Lemon Law Attorneys
San Diego is the second largest city in California and the eighth largest in the United States. Ninety-eight percent of Diego households own a vehicle, the overwhelming majority own more than two. Almost the entire San Diego workforce commutes.
Car problems are much more than an inconvenience. A reliable vehicle is a necessity. No one should have to deal with the stress and frustration of a vehicle that doesn’t do what the manufacturer promised it would. California’s Lemon Law can bring relief.
The Gayle Law Group PC has over twenty years of success resolving Lemon Law cases on behalf of San Diego consumers. We have dealt with every brand, make, model of gas, electric, and hybrid vehicles; motorcycles; trucks, and RVs.
Our founding attorney, Liz Gayle, spent the first 12 years of her career representing major product manufacturers, including a major automobile maker, before devoting herself to consumer law. She knows how the manufacturers think and act when faced with a Lemon complaint.
If you think your vehicle may be a lemon (or headed that way) call the Gayle Law Group PC.
The California Lemon Law
There have always been lemons. Cars that were poorly designed; or slipped through quality control; or had parts that were defective.
In California, vehicle owners and lessees have the Lemon Law to provide relief from dangerous or persistent issues with their vehicles.
What exactly does the Lemon Law do? The simple answer:
If you purchased or leased a new or used vehicle in California that is under a warranty and has had an ongoing problem or problems that a dealer has unsuccessfully attempted to fix over multiple repair visits, you may qualify for compensation.
The California Lemon Law applies to cars, trucks, vans, SUVs, RVs, motorcycles, some business-owned vehicles, and boats. It also pertains to used vehicles that are certified pre-owned.
To be eligible for relief the vehicle must be under a manufacturer’s warranty. There is always some confusion over this requirement. Simply, cars, trucks, and the powertrain portions of motorhomes are covered by the Lemon Law if:
- The vehicle is new, used, pre-owned or certified.
- You bought or leased it.
- When you bought or leased the vehicle it was covered by the manufacturer’s warranty (or portion of), or a manufacturer’s extended warranty.
- The vehicle might qualify out of warranty, if it had an ongoing problem that required it to be in the shop several times before the warranty expired.
- The manufacturer has had a reasonable number of opportunities to repair the defect.
- Or the vehicle has been in ‘the shop’ for thirty or more days, cumulatively.
Motorcycles, the coach portion of a mobile home and towables (fifth-wheel trailers, toy haulers, travel trailers and pop-up campers) are covered as consumer goods and have the same protections as any consumer goods sold with a manufacturer’s warranty.
What is a Lemon?
The big question, of course, is ‘what makes a vehicle a lemon?’
The answer can be a bit complicated. The Lemon Law requires both a substantial defect and either that the vehicle is not repaired after multiple attempts to get it fixed or it has been at the dealership for many days cumulatively.
Substantial defects impair the vehicle’s “use, value, or safety.”
- A defect that affects a vehicle’s use is one that prevents you from driving the vehicle as it was intended to be driven.
- A vehicle’s value is diminished when the defect means the vehicle won’t sell for the price it normally would bring - if the defect weren’t there.
- Safety defects put the driver, passengers, and other drivers in danger.
An air conditioner that intermittently blows hot. A heater that never works. A door handle that doesn’t function despite repair after repair. These all qualify as substantial. The problem does not have to be safety related to qualify. Most safety issues are obvious – at least to the driver. Stalling on the highway, vibrations from the brake pedal, a transmission that ‘catches’ or ‘lags,’ and an engine that keeps running hot would all be considered safety related issues.
The vehicle is not repaired after multiple attempts means exactly that. You have a problem with your vehicle, you bring it to the dealer or manufacturer, and continue to have the same problem.
A common myth states “if you bring it in four times, it’s automatically a lemon.” It’s not necessarily true. The law only specifies that a ‘reasonable number of repair attempts’ are made. If a defect involves a safety issue, such as faulty airbags, it may only require two repair attempts. If the vehicle has been in ‘the shop’ for more than thirty days, cumulative, whatever the defect(s), it may also qualify as a lemon.
The average 21st century gas powered car and truck has over 30,000 parts. There are at least 2,000 moving parts.
Vehicles today are better built, safer, and more integrated than ever. In 2020 8.8 million vehicles were manufactured in the United States alone. Millions of those vehicles are in San Diego. It's inevitable that something will go wrong somewhere along the way.
Over the years Gayle Law Group, PC has watched as vehicles became ever more sophisticated and complex. With them has come a new generation of defects that ultimately result in Lemon Law claims. We have experience with all of them.
Common Vehicle Defects in the 2020s (so far)
- Air bag defects.
- Air conditioning.
- Antilock braking system (ABS).
- Automatic transmission.
- Computer defects.
- Electrical problems.
- Engine fire.
- Power steering.
- Seat belts.
- Sudden acceleration and surge.
Electric and Hybrid Vehicle DefectsWhere gas powered vehicles have over 2,000 moving parts, electric vehicles have less than 20. That, however, does not mean that electric and hybrid vehicles have fewer problems. In fact, because the systems in these vehicles are so integrated, even a ‘minor’ problem can have widespread and lasting implications.
- Automatic Backup Automation.
- Battery Failure.
- Braking System.
- Computer issues.
- Electrical System Malfunctions.
- Failure to Hold a Charge.
Motorcycles enjoy the same protection as cars under the California Lemon Law but in a slightly different way. Motorcycles are considered ‘consumer goods’ and have the same protections as other consumer goods sold with a manufacturer’s warranty.
Of course, what would be considered a minor defect in a car could be a serious safety hazard in a bike.
What Makes a Motorcycle a Lemon?
