Winning a lemon law case is not always straightforward. In California, there are many, many factors that come into play that influence your ability to prevail. While your lemon law California attorney will be there to make sure you have your best foot forward, there are some things that are simply beyond their professional abilities.
Some factors in a lemon law case are objective, while others are subjective. In this post, I want to go over three of the biggest factors that determine the success (or failure) of nearly every lemon law case.
Without further ado, let’s get into it.
The State’s Lemon Law
Plain and simple, the state’s lemon law tells you whether or not you have a valid claim. In order to be deemed a lemon, your defective vehicle must meet the proper criteria.
Now, lemon law exists across the entire United States. However, the details vary from state to state. Usually the state lemon laws your vehicle must conform to depend on which state you originally purchased or leased your vehicle. In California, a vehicle must meet the following qualifications to be ruled a lemon:
- The vehicle’s manufacturer or dealership has made at least two unsuccessful attempts to fix the nonconforming issue(s) covered under the warranty, and/or
- The vehicle has been out of service for more than 30 days while being repaired for any number of issues covered under the warranty, and/or
- The vehicle has multiple defects – covered under the warranty – that were not caused by driver abuse or neglect.
If this is your first time reading one of my posts, there is a common misconception I want to address related to California lemon law. You might see some content online saying your vehicle can ONLY be ruled a lemon if the defect occurs within the first 18 months after the purchase date or before 18,000 miles accrue on the odometer.
This is not true. All too often, consumers see this and give up their perfectly valid claim. As long as the defect is first reported while the vehicle is covered under the manufacturer or dealer warranty, the claim can qualify. Vehicle warranties vary based on the manufacturer – but most are good for 3 years or 36,000 miles for the bumper-to-bumper warranty and 5 years or 60,000 for the drivetrain warranty.
Obviously, the facts and evidence are the core components of a lemon case – or any civil legal action for that matter.
In regards to California lemon law, your ability to present the facts boils down to one key factor: documentation.
Your goal is to clearly show that your vehicle meets the state’s requirement of a lemon. More importantly, your goal is to get refunded for every single penny you spent because the manufacturer sold you a defective car.
Unfortunately, verbal accounts mean almost nothing to the auto manufacturers in a lemon law case. In my experience, to the auto manufacturers, you are nothing more than a number. So, you need to have ALL your documentation in order before you file a California lemon law claim. This includes (but is not limited to):
- Records of all repair attempts made by the manufacturer.
- The date/time the vehicle was brought in.
- The date, or dates, the vehicle was being serviced.
- Nonconforming issues.
- Outcome of the repair attempt.
- Name and ID of the manufacturer’s employee you worked with.
- A signature confirming the repair order was closed.
- A copy of your original manufacturer or dealership warranty.
- Invoices for all official costs related to the lemon (sales tax, registration, etc.).
- Documentation for all payments made on the vehicle (down payment, loan payments, remaining balance.)
- Receipts for all incidental costs related to the lemon (towing fees, cab rides, rental cars, hotel stays, lost wages, meals, etc.).
The state’s law and the evidence are the most important factors in any legal case. These are the parts that your lemon law California attorney will manage. However, these are not the only factors that come into play…
Laws and facts are the objective aspects of a legal case. The third (and potentially deal-breaking) factor is you as a person.
Your lemon law California attorney will manage most of the heavy lifting involved in earning justice for your defective vehicle. But if your case ends up going before a judge and jury of your peers, your character plays a very large role.
In a perfect world, only the laws and evidence should matter. But this is not always how it goes.
Now, we know you’re probably frustrated. You were sold a defective vehicle and the process of getting your money back is taking longer than you wish. We get it that you’re angry – and rightfully so.
Our goal is to convince the judge and jury to order the vehicle’s manufacturer to refund all your money for selling you a defective car. If you let your emotions show throughout the lemon law process, the jurors might see you as an unreasonable person and rule in favor of the “level-headed” defense team of the manufacturer.
Keep in mind, the legal team of the manufacturer has no emotional investment in the case. They weren’t sold a faulty vehicle; they didn’t break down on the side of the road; they weren’t inconvenienced; their lives weren’t interrupted; and they aren’t fighting for their hard-earned money back. You are.
Defense teams know this dynamic – and they may do everything possible to make the buyback process a nightmare for you. Moreover, they will use any bad emotion you showed them against you in court.
This is why ANY interaction you have with the manufacturer needs to be cordial. Regardless of how frustrated you get and how cumbersome the repair process gets, NEVER lose your cool. Don’t yell at the manufacturer’s staff, send a nasty email, leave an angry message, etc. By doing this, you may be hurting your chances of winning in court.
Over to You
Once your vehicle meets the state’s qualifications, your lemon law California attorney will manage all of the moving parts needed to earn justice. This involves communicating with the manufacturer, presenting the evidence, and convincing the courts that your situation is in favorable accordance with the state’s law.
As the consumer, it’s your job to help your lawyer help you.
This involves conducting basic research on CA lemon law, collecting ALL necessary documentation, and showing that you’re a level-headed person.
If you have any questions or concerns about your vehicle – and how it’s related to lemon law – please reach out to our seasoned team of lemon law California attorneys.