There are many, many elements that go into lemon law claims. Moreover, there are some that seem minuscule but are extremely important in how the case plays out. The term “open repair” falls into this category.

When you have a defective vehicle that is still under warranty, step one is typically getting in contact with the manufacturer and setting up a repair order. This generally means that you will be recommended to a manufacturer-certified repair facility so their trusted mechanics can attempt to fix the defect.

Once you are at the facility, you will provide the details of what defective symptoms your car is exhibiting.

Pro Tip: Be as descriptive as you possibly can.

With this information, the repair facility will “open” the repair order.

What is Open Repair?

A simple mention of the term “open repair” probably sounds painless.

When the repair order is in “open” status, this means that the facility is attempting to remedy the defect. Once the repair attempt has been completed, the order should be closed out and you’re on your way.

Sounds pretty simple right?

Unfortunately, it’s not always this easy.

If a repair attempt is left in the open status while you continue to experience issues covered under the warranty, it can cause serious problems down the road if you file a lemon law claim.

Why Open Repair Orders MUST Be Closed Out

In order to have a legitimate lemon law claim, you need proof that your vehicle had a defect(s) that persisted after multiple unsuccessful repair attempts. Here are the stipulations to receive benefits under California lemon law:

  1. The manufacturer has made two or more attempts to repair a defect covered under the warranty.
  2. The manufacturer has made four or more attempts to repair the SAME defect covered under the warranty.

There needs to be a clear, comprehensive documentation of each repair attempt.

Now, a repair attempt ONLY counts if the order has been closed.

At the end of the day, the repair invoice you receive after an attempt to remedy the problem is the only legal proof you have that it was unsuccessful.

Here’s where it can get a bit tricky.

If you brought your vehicle in for a repair and it was never properly closed, any future repair attempts made to remedy the defect would not be supported in the eyes of lemon law. This is because the first repair attempt is technically still “in-progress.”

This is why it is so vitally important that you always, ALWAYS close out the repair order when you leave the facility with your vehicle. Here is what you need to do:

  1. Each time you bring your vehicle to the repair facility, ask for a signed copy of the repair order.
  2. Each time you leave the facility with your vehicle (whether it has been repaired or not), ask the staff to close out the repair order ticket and provide a copy of the invoice.
  3. Be sure the invoice clarifies what the problem was, what they did to diagnose it, any parts that are being ordered, as well as the date in/out and mileage in/out.

While this might all sound like common sense, it’s surprisingly easy, as a consumer, to make mistakes that can potentially alter the outcome of your lemon law case.

What to Watch Out For (And How to Act Properly)

In some cases, the repair facility can contribute to the problem and potentially hinder your ability to receive lemon law benefits from the manufacturer in court. You need to be on your toes to ensure this doesn’t happen to you.

Perhaps the most common scenario in which repair orders are unnecessarily left open is when the facility has to order parts; these can sometimes take a while for the facility to receive.

Here is what it might look like:

  • You go into the facility and get your repair order processed and signed.
  • You later get a call from the facility that they need to order a part to repair the defect.
  • They also tell you that this can take a while and you are welcome to come to pick up your car in the meantime.
  • They tell you they will keep the order open and call you when the part comes in.

STOP! This is a red flag and you shouldn’t fall for it – no matter what they tell you.

First of all, this is potentially irresponsible on the facility’s part. Depending on the nature of the issue, they shouldn’t send a vehicle back on the street that exhibits a substantial defect, meaning it impedes the vehicle’s safety, functionality, or value.

You need to be careful and not get talked into this. There are a couple of routes you can go here.

  1. You can always request that the vehicle remains in the shop. In addition to your safety (and those around you), this is advantageous in the eyes of lemon law. In California, a vehicle can be deemed a lemon if it is out of service for repairs for more than 30 total days. While going with this option will only count as one repair attempt, every day your vehicle sits in the shop waiting for a part to come in adds leverage to legitimize a potential lemon law claim.
  2. If you (and the facility) believe the vehicle is perfectly safe to drive while you wait for the part to come in, you need to request that the repair order be closed out and that the facility provides you with a comprehensive invoice. You are legally entitled to this.

To reiterate, the invoice signifies that the repair order is officially closed. When the part comes in, the facility will need to open a new order to install it.

By doing this, it means that you will get two repair attempts instead of one. If the facility installed the part unsuccessfully on the second repair order, this alone might legitimize your lemon law claim!

Over to You

Repair orders and invoices are the lifeblood of the lemon law process. There are all kinds of seemingly small details within these documents that can have major impacts on the success of your case!

Additionally, getting repairs done from the manufacturer (or a manufacturer-certified repair facility) is something that is often done before an attorney gets involved. You need to know what the process is and which mistakes to avoid before you enter the facility.

The good news is you don’t need to hire an attorney to better prepare yourself for this process. As a lemon lawyer in San Diego, we are happy to chat with you and answer any questions to help steer you in the right direction.

Feel free to contact us today!

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