California Lemon Law, officially known as the Song-Beverly Consumer Warranty Act and found in the California Civil Code beginning with Section 1790, was passed to protect consumers purchasing or leasing either new vehicles or used vehicles whose warranties are still in force. The law requires the manufacturer of the vehicle to either repurchase or replace the vehicle and the manufacturer pays the attorney’s hourly fee, so the client pays nothing out of pocket. To qualify as a “lemon” the vehicle must meet the following Lemon Law criteria.
- Warranty. The vehicle must still be covered by either the original manufacturer warranty or be a “certified” vehicle whose warranty is extended by the manufacturer. If your vehicle is out of warranty but the problem was reported to the authorized dealer during the warranty period and/or an authorized dealer attempted to repair the same problem during the period of the warranty, you may still have a valid lemon law claim. Otherwise, if your vehicle is out of warranty, you do not have a lemon law claim. Most automobile warranties run for 2 to 5 years from the date of the purchase and you are covered if the problem arises within your particular manufacturer’s warranty period (and not for only 18 months and/or 18,000 miles as is commonly misconstrued).
- Reasonable Number of Attempts to Repair. The other element of every Lemon Law claim is that the buyer must have allowed the authorized dealer a reasonable number of attempts to fix the warranty related problem. What constitutes a reasonable number depends on how serious the nature of the complaint is. When the repair involves a safety issue such as a problem with the brakes or sudden acceleration, only a couple of attempts would be sufficient, whereas when the problem involves an annoying electrical issue that does not affect the general safety or drivability, at least four attempts may be required before the manufacturer will agree to a repurchase.
- Unreasonable Number of Days Spent in Repair. The vehicle may also qualify for a repurchase if it spends an unreasonable amount of time at the dealership. If you are having multiple warranty related problems that require constant repair work and the car spends over 30 days in the shop within the warranty period, you may be entitled to a repurchase or a substitute vehicle.
- Substantial Impairment to a Reasonable Person. The vehicle must contain a problem covered by the warranty that substantially impairs the vehicle's use, value or safety to a reasonable person in the same position as the consumer. Though generally Lemon Law will not apply to vehicles with trivial or minor defects, each case must be judged on its own set of facts taking into account the particular needs and expectations of the each vehicle's owner/lessee.
In addition, even if your vehicle does not qualify for a repurchase or a substitute vehicle, you may still be entitled to a cash settlement for the inconvenience and/or out-of-pocket losses you may have incurred while your vehicle was in a state of prolonged disrepair. As with all lemon law claims your attorney should not charge you a penny as all the attorney fees are paid by the manufacturer.
Even though manufacturers should know when the vehicle is a lemon simply by reviewing its service history and then should remedy the situation by offering to compensate the buyer in accordance with the Lemon Law statute, in reality this very rarely happens. Unless the consumer hires an attorney to initiate the process or is savvy enough to personally handle the sometimes very adversarial process, the manufacturers usually do not offer what the buyer is entitled to by law. At Liberman Law Group we have been forcing auto manufacturers to repurchase, replace or otherwise compensate our clients for their defective vehicles for years. If you believe you have a lemon, it costs absolutely nothing to consult with Lemon Law attorney Vadim Liberman about your particular situation by calling or coming in for an in-person free consultation. Mr. Liberman conducts all client interviews and all manufacturer negotiations personally.