You’ve bought a car or vehicle and it doesn’t work, despite your best and repeated efforts to get it repaired. You might have a lemon on your hands. Under state lemon laws, automobile manufacturers are required to either replace the defective vehicle or reimburse you, but you will need to pursue a lemon law claim.

How do you pursue a lemon law claim?

1. Determine if California’s Lemon Law covers your vehicle.

The Lemon Law in California covers cars, pickup trucks, vans, and SUVs, as well as parts of motor homes. It covers new vehicles, as well as used vehicles if they are still under their manufacturer’s warranty. Vehicles can be either purchased or leased and can be used for personal or business use, under certain circumstances. The Lemon Law will not cover used vehicles that have not been in for repair of problems under a manufacturer’s warranty, vehicles like off-road vehicles that are not registered under the California Vehicle Code, or vehicles that have been abused by the owner.

2. Determine if the problem you are having with your car is covered by the California Lemon Law:

  • The problem has to be covered under the manufacturer’s warranty.
  • The problem must reduce the use, value, or safety of the vehicle, and cannot have been caused by abuse.

3. Make sure that you have met the statutory guidelines for attempting to get your vehicle fixed.

Lemon Laws only apply when you have given dealerships a “reasonable” number of repair attempts. In California, this usually means you have taken your car in for repairs at least 4 times for the same problem but it is still not fixed, your car has been out of service or in the shop for 30 (non-consecutive) days, or you have tried at least twice to get a safety defect likely to cause death or serious bodily injury fixed. If you have met these criteria, you might be entitled to replacement or refund for your vehicle under the California Lemon Law.

4. Make sure you are as detailed as possible when describing your vehicle’s defect to the dealer when you take it in for repairs.

Describe every possible detail, such as when specifically the problem occurs, how often it occurs, and any associated noises or smells. It may help to keep a log in your car so that you can accurately describe the issue to the dealer. When you take the car in repeatedly, describe the problem the same way each time. If the manufacturer later argues that each repair attempt was for a different issue, you might not qualify for relief under the lemon law.

5. In order to prove that you have made a reasonable number of attempts to repair your vehicle, make sure that you keep detailed documentation of all repairs.

While the dealer might try to perform different repairs to fix your car, you need to be able to establish the same underlying defect is causing the problem.

  • Before you sign the work order for each repair, ensure that the service technician has included all the details you have described to him or her.
  • When you pick up the car after each repair, ensure that the documentation from the dealership describes all the work performed and includes any parts that were replaced during the repair attempt.
  • Ensure that all paperwork is properly dated and shows how long your car was out of use and in the shop.

6. If your dealer fixes different problems with each repair but there are still issues with your car, you may still qualify.

You may qualify for a refund or replacement under the lemon law by showing that your vehicle was out of commission or in the shop for 30 or more days. The days do not have to be consecutive, but make sure you have detailed records of when your car was in the shop or not working.

7. Make sure that you have all the required paperwork to make your claim to the manufacturer.

You will need to have certain paperwork to pursue your claim, including your purchase or lease agreement, all warranty information (including extended warranties if purchased), and all the bills, invoices, and receipts you have for your repair attempts. You should also gather any notes you made about conversations you’ve had with service technicians at the dealership or with the manufacturer. Make sure you have copies of all written correspondence you’ve had with the manufacturer and dealer.

8. Once you’ve gathered all your documentation, you can submit your claim to the manufacturer.

They can either offer you a refund or replacement or deny the claim by asserting the vehicle does not qualify as a lemon under the law or that the car was not repaired under warranty.

9. Hire a qualified and experienced California Lemon Law lawyer to increase your chances of success and make sure that you recover what you are entitled to under California law.

An attorney will help ensure that your claim is prepared correctly so that your claim is more likely to succeed. Additionally, if your claim is denied, an attorney can still help you obtain a favorable result by filing a lawsuit with the proper court. Contact us right away to schedule your free consultation.


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