The 5 Essential Steps to Filing a Lemon Law Claim

The legal system often confuses (and sometimes scares) people. There is certainly a lot to it – which is why it is typically best to ask for help when it comes to handling legal matters.

The lemon law is certainly no different.

There is a whole lot more to it than complaining to the manufacturer about a car with a bunch of mechanical issues – and getting your money back. There are laws and regulations that have been put in place to protect both consumers and manufacturers. In many cases, the issues stem from the small details tied to each unique situation.

Furthermore, California has a specific set of laws different from other states. So, if you purchased your vehicle in this state, it is recommended that you get in contact with a specialized California lemon law lawyer to help with your case.

Even though the process can get complicated, it is certainly worth pursuing if you believe you have a solid case. You can recover a full refund for the cost of your vehicle and out-of-pocket costs and expenses you’ve paid for the car.

If you are represented by an attorney, filing a lemon law claim is really not all that complicated for the client – your lawyer will handle all of the little details. However, there are many things you can do proactively to make the process as easy and smooth as possible.

Let’s discuss this.

1. Make Sure You Qualify

Before you reach out to any California lemon law lawyers, you want to be sure that you meet the state’s most basic qualifications.

Here are some questions that you should answer.

  • What types of issues are you having with your vehicle?

In California, there are many reasons a car can qualify, but it is common that the vehicle has a defect which “substantially impairs its use, value, or safety.” But, that is not always the case. Therefore, there can be many different issues that give rise to a lemon law claim.

If your problems put you, passengers, or other vehicles on the road in danger, then it naturally would affect the car’s use, value, or safety. Issues with the engine, transmission, steering column, electrical system, etc. would normally classify as substantial impairing defects.

Now, some issues fall into more of a grey area. An experienced California lemon law attorney will be able to provide insight into whether a defect qualifies.

  • Did these issues begin while your vehicle was under warranty?

The California lemon law is usually limited to defects that began and were attempted to be repaired while under the manufacturer’s warranty period. These warranties vary from manufacturer to manufacturer. The basic bumper to bumper warranty is 3 years or 36,000 miles, whichever occurs first, but others can be 5 years or 60,000 miles, some drivetrain warranties can run 10 years or 100,000 miles.

Furthermore, you must give the manufacturer, through its authorized repair facility, usually your local dealership, a reasonable opportunity to repair the car during your warranty period.

Now, there is a four-year statute of limitations for a claim made under the California lemon law – meaning that you can still file a claim after your warranty expires as long as you took the vehicle in for repair attempts while the warranty was in effect. However, it is best to file your claim sooner rather than later.

  • How many repair attempts have been made?

A California lemon law lawyer will need to prove that your vehicle has reached a reasonable number of repair attempts (by a manufacturer-certified repair facility) for the same issue.

This number varies from state-to-state, but California requires a minimum of two attempts unless the car can no longer be repaired or the manufacturer refuses to repair the vehicle. You can also qualify if your vehicle has been in the shop for 30 days or more.

If you meet these criteria, then you could have a very good lemon law claim.

2. Gather Appropriate Documents

The next step will be to gather documentation to corroborate all of your statements. This will include a copy of your purchase or lease contract, repair orders from all repair attempts, and any other documents you have received from the manufacturer-certified mechanic regarding your vehicle’s problems.

If you have any additional charges related to these issues (such as a fee for having your vehicle towed to the mechanic), you will want to include these in your claim so you can receive a refund for these costs and expenses. These types of expenses are considered “incidental costs” – and are covered under California’s lemon law.

3. Be Ready for Negotiations

Of course, manufacturers are not going to hand over thousands of dollars just because you ask them to. Many manufacturers will push for arbitration instead of going to court – they will sell it as a less expensive and quicker option.

In arbitration, you will present your case to one arbitrator who will decide if your car is a lemon and how much compensation you should receive. However, this person is often sponsored by the manufacturer and statistics prove the manufacturer is more successful denying claims in arbitration, while consumers are more successful using the attorneys and the courts.

Ask any good California lemon law lawyer, they will advise you against this option.

Instead, always opt for a lawyer. Manufacturers will fight tooth and nail to give you as little money as possible – so you need a good attorney on your side.

4. Know What You Deserve

If your vehicle does meet the state’s criteria for lemon law, you can receive full compensation for the price of your vehicle or a full replacement from the manufacturer.

The manufacturer is also required to cover any attorney fees and legal costs.

You deserve a full refund or a replacement vehicle at no cost if you purchased a lemon. In order to have a strong claim, you need to have ALL expenses (with receipts) stemming from the lemon tallied up.

5. Consult a Specialized Lemon Law Lawyer

Now that you’ve got all your information in order to file the claim, the next step is finding a qualified attorney to fight for your case.

Many consumers make the mistake of looking into lemon law lawyers that don’t offer individualized attention. More often than not, consumers end up losing here – either by low cash settlements or unreasonable retainer fees.

Always remember: the manufacturer is responsible for 100% of your legal fees if you win the case. Furthermore, an experienced lemon law lawyer won’t take your case if they don’t think you have a valid claim! Due to this, a good attorney won’t demand any out-of-pocket fees from your lemon law buy-back or replacement.

That said, you should always look into the most reputable, specialized lemon law attorney to handle your case.


Don’t let the fear of complicated legal matters hold you back from filing a lemon law claim. As long as you have the documents to prove that your vehicle has substantial issues that occurred within the warranty period, you stand a very good chance at receiving a full refund.

Just be sure you have a solid team of California lemon law lawyers behind you to help navigate through the process.

Our team focuses, specifically, in this state’s lemon law legislation. We’ll guide you through the legal process every step of the way. Contact us for a free lemon law case evaluation to help you get started!

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