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A Guide to California Lemon Law

The California Lemon Law

When you purchase a vehicle, you fully expect that it will work properly. However, there are times when California residents purchase vehicles that are defective. When this occurs, the consumer should be covered under warranty, but there are times when the dealership is unable to repair the vehicle within a reasonable amount of time or a reasonable number of repair attempts.

If you have purchased or leased a defective vehicle and the dealership failed to repair the vehicle within a reasonable opportunity to do so, you may need to seek assistance from an attorney as soon as possible. At Young & Young APC, our qualified Lemon Law attorneys have extensive experience helping clients prosecute Lemon Law claims in Orange County, Los Angeles, San Diego, Riverside, San Bernardino, San Francisco, San Jose, Sacramento, Oakland, and throughout California.

The Song-Beverly Consumer Warranty Act (California Civil Code §§ 1790-1795.8), commonly known as the California Lemon Law, provides protections for buyers of defective motor vehicles and motorcycles. The statute sets forth the legal obligations that manufacturers owe to consumers with respect to implied and express warranties. The California Lemon Law requires manufacturers to repair defective vehicles within a reasonable amount of time or within a reasonable number of repair attempts within the manufacturer’s applicable warranty period. If after a “reasonable” number of repair attempts the manufacturer is not able to repair the vehicle, the consumer is entitled to a replacement vehicle or refund. If your vehicle has had at least two warranty repair attempts, you may be entitled to a Lemon Law vehicle repurchase or replacement. Our California Lemon Law attorneys provide free consultations so that consumers may discuss the specific circumstances regarding their potential lemon vehicle.

The California Lemon Law Presumption

The Tanner Consumer Protection Act (California Civil Code § 1793.22) is a specific section of the California Lemon Law that is referred to as the “Lemon Law presumption period.” This section of the Lemon Law states that a vehicle is presumed to be a lemon if, within the first 18 months from delivery to the buyer or within 18,000 miles of use (whichever occurs first), one of the following happens:

  • The manufacturer is given four or more attempts to repair a warranty-covered defect which substantially impairs the use, value, or safety of the vehicle; or
  • The manufacturer is given two or more attempts to repair a serious warranty covered defect that can result in injury or death; or
  • The vehicle has been out of service for more than thirty total days (cumulatively).

There is a common misconception that in order for a vehicle to qualify as a lemon it must satisfy one of the aforementioned occurrences within the Lemon Law presumption period. While the Tanner Consumer Protection Act is an added layer of consumer protection to the California Lemon Law, a Lemon Law attorney can tell you that many successful Lemon Law cases involve vehicle repair attempts that occur after the Lemon Law presumption period. As a general rule, a vehicle may qualify under the California Lemon Law so long as the vehicle’s repair attempts occurred within the manufacturer’s warranty period.

California Lemon Law Qualifications

The California Lemon Law provides protection to buyers and lessees of new or used vehicles. The buyer/lessee of a new or used motor vehicle is entitled to a recovery if:

  • The vehicle has a defect or “nonconformity” to warranty that substantially impairs the use, value, or safety of the vehicle to the buyer or lessee; and
  • The manufacturer or its representative(s) does not properly repair the vehicle to conform to its warranty after a “reasonable” number of attempts or within a reasonable amount of time.

If the manufacturer or its authorized repair facility is unable to service or repair your vehicle to conform to the applicable express warranties after a “reasonable” amount of repair attempts, the manufacturer must promptly replace the vehicle or provide a refund.

A “Reasonable” Amount of Repair Attempts

The California Lemon Law does not specify the number of repair attempts necessary to constitute a “reasonable” number of attempts. This requirement is determined on a case-by-case basis according to the severity of the vehicle’s defect. Safety-related defects may satisfy this requirement in as little as two repair attempts. Less serious defects will require more repair visits. Alternatively, a vehicle may satisfy this requirement if it has been at the repair facility due to warranty repairs for a cumulative total of over 30 days (not necessarily all at one time).

California Lemon Law Deadlines

The California Lemon Law imposes an absolute four-year statute of limitations for filing a claim. The law states that the statute of limitations begins when the consumer knew or “should have known” that their vehicle was a lemon. Under California Lemon Law, consumers (or a Lemon Law attorney on the consumer’s behalf) must file their lawsuit within this time period for their claim to be viable. If a consumer fails to file a claim within the statute of limitations, they may be precluded from pursuing a Lemon Law lawsuit.  We recommend that you consult with a Lemon Law attorney as soon as you suspect that you may benefit from the protections afforded to consumers under the California Lemon Law.

