What Documentation Do You Need to File a California Lemon Law Claim?

Documentation is everything in a lemon law claim. Lemon law – or the Magnuson-Moss Consumer Warranty Act – exists to help individuals who have purchased or leased a defective vehicle. The law provides consumers with legal grounds to hold manufacturers accountable for their mistakes in the factory.

When you file a lemon law claim, with the help of a skilled attorney, the goal is to get reimbursed for every single dollar spent on the defective vehicle.

But what all does that entail?

In this post, we discuss all the documentation you’ll need to file a California lemon law claim. Let’s discuss.

What Does a California Lemon Law Claim Involve?

If you’ve been sold or leased a defective vehicle, earning a refund requires you to make a lemon law claim against the dealer or manufacturer. This claim should prove the vehicle meets the state’s qualifications – and request a buyback (refund).

In California, a vehicle can be ruled a lemon if:

  • The vehicle is exhibiting a substantial defect that impairs its use, value, or safety; and
  • The vehicle is covered under the original manufacturer or dealership warranty when the defect is reported; and
  • The manufacturer has been given a reasonable number of unsuccessful repair attempts to remedy the defect (usually at least two); or
  • The vehicle has been out of service for repairs for 30 or more days (not consecutive); and
  • The defect was not caused by driver abuse or neglect.

Once your vehicle meets California’s lemon law guidelines, the next step is requesting everything that will be included in the refund. The automaker should be held responsible for every single penny you lost due to the defective vehicle. This may include (but is not limited to):

  • The cost of the vehicle (minus a mileage offset)
    • Down payment
    • Monthly payments made
    • The remaining balance of the loan
  • All official costs associated with the vehicle
    • Registration
    • Sales tax
  • Incidental costs related to the vehicle
    • Towing fees
    • Cab fares
    • Hotel stays
    • Meals
    • Etc.
  • All court fees and attorney expenses

Building a lemon law claim is dependent on the documentation you have in place. Here are the main pieces of documentation you’ll need.

Official Bill of Sale on the Lemon

The first item you’ll need is the sales contract the manufacturer/dealer gave you when you purchased the vehicle. This documentation includes key information for the lemon law claim:

  • Date of sale
  • Cost of the vehicle
  • Mileage (if used)
  • Rebates
  • Aftermarket parts
  • Etc.

The sales contract is directly related to the amount you could receive in the buyback. Be sure to have this documentation handy for your attorney.

Warranty Terms Documentation

Filing a lemon law claim is dependent on the terms of the warranty. Warranty information is typically located in the booklet provided by the manufacturer. It will lay out how long the warranty lasts and what is covered. Most original manufacturer warranties are good for 3 years or 36,000 miles. This can vary based on the brand.

Your lemon law claim should prove the vehicle was under warranty when the defect was reported.

1. Repair Orders

Repair orders are essential components in a lemon law claim. When you drop the vehicle off at the manufacturer-certified repair facility, they will print out a repair order. This document will describe the vehicle’s condition, the problems they are fixing, the date, and the mileage it has on it.

Your role in the repair order is to describe the problem – or the reason you brought it in. Now, you may not know much about cars, and that’s totally fine. Just do your best to describe the problem as clearly as possible. This might involve strange noises you’re hearing, functionality issues, or anything else that seems off.

The repair orders are the cornerstones of your claim’s paper trail. Keep these organized.

2. Repair Invoices

The repair invoices will be available when you pick the vehicle up from the repair attempt. It is similar to the repair order in that it describes the defect(s), vehicle information, dates, and so on.

The invoice should also detail what the repair facility did to fix the defect. Most importantly, it needs to indicate the repair order is closed. If the repair order is not closed, on paper, it will appear as if the manufacturer can still make another attempt to fix the defect. This may invalidate your lemon law claim.

Keep all your repair orders and invoices in an organized folder. This documentation will be crucial evidence in building your claim.

3. Receipts for Incidental Costs

When you file a lemon law claim, you and your attorney will add up all costs incurred because of the faulty vehicle. This might include towing fees, cab/Uber/Lyft expenses, hotel stays, meals, and so on. Try to keep these receipts organized in chronological order.

4. Other Lemon Law Documentation

  • Vehicle History

The vehicle history should include all the maintenance and repairs done. Search your VIN on the CARFAX Vehicle History Report and print everything out.

  • Vehicle Registration

Document the vehicle’s current registration and the amount you paid for it – the manufacturer will need to reimburse you for this.

  • Timeline of Repairs

The timeline of repairs should document the communication with the manufacturer, time spent in the shop, and the results of the repair attempts. You can write up this document yourself – but the repair orders and invoices will be the proof.

  • Communication with Manufacturer

It’s helpful to have a paper trail of communication with the manufacturer and repair facility. While it is not necessary to make contact with the manufacturer, if you do, the manufacturer may try to deny something said in a phone conversation. If you can’t get responses via email, you are wise to record your phone calls with them, if that is allowed where you live.

The Next Step

Knowing how to start a lemon law claim might not be perfectly clear. Chances are, you’ve never had to do it before. This is why hiring a skilled lemon law lawyer to manage the claim process is so important. Manufacturers have a big bag of tricks to fool unsuspecting consumers and avoid responsibility for selling defective vehicles. Experienced lemon attorneys will not let you fall victim to these tactics.

It’s important to understand that lemon attorneys normally do not work on a standard contingency fee agreement. This means they should not take a percentage of the buy back settlement paid out by the manufacturer. Also, most good lemon law attorneys will not ask you to pay anything up front. The defendant/manufacturer should reimburse your incurred fees and costs at the end of the claim.

You have nothing to lose by speaking with a lawyer about filing a lemon law claim. Even if you don’t have a valid case, most are happy to point you in the right direction.At Cline APC, we specialize in California lemon law helping residents hold manufacturers accountable for defective cars. Get in touch with our team by calling  888-982-6915, sending an email to info@clineapc.com, or filling out a free case evaluation.

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