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California Lemon Law Process

California’s Lemon Law, found in the Song-Beverly Consumer Warranty Act and Tanner Consumer Protection Act, offers protection to consumers who purchase or lease new vehicles that don’t behave as they are supposed to. If you find yourself with a vehicle that is repeatedly failing to meet standards of quality and performance, California provides strong consumer protections that entitle you to return the vehicle for a replacement, get your money back, or keep the vehicle with a cash payment as compensation for the loss in value and inconvenience you’ve suffered.

Don’t expect you can just walk into the dealership and demand a refund or replacement, though. There is a process you have to follow to secure your rights under the California lemon law, and mistakes can be costly. Having a lemon law attorney guide you and represent you along the way can help ensure your claim is successful and fully vindicates your rights under the law.

Below we outline the process for pursuing your lemon law claim. If you are having trouble with a vehicle that you think qualifies as a lemon, call Nita Lemon Law for a free case evaluation. From our office in Los Angeles, we serve clients throughout Southern California and statewide.

What Qualifies as a Lemon in California?

A vehicle is typically considered a lemon if it has a substantial defect that is covered by the original manufacturer’s warranty and persists after a reasonable number of repair attempts. In California, the law presumes the vehicle to be a lemon if, within 18 months of delivery or 18,000 miles on the odometer (whichever comes first), any of the following occurs:

  1. The manufacturer has made two or more attempts to repair a warranty problem that could result in death or serious injury (serious safety defect).
  2. The manufacturer has made at least four attempts to fix the same warranty problem.
  3. The vehicle has been out of service for more than 30 days while under warranty for any number of warranty problems.

These conditions provide a framework for the Lemon law, but other situations may also apply. It’s important to maintain detailed records of all repairs and communication with the dealer and manufacturer.

Step-by-Step Guide to the California Lemon Law Process

Step 1: Document Everything. The moment you suspect your vehicle may be a lemon, start documenting every interaction, repair, and issue. Keep all repair orders, communication records, and warranty information. These documents are crucial in establishing your case.

Step 2: Allow Reasonable Repair Attempts. You must give the manufacturer or dealer an opportunity to fix the problem. What is considered “reasonable” can vary, but the guidelines mentioned above offer a general benchmark.

Step 3: Contact the Manufacturer. If the problem persists, inform the manufacturer of the issues. Sending a formal complaint in writing and keeping a copy for your records is advisable. The manufacturer may offer to repurchase or replace the vehicle.

Step 4: Seek a Replacement or Refund. If your vehicle is declared a lemon, you are entitled to a replacement or a refund. The refund should include the vehicle’s full contract price, including charges for accessories, taxes, and licensing fees, minus a deduction for the vehicle’s use before the first repair attempt. “Cash and keep” is also an option if the problem is something you can live with and you otherwise love the car.

Step 5: Skip the State-Certified Arbitration Program. Many manufacturers (but not all) participate in California’s state-certified arbitration program, which can be a quicker alternative to going to court. The arbitrator’s decision is not binding on you, but if you choose to accept it, the manufacturer must comply with the terms. We recommend skipping this step. It is not required, and in our experience, vehicle owners and lessees fare better pursuing their rights in court rather than arbitration.

Step 6: Consider Legal Action. If you and the manufacturer cannot agree on a fair resolution, you might consider filing a lawsuit. Consulting with a law firm experienced in California’s Lemon Law ensures that you navigate this complex process with expert guidance. At Nita Lemon Law, we don’t charge you any fees to take your case. If we are successful in your claim, the manufacturer will pay our fees, and if your claim is unsuccessful, we won’t charge you any fee.

Additional Tips for Navigating the Lemon Law Process

  • Timing is Critical: Don’t delay in taking action once you believe your vehicle is a lemon.
  • Expert Legal Advice: Consult with an attorney who has a deep understanding of California Lemon Law to evaluate your situation.
  • Negotiation: Be open to negotiation; manufacturers may offer a settlement that can save time and expenses associated with a trial.

Contact Nita Lemon Law for Help With the Lemon Law Claim Process in California

The road to resolving a lemon law claim in California might seem daunting, but it’s a path well-trodden by the legal experts at Nita Lemon Law who advocate for consumers’ rights on a daily basis. Remember, the goal of the Lemon Law is to ensure that consumers are not stuck with a defective vehicle that cannot be fixed despite reasonable opportunities. By understanding the steps involved and seeking the right legal guidance, you can confidently navigate the process and reach a fair resolution.

For personalized assistance with your lemon law claim, reach out to the dedicated team at Nita Lemon Law Firm by calling 213-232-5055 in Los Angeles or 877-921-5256 statewide. Our in-depth knowledge of California’s Lemon Law can help steer your case toward a successful outcome. Contact us today to learn how we can support you through this process.


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