Filing a California lemon law claim can be an intimidating process for many people. Not only do you have to prove that your vehicle meets your state’s requirements for a lemon, but you also have to go against extremely large corporations with nearly limitless resources.
Manufacturers are not exactly eager to hand over thousands of dollars and admit they sold a defective vehicle. So, it is not surprising when a manufacturer fights back against a claim.
If you are considering filing a claim and are looking for a lemon law attorney, there are some important things to know before you go head-to-head with manufacturer’s defense lawyers.
Know Their Tricks
Many manufacturer defense lawyers have some tricks up their sleeves to either help them win the case or deter consumers from fighting a claim with a specialized California lemon law lawyer. Here are the most common ones to keep an eye out for.
Saying You Only Need a Lemon Law Lawyer for Special Circumstances
A common misconception that defense lawyers try to push on consumers is they only need to hire a lemon law lawyer for unique cases – like a used lemon, leased car, or product recalls.
This is total bogus. Your chances of winning a lemon case are significantly greater when you have an attorney on your side – no matter what.
Claiming Lemon Law Attorneys Will Deliberately Drag Out Litigation
Manufacturer’s defense lawyers have often complained that it is the lemon law attorney’s fault when court cases drag on for months and months. But the truth is that cases are prolonged because the defendant auto manufacturer refuses to pay out what the consumer is rightfully owed under the law.
Dragging out a case, hoping that the consumer will simply give up, is one of the most common tactics manufacturer defense lawyers use. They’ve even tried to spin this devious tactic in a way that puts the blame on the consumer’s lawyers – encouraging consumers not to seek one.
In a recent article published on the Daily Journal, a manufacturer defense lawyer claimed:
More and more plaintiffs’ attorneys are deliberately delaying resolution and dragging litigation on …because they want to accrue more in attorney fees… all, while their clients continue to drive the very vehicles that these same attorneys argue in court, are unfit to be on any public road.
In reality, this situation is often created because the manufacturers’ defense lawyers are trying to delay the process and get the consumer to accept a low-ball offer. Everyone knows how inconvenient, almost impossible in California, it is to have a defective vehicle. By delaying the process, the manufacturers’ attorneys want you to simply apply their leverage where they can, on you – the large corporation can weather a delay better than any consumer.
Trustworthy lemon law lawyers are dedicated to speedy buybacks and consumer justice – they should make this very clear in the initial consultation.
Claiming Lemon Law Attorneys Are Only in it for the Money
Manufacturers have complained that lemon law lawyers are guilty of putting their own gains ahead of client needs with a “fee-shifting” provision.
In the same article published on the Daily Journal, it was claimed that it’s common for California lemon law attorneys to solicit hundreds of clients and file individual lawsuits. When the case gets close to trial, they’ll assign it to a “trial” firm – which is simply another lemon law firm they’ve contracted the case to. As a result, there will be two (or more) separate firms billing the case – and the original firm will collect a cut of the payout.
In this scenario, the defense industry claims the original firm has no incentive to settle the case – meaning the consumer might end up getting stuck with a massive bill for attorney fees. The article also accuses lemon law attorneys of “artificially inflating its invoices” to recover a higher percentage of fees between them and the contracted “trial” firm – meaning they will negotiate higher fee settlements from the consumer if they win the case.
I’ve been in this industry for a very long time and can assure you this is not true. For one, lemon law cases do not go to trial often. Two, in the event that a case does go to trial, it is almost always because the defendant manufacturer refuses to buy-back or replace the lemon, as it is required to do under the law. In other words, the defendant auto manufacturer chooses to prolong matters and threaten trial to outlast the consumer and the consumer’s attorney. Moreover, it is not uncommon for a skilled law office to find, and hire, the best trial team if the case goes to trial. In fact, the defense industry does the very same thing it accuses the consumer’s lawyers of doing. In this case, the very defense attorney who authored the hit piece mentioned above, is Hyundai Motor America’s in-house lawyer. When her company goes to trial, it doesn’t use her for trial. Instead, Hyundai hires specialized trial lawyers for the actual trial. Why shouldn’t a consumer have the same specialized trial lawyers the corporations can afford? Simply put, the large corporations are scared to go toe-to-toe with the good trial attorneys who represent you, the consumer.
But why would manufacturers say something like this?
Here’s why. This was their call-to-action in the Daily Journal article:
Now is the time for the California Legislature to reexamine the fee-shifting provision language of the Song-Beverly Consumer Warranty Act. Consumers, the public, and courts would benefit from capping consumers’ attorney fees, changing the proportionality rule, or providing consumers with mandatory alternative ways to resolve their disputes, such as through mediation or arbitration.
The Daily Journal article is essentially an advertisement geared toward the defense industry and the larger legal community to turn public opinion against California’s lemon law. This is the first step in setting the stage to change California’s lemon law and force California’s consumers into binding arbitration – instead of exercising their constitutional right to trial by a jury of their peers.
As the victim of a lemon, you never, EVER want to do arbitration with the manufacturer.
Arbitration means your case gets reviewed by an individual arbitrator. Manufacturers will try to tell you that it’s a cheaper, quicker way to get compensation. What they don’t tell you is the likelihood of success at arbitration is much, much lower compared with the court system. In addition, many of the arbitration programs have rules that favor the defendant/manufacturer. Therefore, trying to get full compensation for your lemon would be like playing a basketball game where all the referees are on the opponent’s side.
The manufacturers will claim these arbitrators are technically a neutral party. However, they are certainly not on your side – and their words will be used against you if you choose to take the matter to court.
Plain and simple, when you have a lemon, the only party that will be 100% on your side is your lemon law attorney. Don’t let the manufacturer convince you of anything else. At the end of the day, the manufacturer is your opponent and it will do anything to prevail.
Make Sure Your Claim is Airtight
Even if the manufacturer’s defense lawyers pull these tricks on you, you can still win your lemon law claim if you have the evidence to prove your case. This is why it is incredibly important to gather all of the necessary documents and piece together an accurate timeline of events before you file a claim.
The evidence that will be most important in your lemon law claim include:
- A copy of the manufacturer’s warranty agreement
- Documentation of all mechanical issues
- Invoices for all repair attempts
- Timeline showing when the vehicle was brought in for repairs and how many days the vehicle was out of commission
- Invoices for additional related costs, such as towing fees or rental car expenses
Ultimately, your situation must meet your state’s lemon law criteria. In California, the consumer is entitled to a full buyback or replacement if the defective vehicle meets certain conditions – and these documents can help prove that.
Have a Solid Lemon Law Attorney on Your Side
The real key to winning a claim is to have a lawyer who understands the lemon law backwards and forwards. Even if your case seems cut and dry, manufacturers may fight tooth and nail before they offer a full buyback or replacement to you.
These legal matters can be extremely confusing to anyone who is not well-versed in their state’s lemon law. It is always best to hire a specialized lemon law attorney to handle the claim on your behalf.
Bottom line: lemon law lawyers fight for you; manufacturer defense lawyers fight against you. Don’t buy into their lies.
Manufacturers commonly try to make lemon law attorneys look like the bad guys. But always remember, good lemon law lawyers are after the manufacturer’s money, not yours. If you have the slightest hunch your vehicle is a lemon, seek out an attorney to fight your case.
Here at Cline APC, we work with clients on an individual basis to help them win their lemon law claim and receive a rightful payout from the manufacturer. Reach out to one of our California lemon law lawyers today for a free consultation and case evaluation to help you get started with your claim.