How to Pursue a California Lemon Law Claim

A California Lemon Law attorney can assist you with the following step-by-step process to pursue a California Lemon Law claim:

  • Take the Vehicle in for Repair Attempts: Take your vehicle to the manufacturer’s authorized repair facility for repair attempts and avoid independent repair shops. Under the California Lemon Law, it is best to have records that prove you brought the vehicle to the manufacturer’s authorized repair facility for a reasonable number of attempts to repair the vehicle’s defect.
  • Accurately Report and Verify All Concerns: Make sure that all of your concerns are accurately documented when you take your vehicle in for repair attempts. Before leaving the dealership, request a work order and verify that it accurately reflects your concerns.
  • Gather Copies of all Documents: While repair records are essential to the Lemon Law process, it is important to gather all relevant documents that support your claim. These documents include, but are not limited to, a copy of all repair orders, a copy of the purchase or lease contract, and copies of receipts for incidental costs related to the defect, such as expenses for repairs, rental vehicles, or towing (if any). In addition, gather copies of any correspondence you have had with the manufacturer or dealership personnel. Keep all of these documents for consultation with a California Lemon Law attorney.
  • Take Action Sooner than Later: Once you have taken the vehicle into an authorized dealership for multiple warranty repair attempts (or one lengthy repair attempt), contact an experienced Lemon Law attorney for a free consultation. The law limits the time within which individuals may file a lawsuit. Allowing too much time to pass may forever bar you from asserting your claim.
  • Hire an Experienced California Lemon Law Attorney: Filing a California Lemon Law claim may present complications that only an experienced Lemon Law attorney can navigate successfully. An experienced Lemon Law attorney has a detailed understanding of the law and can devise an individualized strategy tailored specifically for your Lemon Law case.

Cost of Hiring a California Lemon Law Attorney

Unlike other California Lemon Law firms, we do not charge clients any retainer fees.  The cost-shifting provision in the California Lemon Law requires the automobile manufacturer to pay for the vehicle owner/lessee’s reasonably incurred attorney’s fees, cost, and expenses incurred by their Lemon Law attorney. This provision of the California Lemon Law levels the playing field against auto manufacturers and allows consumers to successfully pursue Lemon Law claims in California.

California Lemon Law Remedies

Lemon Law damages recoverable under the Song-Beverly Consumer Warranty Act in the case of a Lemon Law buyback or vehicle repurchase include, but are not limited to, a refund of all amounts paid or payable for the purchase or lease of the vehicle (less a statutory mileage offset or “good use” credit for miles driven before the first repair attempt), incidental and consequential damages, litigation costs, and attorney’s fees. Alternatively, the buyer may elect to receive a replacement vehicle of the same MSRP value as the defective vehicle; or a cash settlement.

Lemon Law Buyback

If your purchased vehicle qualifies for a buyback under California Lemon Law, an experienced California Lemon Law attorney can help you recover a refund that may include the following:

  • Initial down payment for the vehicle;
  • All monthly payments made for the vehicle;
  • Collateral charges, which include sales tax, finance charges, and registration fees;
  • Incidental and consequential expenses that are related to the defects in the vehicle, including expenses for repairs, rental cars, or towing; and
  • Payment of the vehicle’s loan balance.

*less a statutory mileage offset

If your leased vehicle qualifies for a buyback under California Lemon Law, your refund may include the following:

  • Down payment or lease inception payment made for the vehicle;
  • All monthly lease payments made for the vehicle;
  • Collateral charges, which include sales tax, finance charges, and registration fees;
  • Incidental and consequential expenses that are related to the defects in the vehicle, including repair, rental car, and/or towing expenses; and
  • Payment of the vehicle’s remaining lease balance and lease-end buyout.

*less a statutory mileage offset

Statutory Mileage Offset Formula

If you are entitled to a buyback under the California Lemon Law, the manufacturer is entitled to deduct a statutory mileage offset for the miles driven from the time of purchase or lease until the first repair attempt. This statutory mileage offset is determined by multiplying the actual price of the new motor vehicle paid or payable by the buyer, including any charges for transportation and manufacturer-installed options, by a fraction having as its denominator 120,000 and having as its numerator the number of miles traveled by the new motor vehicle prior to the time the buyer first delivered the vehicle to the manufacturer or distributor, or its authorized service and repair facility for correction of the problem that gave rise to the nonconformity.

An experienced California Lemon Law attorney can ensure that you receive all recoverable amounts to which you are entitled.

Replacement Vehicle

If your purchased or leased vehicle qualifies under California Lemon Law, and you elect to receive a replacement vehicle, the replacement vehicle must be substantially identical to the vehicle replaced. The manufacturer also must pay for the amount of any sales or use tax, license fees, registration fees, and other official fees which the buyer is obligated to pay in connection with the replacement, plus any incidental damages for reasonable repair, towing, and rental car costs actually incurred by the buyer. The buyer is only liable to pay the manufacturer the amount calculated for the statutory mileage offset for use of the vehicle before the first repair attempt.

Contact our California Lemon Law attorneys today

If you or somebody you care about has purchased a defective vehicle but are having trouble getting proper repairs completed under the terms of the warranty, seek assistance from an attorney today. At Young & Young APC, we are standing by to help. Our attorneys are experts in California Lemon Law, and we will use our resources to help you secure the compensation you need.

When you need assistance from a California Lemon Law attorney in the areas of Orange County, Los Angeles, San Diego, Riverside, San Bernardino, San Francisco, San Jose, Sacramento, or Oakland, you can contact us for a free consultation of your case by clicking here or by calling 833-536-6600 (833-LEMON-00).

Our California lemon law lawyers have successfully handled cases involving many vehicle brands including:

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