Having a vehicle with defects can be a major headache – but trying to get your money back from the manufacturer can be an even bigger issue, if you don’t have a good legal team on your side.
There is very little room for error when it comes to the California lemon law. Most manufacturers are going to be looking for any little misstep or tiny issue that could get them out of refunding you the thousands of dollars you are rightfully owed in exchange for return of its defective product.
But the fact of the matter is if you meet the state’s qualifications and are able to prove that your vehicle meets the criteria of the California lemon law – the manufacturer must either pay you the full amount for the vehicle (a buyback) or provide a replacement of equal value.
In the state of California, you must prove that:
- The vehicle has a defect that impairs its use, value, or safety.
- The vehicle presents the defect while still under the manufacturer or dealership warranty.
- The defect received at least two repair attempts from a manufacturer authorized repair facility.
- The vehicle was out of service for a total of thirty days, or more, due to repairs.
Now, this seems deceivingly simple. In a perfect world, you could gather up your repair reports, file the claim, and receive a check without any problems. However, there are some key mistakes that can either slow down the buyback process or even hurt your chances of winning the claim altogether.
Here are four of the biggest mistakes you need to be aware of when filing a lemon law claim.
1. Forgetting to Collect ALL Needful Documents
One of the very first things that you must do when filing a lemon law claim is to gather ALL documents related to your lemon. First and foremost, this will require you to file all repair invoices from the authorized repair facility who conducted the repair attempts on your vehicle. Service reports are the most crucial pieces of documentation to your case – and it will be nearly impossible to file a claim without them.
Now, there are additional documents that you will need to gather and submit to get back all of the money you are owed from the manufacturer.
You will want to include any and all invoices and receipts for any incidental costs that have incurred because of the mechanical issues with your vehicle. For instance, say that your car broke down on the highway and had to be towed to the dealership for repairs. You could add this cost to the total amount the manufacturer must pay back because it was related to the vehicle’s defect.
Incidental costs the manufacturer must pay if you win your case include:
- Collateral charges, such as service contracts and finance charges.
- Consequential expenses related to the lemon, such as towing fees, hotel expenses, or rental car charges.
- Early termination fees for vehicle insurance or other services like AAA.
Second, be sure to get a copy of your purchase or lease agreement, as well as your vehicle’s warranty for clarification on dates and mileage. If you have a detailed record of dates (such as days when an issue started or the specific days that your car was in the repair shop), it could help your case, too.
Finally, be sure that you have all of the financial information related to your vehicle. This includes:
- Sales price
- Down payment receipt
- Taxes and fees
- Registration fees
- Amount left on your vehicle’s loan
- Monthly loan payments
If you are missing certain paperwork, it could give the manufacturer a loophole to get out of paying you back. Be sure that you have every single piece of documentation relevant to your case before filing your claim so you do not have to scramble to find it later.
2. Being Too General in the Claim
You need to be extremely specific about the issues that led you to filing a lemon law claim. Clearly spell out all of the details in your repair reports. Further, you must prove that the issues are a result of improper manufacturing, not driver abuse or normal wear and tear.
So, make sure that you are super granular about the details related to the defect(s), including sounds, smells, and specific instances when the issue occurred.
You may want to double check your service repair reports and ask the mechanic to include additional details regarding the defects with your vehicle and information on all repair attempts.
3. Accepting a Low-Ball Offer to Avoid the Hassle
It is unfortunately quite common for manufacturers to try to negotiate and offer you less money than you deserve.
For instance, in one lemon law case regarding a leased Mercedes, the original payout total for the vehicle was just $6,500. However, Mercedes would counter with an offer to pay a mere $572.
Thankfully, the vehicle owner did not accept this and their lemon law lawyer took the manufacturer to court. In the end, Mercedes had to pay over $400,000 to cover legal fees plus the full buyback amount of the car.
Don’t be surprised if the manufacturer tries to deduct as much money as possible from the buyback amount through tactics like “aggressive mileage offset deductions.” Some manufacturers will fudge the numbers in their buyback calculations to pay you less than you deserve – so always double check their math.
Another “trick” that manufacturers may use is to suggest arbitration, rather than taking a case before a judge. This requires going in front of a panel of arbitrators who will determine how much money you should receive from the manufacturer. Some manufacturers will sponsor these arbitrators – meaning they are not neutral third-parties – and they will generally side in their favor.
Most manufacturers will want to negotiate and may threaten to take your case to court in order to pay less. However, if you have proof that your vehicle is within state regulations, you have every right to receive a buyback even if you go to court. Don’t let this scare you – just be sure that you’ve got a good lemon law lawyer on your side.
4. Not Hiring a Specialized Attorney
Many people are afraid that hiring a lawyer will be too expensive. However, under California lemon law, legal fees are covered by the manufacturer if you prevail in your case.
Obviously, a specialized attorney on your side gives you a much better chance of winning. Moreover, a good lawyer won’t take your case unless they think they have a reasonable opportunity to come out on top.
California lemon law lawyers know all the ins and outs of the state’s specific laws and will ensure you avoid making mistakes while fighting to get you every dollar you deserve.
The key, of course, is to find a trustworthy lawyer who is 110% dedicated to consumer justice. Be sure to do your research and ask the right questions when meeting with a lemon law attorney before hiring them on.
The lemon law buyback process should be easy. But unfortunately, the manufacturer’s have set up systems and protocols to make it difficult for the consumer. By avoiding these 4 major mistakes and being prepared for the process; you can help to make things run a bit smoother.
The best way to ensure that you win your case and avoid costly mistakes is to hire a knowledgeable lemon law lawyer. If you are interested in filing a claim in California, contact Cline APC today and receive a free consultation for your case.