A key part of the lemon law in California is the concept of a legal presumption. Before purchasing a used vehicle, it is important to understand lemon law legal presumption. A legal presumption is simply a rule under the law that allows the court to assume something is true based upon the evidence available. A legal presumption is based upon a set of facts that is then applied to laws, logic, reasoning and our individual rights. After a legal presumption is established, the defense must disprove the presumption.
The concept of legal presumption is critical under lemon laws. Lemon law presumption varies by state, but in California, it means that the car is a lemon if it is under the original warranty and, within 18 months or 18,000 miles of your purchase or lease of it, the following happens:
- The dealership attempted to repair the vehicle at least twice due to a serious safety problem that can cause death or serious injury;
- The dealership has tried to repair it at least four times for the same safety problem; or
- The vehicle has been out of service at the dealership for more than 30 days for all defects under warranty.
If you live in California and you can show any of these three things, the vehicle is presumed to be a lemon. Because of that fact, a judge on the case will inform the jury that you have successfully established a presumption that the dealership or manufacturer has had a reasonable opportunity to repair it. The burden of proof will then go to the defending auto manufacturer to disprove the presumption.
Safety and Non-Safety Related Defects
To have a successful lemon law claim, you and your attorney need to prove that the defect that has not been repaired is a ‘safety defect.’ Automobiles weigh 3,000 to 5,000 pounds and travel at high speeds, so there are many defects that will affect safety. However, there is nothing in the lemon law stating that the defect must literally put you in mortal danger. It is enough that continued use of the car would be unsafe.
For example, let’s say your car has a problem with the automatic mirrors where they regularly reset to their regular position instead of staying in the position in which you set them. Even if they never made it difficult for you to see behind you, it is enough to make a lemon law claim because they are not working as intended and could affect the vehicle’s safety.
There are other types of defects that affect safety that are more clear cut. For instance, if the anti-lock brakes on your SUV do not engage during an emergency stop, this is clearly a safety-related defect that needs to be repaired.
Other safety-relate defects include:
- Check engine warning lights that keep coming on
- Steering issues
- Windshield wiper problems
- Headlight problems
- Brake light malfunctions
- Door lock don’t work
- Reduced acceleration
- A/C does not work
- Battery dies constantly
- Transmission causes lurching or sudden stopping.
However, there are many minor defects in a vehicle that do not rise to the level of affecting safety. A loose cup holder or an annoying squeak in the rear seat when you go over a bump are not safety-related, so they could not be the subject of a lemon law claim.
Defects That Affect Value
There also are defects that do not affect safety but do affect the car’s value. For example, you will have a hard time convincing a jury that a bad paint job will lead to a serious accident. But the lemon law in California also protects your financial investment. Defects in the paint would certainly qualify as a problem that affects value.
Defects That Do Not Affect Value
There is one type of defect that will usually not reduce the fair market value of the car: if the car has a defect that others have that are the same make, model and year. There will probably be no reduction in value because the defect probably already reduced the price that you paid.
Speaking to a lemon law attorney is the best way to find out whether your car’s defect is actionable under the lemon law.
Take Legal Action Today
Neale & Fhima has many years of experience winning lemon law claims for our clients. This includes numerous instances of winning excellent settlements and prevailing over major auto manufacturers and their many defense lawyers. The lemon law in California offers you critical consumer protections, but they are meaningless unless you win your case. Contact our attorneys now.
Does Your Vehicle Fit the Lemon Law Presumption?
If your does not fit the definition of lemon law presumption in California, do not worry. You still may have a valid claim. A common error for California lemon owners is to think their claim is invalid because they do not fit under the guidelines of this presumption. You still may be entitled to a refund or a replacement. You even could be eligible for cash compensation.
NOTE: Your odds of winning your case – even if you do not fit the lemon law presumption – will always improve if you can show strong documented evidence of the repair attempts that were made. Make sure you save as much of your paperwork as possible about every repair attempt made, even if your case does not exactly fit one of the three scenarios described above.
Remember, the California lemon law provides you with specific legal rights and remedies during the original manufacturer’s warranty period. For the most part, the warranty for your vehicle is longer than the legal presumption period. Therefore, if the car has had several repair attempts for the same problem, it is highly likely you have a lemon law claim.
Neale & Fhima Lemon Law Attorneys Can Help
Auto lemon law is nuanced and complex. The most efficient way to determine whether you have a valid claim is to speak to a lemon law attorney. If you have a vehicle under warranty with major repair problems in the Orange County region of California, you may have a lemon law claim against the vehicle manufacturer. Neale & Fhima is an experienced lemon law firm that has served Southern California customers for years. If you require legal advice about a possible lemon vehicle, please call 888-407-2955 for a complimentary consultation.