Under the Song-Beverly Consumer Warranty Act – better known as the California Lemon Law – Californians who purchase a defective vehicle may be entitled to a refund or a repurchase under certain circumstances. At Neale & Fhima, we take on big auto manufacturers to obtain Lemon Law compensation for clients throughout southern California.
Potential legal clients often ask us exactly what the California Lemon Law covers and does not cover. The goal of the Lemon Law is to force auto dealerships and auto manufacturers to back up the manufacturer’s warranty and provide you with a safe and reliable vehicle. The law, however, does not cover many auto-related issues. For instance, the law does not apply to auto dealership fraud. If you think the dealership pulled a fast one on you, such as not disclosing vital information about the car, you may have a dealer-fraud claim instead of a Lemon Law claim.
Next, the California Lemon Law applies only to vehicles that were leased or purchased with a warranty. This warranty may be implied by law or it may be an expressed warranty. It also can be long or short. But the bottom line is the car, truck or SUV must have been sold or leased to you with a warranty in order for Lemon Law protections to apply.
Many auto dealerships today feature extended warranties with new and used vehicles. But note that under the Lemon Law, these ‘warranties’ are service contracts, which do not qualify for coverage under the Lemon Law. Generally, if you bought the ‘warranty’ when you purchased or
leased the vehicle, it is a service contract and Lemon Law protections do not apply. However, there are exceptions, and it is best to have your case reviewed by a Lemon Law attorney if your vehicle has an extended warranty.
If your vehicle has a manufacturer’s warranty in effect, the Lemon Law states that all necessary warranty repairs must be done in a prompt manner. No one repair may take more than 30 days. Lemon Law protections are in effect for safety-related issues and issues that impair the use of the automobile.
Automobiles are designed to travel at high speeds, so juries and courts in California often recognize that many defects can affect the safety of the vehicle. Some of the most obvious safety-related problems covered under the Lemon Law are with the brakes and steering. But many automobile defects can affect safety, and a skilled Lemon Law attorney can often show this to a jury.
For instance, even ‘minor’ issues with a car’s mirrors can affect one’s ability to see the surrounding traffic. Defects with the windshield wipers are dangerous in rainy and foggy weather. Poor acceleration and/or stalling problems can be dangerous and even fatal when trying to merge on a busy Southern California interstate. Electrical problems can also be lethal if they cause the headlights or instrument panel to black out in the middle of the night.
Some defects clearly affect one’s ability to use the vehicle. A regular stalling problem will obviously affect one’s ability to drive on a busy Los Angeles street.A lack of braking will prevent one from stopping safely, so the car is undrivable. But the Lemon Law can be applied in a broader manner than this.
For example, the California Court of Appeals’ decision in Lundy v. Ford Motor Company found that courts must weigh whether the vehicle’s use was impaired when one considers the circumstances of the vehicle owner. Defects with a heated front seat could be a defect under the Lemon Law for a person with circulation problems. Also, a vehicle with power locks that constantly unlock could prevent a photographer from using the vehicle because he is unable to keep expensive cameras in the vehicle for his work.
The California Lemon Law provides ample protections for vehicle owners for serious factory warranty problems. But these cases are complex and should be handled by an experienced Southern California Lemon Law attorney. If you handle a case on your own, you could end up owing money; a recent California jury found that a man who sued BMW under the Lemon Law did not prove his case and had to pay $19,129 in court costs.
If you purchased or leased a vehicle with serious manufacturer warranty problems, you may have a lemon vehicle. In many cases, a lemon law claim may be made successfully against the auto manufacturer. Neale & Fhima is an accomplished lemon law firm that has served the communities of Southern California for years. If you need legal advice about a lemon vehicle, please call (888) 407-2955. We may be able to obtain lemon law compensation with all fees covered by the vehicle manufacturer.