When it comes down to brass tax, strong lemon law claims stem from comprehensive warranty repair invoices. It’s truly amazing how many consumers we see get burned by a lemon because their paperwork didn’t provide enough evidence of manufacturer negligence.

Anytime you bring a defective vehicle into the dealership to diagnose and repair a problem, you ALWAYS need to have exhaustive documentation. If your vehicle is still under warranty, it is even more vital that you walk out with the proper paperwork.

What is the Repair Invoice?

The repair invoice is a vital document that lays out (or should layout) all the details of your vehicle’s issue (also referred to as the “Nonconforming Condition”), symptoms, how the manufacturer or authorized dealership attempted to fix it, the outcome, costs involved, dates, and so on. The California Bureau of Automotive Repair regulates how and when a repair order is generated.

Essentially, each repair invoice is the documentation of a repair attempt. These form the baseline of how you present a lemon law case to the judge. Without the proper invoice, getting benefits under lemon law is going to be incredibly difficult – if not impossible. Remember, in California, a visit to your repair facility counts as a repair attempt even if the repair facility chooses to do no actual repair work.

Why It’s Important

Unfortunately, an oral history of a vehicle’s repairs will not likely hold up in a court of law. The details of repair invoices are oftentimes the crucial bits of information that make or break lemon law cases. They are your main pieces of evidence and typically the first and last things anyone will look at to judge your case. Don’t leave your case up to “your word against theirs.”

Examples of information on repair orders that can help you receive benefits under California lemon law:

  • The manufacturer has made at least two attempts to repair an issue covered under the warranty.
  • The vehicle has been out of service for more than 30 total days for the repair of any number of issues covered under the warranty.
  • The issue covered under the warranty was not caused by driver abuse or error.

It’s not uncommon for there to be inconsistencies between the repair invoice and what you claim in a lemon law case. That being said, you need to be very, VERY careful that the repair invoice has all the necessary information to legitimize your case.

Always remember, the only proof you have that repairs were attempted and unsuccessful are the invoices.

What Your Repair Invoice Needs to Have

The importance of a sound repair invoice in a lemon law claim cannot be emphasized enough.

First and foremost, you MUST make sure that the repair order is closed. This will need to be confirmed on the invoice. Typically the document you receive when you drop off the car is called the “work order;” detailing the work you are asking the repair facility to complete. When you pick up the car, you receive the closed “repair order;” the repair attempted on the car.

Say you had one repair attempt that proved to be unsuccessful. You subsequently take your vehicle to the manufacturer for more repair attempts. If the first repair order was never closed (you didn’t receive the closed repair order when you picked up the car), all of the subsequent repair attempts will appear to be the same initial first (1st) repair attempt.

Believe it or not, repair facilities will try this loophole from time-to-time; you need to be extra careful and not fall victim to it!

Here is what you need to do:

  1. Get a signed copy of the work order and repair order EVERY time you take your vehicle in and pick it up.
  2. After the repair attempt, make sure they close out the order ticket and provide you with an invoice, the closed repair order.
  3. Make sure the repair invoice accurately contains the following information:
    • The make, model, year of the vehicle, and the VIN.
    • An accurate description of the problem you came to them with. This is on you. When you first arrive at the dealership, you need to get as descriptive as possible. Be sure you are thoroughly recounting any sounds, jerks, or any other detail that implicates a defect.
    • The date and time you brought the vehicle in.
    • The date and time you picked the vehicle up.
    • An accurate reading of the mileage in, and mileage out.
    • The name and employee ID of the service advisor you dealt with.

Not having all the proper details can result in serious issues with how your lemon law claim shakes out. Repair facilities can make documentation errors that can be extremely costly to you and your case. Whenever you have any sort of defect, you need to be diligent in making sure it’s all accurate.

Wrapping Up

We don’t like to assume that manufacturers and repair facilities are out to get you, especially the repair facilities. It’s not generally in their best interest to leave important bits of information out of a repair invoice. After all, they will not get paid from the manufacturer if they don’t accurately list out the details of the repair order. In most cases, your repair order will document everything accurately and follow the guidelines of the California Bureau of Automotive Repair Write-It-Right manual.

However, mistakes happen and it is your responsibility to make sure everything is corrected as the final set of eyes before you leave the facility. To reiterate, the repair invoice is the most important piece of the puzzle in a lemon law case; you need to know exactly what to look for.

Hopefully, this post will help prepare you for the lemon law process!

If you have any further questions about the repair invoice or anything related to a claim, please don’t hesitate to contact our Los Angeles lemon lawyer!

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