
- We make our clients feel comfortable and that their case is important to us.
- We work to resolve our clients’ claims quickly and efficiently.
- We include our clients in the process as much as possible and value their input.
- When we litigate – which is seldom necessary – we have a track record of success in the courtroom.
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 in Irvine, elsewhere in Southern California or anywhere within the state, we can handle your free consultation and case evaluation over the phone.
Learn More: Understanding California’s Lemon Law
> 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.
Do You Have a Lemon? Speak with a California Lemon Law Lawyer 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.