A motorcycle is a lemon if you bought it new, it’s under warranty, doesn’t perform like it is supposed to, and you’ve tried to have it repaired and have been unsuccessful.
In some ways, requirements for motorcycles are less stringent than those for cars under the Lemon Law with less room for interpretation.
Your motorcycle may be considered a lemon if:
- The motorcycle you’re riding isn’t the bike as described in the warranty.
- There is a ‘substantial defect’ that is a safety issue. Or affects your use of the bike or its value.
- The motorcycle has gone to the repair shop multiple times and the problem persists.
- You have not been able to operate the bike for at least thirty days. Note that motorcycle repairs take substantially longer than car repairs. Not being able to use a bike for thirty days or more is not uncommon.
- You haven’t done anything to cause or contribute to the problem. Modifications, an accident, or neglecting regular maintenance void the warranty.
Common Motorcycle DefectsSome common motorcycle defects that have led to Lemon Law claims:
- Loss of power.
- Defective head gaskets.
- Defective fuel pump.
- Cutting out.
- Will not start.
- No crank conditions.
- Oil leaks or sprays.
- Lack of power.
- Electrical system malfunctions.
There are many myths and misconceptions about trucks and our Lemon Law. They cost California truck drivers untold stress and wasted time in repair shops trying to get the unrepairable fixed.
Trucks are built to be rugged. Most have high safety ratings. They are bought to be ruggedly used.
That’s why many – too many – truck owners think the lemon law doesn’t apply to their vehicle.
It’s a misconception that leads truck owners and lessees to assume they have no recourse. Thankfully, the Lemon Law is there for them.
What Makes a Truck a Lemon?
- The gross weight of the truck is less than 10,000 pounds.
- The business has five or fewer vehicles registered in its name in California.
Like cars, trucks that fall under the Lemon Law are considered ‘lemons’ if they have a substantial defect that impairs their “use, value, or safety” and multiple attempts to fix it have failed.
RVs and Motorhomes
Recreational Vehicles and motorhomes represent a wide variety of motorized vehicles and ‘towables.’ Motorized RVs are Class A, Class B, and Class C vehicles. Towables include fifth-wheel trailers, toy haulers, travel trailers and pop-up campers.
RVs, motorhome, and trailers are major investments. Owners use them as home when they leave San Diego for vacations.
Things can go wrong. Families stranded in the wilderness, stuck in the desert, suddenly without water or plumbing, exposed to the elements, or, at the very least, forced to cancel vacations. It’s infuriating when your investment is in the repair shop more than it is on vacation.
There are remedies available to RV, motorhome, and towable owners.
RVs and motorhomes are covered under the California Lemon Law . . . but it’s a bit complicated. Towables are covered as consumer goods and have the same protections as other consumer goods sold with a manufacturer’s warranty.
What Makes My RV/Motorhome/Towable a Lemon?
The chassis of a Class A, Class B, and Class C motorized RV falls under the Lemon Law just as cars and trucks do. The coach is considered ‘consumer goods.’
What that means for your RV:
The chassis – engine, drive train, everything that makes the RV mobile - is a ‘lemon’ if it has a substantial defect that impairs its “use, value, or safety” and multiple attempts to fix it have failed.
Few attempts suffice when the defect is a serious safety issue: anything that puts the driver and passengers in danger. The RV may also be a lemon if it has been in the shop for an excessive number of days – even if the repairs were for different issues.
In fact, in the first 18 months or 18,000 miles (whichever comes first), if the defect remains despite your best efforts or there’s been a series of unending problems, the RV is presumed to be a lemon. Then, it's up to the manufacturers to prove it's not.
The coach and towables – Simply, if you bought the RV or towable new, it’s under warranty, doesn’t perform like it is supposed to due to defects, you’ve tried to have it repaired and have been unsuccessful, the RV can qualify as a lemon.
Electrical and plumbing issues, tank leaks, hookups that consistently fail, slide-outs that won’t work, heating and air conditioning failures are all covered.
What to Do If You Think You Have a Lemon
Document everything . . . and call Gayle Law Group PC.
You are the only one who can document what you are going through with your vehicle. You will not get help from the dealership or manufacturer. You must be proactive; ask the dealership for the documentation you are entitled to at every visit.
Get the repair order and invoice every time you take your vehicle in and pick it up. Even if they have not or cannot fix the problem ‘that day,’ ask for the invoice.
Never allow them to leave your ticket “open” while a part is being ordered. Get an invoice then and when the part comes in and the work is done. Remember, every visit counts as a ‘reasonable attempt.’ Again, it’s up to you to get and keep accurate documents.
Make sure, even if you must step around to view their computer screen, that the service representative enters a ‘complete and accurate description of your vehicle’s problem’ as you’ve described it.
Don’t keep your service repair records in your glove compartment or center console. We hope the reasons for this are obvious – (they can mysteriously disappear while your vehicle is in the shop.)
Document all calls with the dealer and manufacturer; get the name and title of everyone you talk to.
When a dealer, salesperson, manager, or manufacturer’s rep try to explain any aspect of the California Lemon Law, pay them no mind. Whatsoever. They’re not lawyers. They are, in fact, potential defendants in a lawsuit.
First, foremost, the manufacturer pays all your legal fees and expenses when we bring a successful Lemon Law action. Some San Diego lawyers may ask you to pay a retainer fee or tell you that they work on a contingency fee. The Gayle Law Group PC is paid by the manufacturer when your case is resolved. You are never responsible for any legal fees for our representation.
California Lemon Law remedies may include:
- A complete purchase refund (including registration fees, the down payment, and financing costs) AND having the full balance of your loan/lease paid off in full.
- OR a replacement vehicle.
Again, in addition, regardless of the solution, the manufacturer is responsible for attorney’s fees, costs, and expenses. The consumer pays nothing.