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Is There a Time Limit to File Lemon Law Claims In California?

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California’s Lemon Law protects auto buyers and lessors who are sold a defective vehicle. The Lemon Law is, however, subject to certain procedural requirements. It’s not an automatic fix unless you follow the law, adhere to court rules, and provide appropriate evidence. Among other things, Lemon Law claims are subject to certain time limits. Failing to follow the procedural rules, including the time limit, can result in your Lemon Law claim being tossed out of court. Below, our seasoned California Lemon Law attorney discusses the time limit for filing a Lemon Law claim and how you should approach getting the Lemon Law relief you deserve.

What is a Statute of Limitations?

A “statute of limitations” is the time limit for filing a legal claim. Every type of legal claim, whether civil or criminal (other than capital crimes), has a legal time limit. The statute of limitations differs depending upon the nature of the claim and the state in which the claim is filed. In California, for example, there’s a general two-year statute of limitations for personal injury cases.

The beginning of the limitations period also differs depending upon the nature of the claim and the circumstances surrounding the claim. For most personal injury claims, the statute of limitations starts on the date of the injury, such as the date of the car accident. The typical purpose of the statute of limitations is to ensure that key evidence and witnesses do not disappear or forget over time, rendering it impossible to determine the “truth” of a claim, as well as to give potential defendants peace of mind that they cannot be dragged into court for a decades-old matter.

What Is the Statute of Limitations for a Lemon Law Claim?

California’s Lemon Law, like all other civil claims, has a certain statute of limitations or time limit. The general statute of limitations for filing a Lemon Law claim in California is four years. That means that, in most cases, a car owner or lessee has four years from when they experience warrantable problems with their vehicle to file a Lemon Law claim against the dealership or manufacturer.

Part of the purpose of the statute of limitations in the Lemon Law is to ensure that the customer has a valid claim. To successfully plead a Lemon Law case, the customer must demonstrate that their vehicle is a “lemon”–that their car, truck, or SUV suffers from a serious defect that “substantially impairs” the use, value, or safety of the vehicle. The customer must also demonstrate that the manufacturer has been unable to repair the defect after a reasonable number of attempts. Waiting too long to file a Lemon Law claim could undermine the customer’s claim that the vehicle is a lemon–i.e. if the defect was so substantial, why did it take more than four years after discovering the defect to file the claim?

Are There any Exceptions to the Lemon Law Time Limit?

California’s four-year time limit for filing a Lemon Law claim is absolute. Unfortunately, that means that any case brought after the expiration of the four-year time limit will be thrown out of court, regardless of the reason for the delay and regardless of whether the customer was even aware of the Lemon Law or the time limit. That’s why it’s so important to discuss your case with a qualified Lemon Law attorney as soon as you notice a vehicle defect that the manufacturer has failed to repair.

That being said, there is some flexibility about when the four-year limitation period begins. The clock starts ticking once the consumer knows or should know about the vehicle defect. The clock does not start ticking the day the customer buys the vehicle or drives it for the first time. If you are concerned that you may be past the deadline for filing a Lemon Law claim, a savvy California Lemon Law attorney may be able to demonstrate to the court that you did not and could not have known about the defect for some time, thus extending your timeline for filing a Lemon Law claim.

Call a Knowledgeable Lemon Law Attorney at Nita Lemon Law Firm if You Were Sold a Defective Vehicle

If you are experiencing problems with your vehicle, I would like the opportunity to evaluate your lemon law claim at no charge to you and discuss your legal options. For a free, no-obligation consultation, please call me toll-free at 877-921-5256, submit a free case evaluation on my website at www.nitalemonlaw.com, or email me directly at nick@nitalemonlaw.com. Either way, I will personally evaluate your case and promptly respond to your inquiries. I look forward to hearing from you.

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