Millions of people purchase new cars every year – and statistically, quite a few of those vehicles wind up having mechanical defects. In fact, it is estimated that about 5% of all vehicles sold every year are lemon – which equates to about 600,000 lemons sold in the US annually.
However, not every person who purchases a lemon ends up getting what they are rightfully owed from the manufacturer. Therefore, winning a lemon law claim is a major accomplishment – and usually, the path to victory is anything but simple.
First, there are numerous steps you must take before even submitting your claim to the manufacturer. You need to compile all of the documents proving that the vehicle had major mechanical problems – which could not be resolved after numerous repair attempts. Then, you need to find a lemon law attorney to take your case. And finally, you need to be sure that your vehicle meets all of the state’s requirements.
Manufacturers will notoriously fight to say they are not at fault for the mechanical issues or argue that they are not substantial enough to qualify. However, if you’ve got a good California lemon law lawyer fighting for you and evidence to support your claim, you can ultimately prevail.
But – what happens next? Once the manufacturer, a judge, or a panel of arbitrators agrees that you have a lemon, what do you need to do?
Here’s exactly what you should expect once you finally win your lemon law case.
1. Choose Between a Replacement or a Refund
According to lemon law in California, you are entitled to either receive a buyback for the amount paid for the vehicle or request a replacement vehicle of the same value from the manufacturer.
In a buyback situation, the manufacturer is required to write you a check for the amount that you paid for the vehicle, including:
- The original down payment
- Remainder of the loan amount on your car
- All monthly payments made towards the loan amount
- Registration fees
- State taxes
However, the manufacturer is allowed to make certain deductions from this total amount. First, the manufacturer does not have to pay any fees applied to the loan due to late or missed payments. They also do not have to reimburse the owner for additional after-market items added to the vehicle, such as new tires, updated stereo system, or window tints.
One of the most significant deductions is the mileage offset. Essentially, this is to offset the value that has depreciated based on the number of miles that the vehicle had before the mechanical issues began.
This amount is calculated as:
(Sales price of the vehicle) X (Number of miles driven before first repair attempt / Typical lifetime mileage of the vehicle) = Usage Fee
So, say that you purchased the vehicle for $30,000 and drove it 10,000 miles before it started to have trouble. In California, the average vehicle is deemed to last for 120,000 miles.
(30,000) x (10,000/120,000) = $2,500 would be deducted from the payout amount.
Typically, most lemon vehicles will start to show signs of trouble fairly quickly. Sixty-eight percent of lemon owners noticed problems within the first month of driving – so the mileage on the car usually isn’t super high. However, it could potentially be up to the maximum limit of miles noted in the warranty – usually 36,000.
You can also choose to receive a replacement vehicle of the same or similar model which is of an equal value. This is a great option if you do not want to go through the process of shopping and purchasing a vehicle again. However, some feel like it is a risk to receive a vehicle from the same manufacturer who sold them a lemon in the first place.
The replacement provided must be the same make/model as the lemon – or one of similar value. Keep in mind, the manufacturer isn’t technically required by law to provide a replacement (like they are with a buyback). Both parties must agree on a replacement.
2. Expect a Reimbursement of Additional Out-Of-Pocket Expenses
Whether you choose to receive a replacement or opt for a buyback, you will also be reimbursed from the manufacturer for additional expenses directly related to your lemon law case.
For instance, say that you were out of state and your vehicle broke down. You had to have the car towed for repairs, book a hotel for the night, and take a taxi to pick up your car once it was ready to go. Since these costs were all related to the mechanical defect on the vehicle, the manufacturer is responsible for reimbursing you.
Furthermore, all legal fees accrued from your case must be paid by the manufacturer. This number can be quite high – particularly if you have to go to court to fight your claim. For instance, Mercedes-Benz was once required to pay over $400,000 in a lemon law case due to accrued legal fees – even though the purchase cost of the vehicle was closer to $40,000.
You may also argue for additional reimbursements for damages that are related to the lemon. Say that your car’s brakes were defective and you were in a fender bender for them. You can not just be paid for the damage, but also for pain and suffering in addition to any medical bills resulting from the accident.
3. You Shouldn’t Have to Wait Long
Manufacturers are legally required to provide a refund promptly – but it’s not uncommon for them to drag their feet. Ideally, you should receive a buyback payment or replacement vehicle within thirty days of winning your case. However, it could take a bit longer to be fully resolved, particularly if the manufacturer wants to fight you over the total amount owed.
If this is the case, it is best to consult with a California lemon law lawyer to negotiate and double check that all final amounts are correct. Remember, you are legally due the entire purchase amount (minus the usage fee) plus additional costs including all legal fees. Don’t hesitate to hire a good lawyer to keep the process moving quickly
If a manufacturer is taking exceptionally long to send the payment or they stop communicating with your lawyer, you may also be entitled to collect a civil penalty payment according to California Lemon Law. This means that the manufacturer would be fined up to double the purchase price of the vehicle for violating lemon law or failing to meet their obligations of payment.
In order to do this, you must prove that the manufacturer has violated the payment agreement and terms of the state’s lemon laws – but the payout could be quite substantial.
Winning your lemon law claim is something to be celebrated, as it certainly isn’t always easy. Manufacturers will often try to fight your claim, negotiate for a lesser payout, or deny it altogether. But hiring the right lawyer can significantly increase the chances of you winning your claim and receiving the amount you are legally owed.
If you have further questions regarding lemon law or need someone to review your case, please give Cline APC a call. Our team of attorneys will evaluate your case at no cost and help you take the next steps towards winning your claim.