Lemon Law Attorneys
Santa Clara is near the center of Silicon Valley. As one would expect, it’s home to the headquarters of high-tech companies such as Intel. Over 84% of Santa Clara’s workforce drives to work. The average commute is shorter than the rest of the country. That is an exceptionally good thing as Santa Clara traffic is the stuff of nightmares. Even when the 49ers don’t have a game. A vehicle that is reliable, can handle stop and go and stop traffic along with long periods of just sitting is essential.
A new vehicle that continually has issues that the dealer can’t repair, or is always in the shop, or has safety issues that make driving a nail-biting experience (but you must drive it if you want to work) is not something you should have to endure.
Luckily, you don’t. The California Lemon Law is in place to rectify the situation. All you need is a guide through the process.
The Gayle Law Group is that guide. Allow us to use our two decades – and counting - of experience resolving Lemon Law cases on behalf of consumers in Santa Clara. Our attorneys have dealt successfully with every brand, make, model of gas, electric, and hybrid vehicles; motorcycles; trucks, and RVs.
Our founding attorney, Liz Gayle, spent the first years of her career representing product manufacturers, including an 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 you have a vehicle that is a lemon, or is headed that way, it’s time to call the Gayle Law Group PC.
The California Lemon Law
There have always been lemons.
In 1970, California was one of the first states to change that with the Lemon Law.
What exactly does the Lemon Law do?
A purchased or leased, new or used vehicle in California that is under a warranty and has an ongoing issue(s) 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. For the most part, the vehicle must be under warranty.
It applies to used vehicles that are certified pre-owned and/or still under a manufacturer’s warranty.
Vehicle must be under a manufacturer’s warranty to qualify as a lemon. Cars, trucks, and the powertrain portions of motorhomes are covered by the Lemon Law if:
- The vehicle is new, used, pre-owned or certified.
- It was bought or leased.
- 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 are considered consumer goods and have the same protections as any consumer goods sold with a manufacturer’s warranty.
What is a Lemon?
The Lemon Law requires both a substantial defect and either the vehicle is not repaired after many attempts, or it has been at the dealership for many days cumulatively.’
Substantial defects are ones that impair a vehicle’s “use, value, or safety.”
The Lemon Law definitions:
- 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 are defects that put the driver, passengers, and other drivers in danger.
The issue 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 safety related issues.
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.
Regardless, if the vehicle has been in ‘the shop’ for more than thirty cumulative days, whatever the defect(s), it may also qualify as a lemon.
Motor Vehicles are better built, safer, and more integrated than ever. In 2020 8.8 million vehicles were manufactured in the United States alone. It's inevitable that some things will go wrong. Designers, engineers, people, and robots are hardly perfect.
The Gayle Law Group, PC has watched vehicles become ever more sophisticated and complex. We’ve kept pace with every change, and we’ve had lemon law 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 DefectsElectric vehicles have less than 20 moving parts. However, that 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 have the same protection as cars under the Lemon Law - but in a slightly different way. Motorcycles are ‘consumer goods’ and are protected just as other consumer goods sold with a manufacturer’s warranty are.
Every rider knows that what might be considered a minor defect in a car could be a serious safety hazard in a bike. Protections are there for motorcycle owners. No one must put up with a lemon.
What Makes a Motorcycle a Lemon?
A motorcycle is a lemon if it was bought new, is under warranty, doesn’t perform as advertised, and you’ve tried to have it repaired and have been unsuccessful.
Motorcycles may be considered lemons 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 DefectsCommon 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.
Trucks are covered by the California Lemon Law.
Because trucks have high safety ratings, are built to be rugged, are bought to be heavily used (sometimes for business use) many truck owners think the lemon law doesn’t apply to their vehicle.
It does. The Lemon Law protects trucks that do not meet safety or other performance standards.
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.
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 Towables
Motorized RVs refer to Class A, Class B, and Class C vehicles. Towables include fifth-wheel trailers, toy haulers, travel trailers and pop-up campers.
Whatever RV or motorhome or trailer you have; they are major investments. You rely on them when you travel. Sometimes far off the beaten path.
Santa Clara is a perfect place to have a RV or towable. Unfortunately, things can go wrong. Families may be 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.
Thankfully, there are remedies available to Santa Clara RV, motorhome, and towable owners.
RVs and motorhomes are covered under the California Lemon Law while towables are covered as consumer goods and have the same protections as other consumer goods sold with a manufacturer’s warranty.
What Makes a 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 covered as ‘consumer goods.’
Here’s 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 – If the RV or towable is new, 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
Call Gayle Law Group PC as soon as possible.
You are the only one who can document what you are going through with your vehicle. You can expect no help from the dealership or manufacturer. Be proactive; ask the dealership for the documentation you are entitled to at every visit.
Always get the repair order and invoice. Even if they have not or cannot fix the problem ‘that day,’ ask for the invoice.
Never let them leave your ticket “open” while a part is being ordered. Get an invoice then and when the part comes in. Remember, every visit is a ‘reasonable attempt.’
Even if you must step around to view their computer screen, make sure 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.
Document every call with the dealer and/or manufacturer; always jot down the name and title of anyone you talk to.
When a dealer, salesperson, manager, or manufacturer’s rep explains any aspect of the California Lemon Law, ignore them. They’re not lawyers. They are, in fact, potential defendants in a lawsuit.
The manufacturer pays all legal fees and expenses when we bring a successful Lemon Law action. Some Santa Clara 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 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.