Buying a new or used vehicle and finding out it’s a lemon is one of the most frustrating experiences you can face as a consumer. In the old days, when a customer bought a faulty car, it was a more or less “tough luck” situation. In California, this all changed in the 1970s when the Song Beverly Consumer Warranty Act (known as lemon law) was introduced to protect customers from being stuck with a faulty car.
If you’ve got a feeling that something isn’t right with the new or used vehicle you recently purchased in California, it could very well be a lemon. However, before jumping to conclusions, you should have an understanding of what exactly qualifies a vehicle as a lemon.
So, you may be wondering how to take legal action against a car manufacturer defect under lemon law. Here’s everything you need to know about how a California lemon lawyer can help you:
Kinds of Vehicle Defects in California Lemon Law Cases
In California, there are a number of common warranty-covered manufacturing defects in cars that qualify as a lemon. These include (but are not limited to):
- Steering problems
- Issues with braking (need to press down further, vibrations in the steering wheel, pulsating pedals)
- Repeated check engine light warnings
- Headlight malfunctions
- Engine overheating
- Faulty ignition
- Fluid Leaks
- Transmission problems (burning smell, lack of response, grinding gears)
- Leaky exhaust
- Defective door latches, locks, windows
- Water seepage
- Broken speedometer
- Faulty seat belts
- Electrical issues
- Airbag defects
- Anti-lock braking system failure
The problems above are sometimes classified under lemon law as substantial defects. These are covered by the manufacturer’s warranty and compromise the vehicle’s functionality, value, or safety. Most importantly, none of these are usually caused by user abuse of the faulty car.
In California, it is not necessary for these manufacturing defects in cars to be reported within 18 months of purchasing the vehicle, or 18,000 miles have accrued on the odometer. But, if you do, you may have a very strong claim for damages. That being said, as long as your vehicle is covered by an express warranty – no matter the mileage or age – you have rights under the California lemon law.
Types of Vehicles Covered
Lemon law in California is set up to cover new, used, and leased vehicles, as well as consumer protection against faulty products. A California lemon law attorney can help you with the following defective vehicle types:
- Motorhome and recreational vehicles
If you have questions about whether your particular vehicle is covered under the lemon law in California, it’s best to consult with an experienced California lemon lawyer. They can assess your case and determine the best course of action for you to take.
Reasonable Number of Repair Attempts
If you have a faulty car, manufacturers should get a reasonable number of opportunities to fix it. This is known as a “reasonable number of attempts” to fix substantial manufacturing defects in cars.
There are several rules that apply here:
- The manufacturer has made two or more attempts to repair substantial defective parts, or
- The manufacturer has made four or more attempts to resolve the same issue, or
- The faulty car has spent more than 30 days in the repair shop for any number of defects.
If your vehicle meets any of the criteria above, there are four major ways a California lemon lawyer can help you stand up to the auto manufacturers. They will fight for your rights and make sure that you receive the compensation you deserve for manufacturing defects in cars.
How to Take Legal Action Against a Car Manufacturer Defect
1. Manufacturer Buybacks
When a vehicle has been proven to be a lemon, buybacks are a very common objective for consumers in California. A buyback is when the manufacturer repurchases your faulty car for the price you paid with a “mileage offset” calculated in.
This includes the total amount payable for the vehicle. If you took out a loan, this would entail the down payment and all the monthly payments you have made. Moreover, the manufacturer would need to pay off the remainder of the loan.
In addition to the payment for the vehicle, the manufacturer must reimburse you for any charges related to manufacturer-installed items or possibly items installed by an authorized dealership.
A replacement under California lemon law is when the manufacturer gives the consumer an identical vehicle or one of similar value in place of the defective one. The replacement vehicle must be delivered with all the warranties that typically come with a new vehicle. Essentially, the warranty period starts over.
However, under California lemon law, the replacement remedy is completely optional for both parties. The consumer and manufacturer must come to an agreement for this to work – contrary to a buyback.
A California lemon lawyer could help you with this process, as they can negotiate on your behalf. They have a better understanding of the legalities and can ensure that your rights are protected.
3. Defective Used Cars from Dealership
In California, buyers of used vehicles can also reap similar benefits as new ones. When you buy a used vehicle from a dealership, there is always a degree of risk involved. If the vehicle is defective, a California lemon lawyer can help to hold dealerships accountable.
However, how to take legal action against a car manufacturer defect is not quite as black and white when it comes to used vehicles. There are several things you need to do when buying one. First, make sure there is a buyer’s guide. Dealerships are required by law to show this with used vehicles they have for sale.
Within the guide, you should be able to determine whether or not the used vehicle is under the dealer warranty. If so, it’s possible the vehicle has a warranty period similar to the manufacturer’s. In other words, it would be covered under lemon law like it is brand new.
The used faulty car may also be covered under an implied warranty. Essentially, this guarantees the vehicle meets the requirements to provide safe and reliable transportation for the time specified. If there is a substantial manufacturing defect(s) in cars during this timeframe, the dealership would be held accountable.
4. Coverage of ALL Incidental Costs
In the case your car is proven to be a lemon, the manufacturer must cover all costs associated with the defective vehicle.
In addition to the primary costs outlined earlier, this includes ALL legal expenses throughout the entire process of filing and resolving a legal claim. This includes:
- Repair costs
- Sales tax
- Registration fees
- Rental car payments
- Cab fares
- Any costs associated with an injury resulting from the defective vehicle
- Lost wages
- Anything else directly caused by the faulty car
It’s important to keep documentation of any and all expenses related to the defective vehicle. This will help strengthen your case and ensure that you are fully compensated for any costs incurred as a result of purchasing a lemon car. A California lemon lawyer can also help you keep track of these expenses and advise you on what is eligible for compensation.
Need a California Lemon Lawyer?
There are a few ways to look at how to take legal action against a car manufacturing defect. If you represent yourself, it can be very hard to win. The auto industry in California is backed by some of the most expensive legal teams money can buy. Going up against them without the help of a specialized attorney is never a good idea.
If you go with one of the big nationwide lemon law firms, it’s very likely you won’t get the best results for manufacturing defects in cars. Many of these firms make their money on the sheer volume of clients they get. If you go with one of these, a big red flag is that your case is mostly handled by paralegals or assistants. Moreover, they may urge you to take a cash settlement from the manufacturer, of which can be significantly less than what you paid.
Without question, going with a specialized California lemon attorney is the easiest way to prevail. The firm you choose to work with should prioritize consumer justice over anything else and work to provide speedy results. As a rule of thumb, be wary of any lemon law lawyer who asks for any retainer or contingent fees to be taken from your buyback recovery. Being as how a qualified lemon vehicle is the result of manufacturer negligence or willful violation, a trustworthy lawyer will not ask for any out-of-pocket costs to represent you.
Think your new or used vehicle is a lemon? Get in contact with us today and schedule your FREE consultation.