How to File a Lemon Law Case
Our California Lemon Lawyer Explains How to Assert Your Rights
If you purchased or leased a defective vehicle that is still under the original manufacturer’s warranty, you may be entitled to have your vehicle repurchased or replaced under California’s lemon law. But, in order to assert your rights effectively, you need to have a clear understanding of the steps involved in filing a lemon law claim. Our California lemon lawyer identifies the following steps:
1. Take Your Vehicle to the Dealership for Repair.
In order to protect your rights under California’s lemon law, you must take your vehicle to a “representative” of the manufacturer to get it repaired. Most often, this means taking it to the dealership. You must give the dealership a “reasonable number of attempts” to repair your vehicle under warranty. If you go to an independent repair shop, any “unauthorized” work performed on your vehicle could void your warranty and prevent you from filing a successful lemon law claim.
2. Get Your Dealership Repair Orders.
Each time you go to the dealership, be sure to reiterate the specific issue of concern. Don’t be afraid to let your service representative know that you are there to have the same issue fixed again. This will establish a paper trail in support of your claim and is often the most important evidence in a lemon law claim. Be sure your concerns are taken down accurately, and keep your repair orders. If you do not have your repair orders, the dealership should be able to provide you copies.
3. Give the Dealership a “Reasonable Number of Attempts” to Resolve the Issue.
What constitutes a “reasonable number of attempts” will be different under different circumstances, depending on the severity of the defect, whether the dealership has found a problem with the vehicle, and the amount of time and mileage separating visits. There is no specific number of visits required, but at least two visits are typically needed, and three or four will often be enough. However, sometimes we are able to maintain successful claims on the first visit if the time at the dealership exceeds 30 days. Because the “reasonable number of repair attempts” standard is subjective, it is best to consult with a California lemon lawyer.
4. Gather All Relevant Documentation.
Before filing your claim, you will want to gather all relevant documentation. This includes a copy of your purchase or lease agreement and your dealership repair orders.
5. Your Car Warranty Does Not Need to be Current.
California’s lemon law applies to vehicles that were repaired under warranty. If you have brought your vehicle in for repairs under the warranty, you may still have a lemon law claim even if your warranty has since expired. An expired warranty does not prevent you from having a lemon law claim.
6. Hire an Experienced Lemon Lawyer.
At this point, if not sooner, you will want to discuss your case with an experienced California lemon law attorney. Filing a complaint requires legal expertise, and the major manufacturers typically hire experienced defense firms to represent them in lemon law claims. Your attorney will be able to handle the legal aspects of your claim. We will be there to help you make informed decisions at every step along the way, including settlement negotiations, litigation defense tactics, and overseeing your vehicle surrender when the car is repurchased.
7. A Demand Letter is Not Required.
Although it can sometimes help your case, you are not required to contact the manufacturer directly. Neither you, nor your attorney, are required to send a demand letter to the manufacturer prior to filing a complaint. Often, a manufacturer will not take a case seriously until a formal complaint has been filed against it in court.
8. Negotiate a Settlement or Litigate.
Upon receiving the manufacturer’s initial offer, your attorney will work to negotiate a settlement. If these efforts are successful and you are satisfied with the manufacturer’s offer, your case will be settled. Most lemon law cases settle, but you should consider hiring a California lemon lawyer that is prepared to litigate aggressively in the event a manufacturer resists settlement.
9. Arbitration is Not Required.
In California, vehicle owners are not required to arbitrate their cases prior to filing a formal lemon law complaint. Manufacturers often encourage consumers to arbitrate their case through their own arbitration program, anticipating that many consumers will assume they don’t have a good case and will give up if they lose in arbitration. Remember that the arbitrators are the clients of the manufacturers, so they often rule against the consumer, even on strong lemon law cases. If you lose in arbitration, don’t be discouraged. We will likely still be able to help you. We have successfully represented many consumers who lost in a manufacturer arbitration before retaining us for help with their defective cars.
10. Proceed to Trial.
If the manufacturer refuses to settle after the complaint is filed, then your case will likely proceed to trial. Although the great majority of lemon law cases settle, you should hire an attorney prepared to try the case if the manufacturer refuses to make a reasonable offer. Trial is a very complex legal proceeding; and, in order to fully protect your legal rights, you will need to be represented by a trial-ready California lemon law attorney.
Get Started With a Free Initial Consultation With an Experienced Lemon Lawyer in California
If you have questions about filing a claim under California’s lemon law, you can contact our offices for a free, no-obligation consultation. To discuss your rights with one of our lemon law attorneys, please call or inquire online today.