2 Introduction This guidebook is an introduction to the California Lemon Law. It is not intended to convey legal advice. The goal is to allow you to protect and educate yourself. You should still consult an attorney if you have legal needs. This guidebook will help you understand your rights better, as well as help you present your case to an attorney if you should ever have a legal problem involving an automobile lemon law. What is the Lemon Law? The Song-Beverly Consumer Warranty Act, commonly known as the Lemon Law, provides protection for consumers who lease or buy new or used motor vehicles primarily for personal, family or small business use. The law applies to motor vehicles that are bought or leased primarily for personal and family or small business use. Furthermore, a business that has five or less vehicles registered in its names can seek relief under the California Lemon Law. Additionally, the California Lemon Law applies to used vehicles which are sold or leased as certified pre-owned vehicles that carry the manufacturer s limited warranty as disclosed by the selling dealer on the BUYERS GUIDE. The lemon law applies for the entire period of time covered under the manufacturer s warranty. For example, your vehicle is covered by a three year/36,000 mile manufacturer s warranty and you discover a defect after two years. If the manufacturer, or its representative, is unable to repair the defect or nonconformity after a reasonable number of repair attempts, you may seek relief under the California Lemon Law. At California Lemon Law Center,
3 an attorney will evaluate your case, at no cost to you, to determine if your vehicle falls within the parameters of the California Lemon Law. What constitutes a reasonable number of repair attempts? A reasonable number of repair attempts will depend on the circumstances, including the seriousness of the nonconformity (a defect that substantially impairs the use, value, or safety of the new or used motor vehicle to the buyer or lessee). For example, two repair attempts may be considered reasonable for serious safety defects such as brake failure, which may cause great bodily harm or even death. It is important that the recurring problems be of a substantial nature such as: engine, transmission, electrical, brakes and suspension or even air conditioning/heating system. Generally, in majority of Lemon Law claims, four repair attempts are considered reasonable. At California Lemon Law Center, an attorney will evaluate your case, at no cost to you, to determine if your vehicle has suffered a reasonable number of repair attempts. What is a reasonable amount of time for a repair to take place? In California, the reasonable amount of time for a repair to be completed is thirty days. The thirty day threshold is met if the vehicle has spent over thirty days at a dealership for which it is out of service or awaiting parts for a repair within the first 18 months or 18,000 miles, whichever occurs first. Furthermore, the thirty day threshold could be met during one visit or a combination of several
4 visits. Under the California Lemon Law, a few hours spent at a dealership for repairs is considered as one day and one repair attempt. This thirty day threshold is not uncommon to meet such as when a vehicle suffers a crippling failure and sits more than thirty days at the dealership while the technicians try to determine how to fix the problem, or while they wait to receive parts. California Lemon Law Center can assist you, at not cost, in determining whether your vehicle has met the thirty day threshold. What are you entitled to under the California Lemon Law? When a manufacturer agrees to repurchase your vehicle the he buyer or lessee is entitled to reimbursement of the vehicle s loan payments or lease inception fee, payoff of the existing loan balance, license fees, taxes, and registration. The consumer may also be entitled to incidental expenses such as rental car expenses and towing costs. In addition, the manufacturer must reimburse the buyer or the lessee for the manufacturer-installed items and any transportation fees. Certain manufacturers may offer the consumer a replacement vehicle. If a consumer chooses a replacement vehicle, also described as an exchange of collateral, the existing loan or lease terms remain the same. The consumer is free to choose whether to accept a replacement vehicle or a refund. Additionally, California Lemon Law allows the consumer to collect civil penalties which could total up to two times the amount of actual damages. At the time the manufacturer agrees to replace or repurchase a vehicle, they are entitled to a usage deduction which is based on a formula set forth in the California Lemon Law. This usage
5 deduction is based on the miles the consumer accumulates on the vehicle prior to the first time the vehicle is taken to the manufacturer, or its agents, to be repaired. Typically, this usage deduction results in a nominal dollar figure. What defect or nonconformity may result in a lemon law claim? Some common lemon law examples would include engine concerns such as stalling, loss of power or no start condition. A common indication of an engine problem is the Check Engine light also known as MIL light. Other examples would include transmission issues such as hard shift or no shift situation, ABS or SRS failure, steering and suspension problems. If the vehicle is losing fluids such as engine oil, transmission fluid or radiator coolant and after numerous failed repair attempts, the consumer may have he right to seek relief under the California Lemon Law. A lemon law attorney is best equipped to evaluate a vehicle s repair history and determine if a lemon law claim exists. At California Lemon Law Center, we evaluate your case at no cost to you. What are some tactics automobile manufacturer s use to mislead you in thinking you have no case? California Lemon Law Center has seen numerous cases where consumers have been told that they have no case or have been put into a position to settle for less than what they are entitled to under the California Lemon Law. One tactic used by the automakers representatives is erroneously misleading a consumer into believing that they do not qualify for relief under the California Lemon Law and leading them to believe that the best way to resolve their
6 concerns with the defective vehicle is to trade it in or buy a new one. This solution usually leads to a loss in equity and higher vehicle payments. This tactic is one that is very profitable for the dealership and results in the sale of two cars in a very short time. Furthermore, do not fall for tactics where the automakers representatives will try to settle by offering you little monetary relief. If you receive such an offer to settle it is best to consult with a lemon law attorney. At California Lemon Law Center, your potential settlement by the automobile manufacturer will be reviewed at no cost to you. What is a reasonable amount of time to wait before consulting an attorney? Many consumers will do everything they can to try to work it out with the automobile manufacturer before contacting an attorney. Although this is admirable, it could result in making or breaking your lemon law claim. Therefore, if you think your vehicle qualifies, or if you are not certain, contacts a lemon law attorney to evaluate your potential claim. It is important to note that delays in claims or lack of review of potential claims will result in favor of the automaker. At California Lemon Law Center, we will evaluate your claim at no cost to you. Is Arbitration required under the California Lemon Law? The California lemon law does not require a consumer to go through the arbitration process. It is likely that participation in the arbitration process can change the dynamics of your case. Therefore, prior to participating in the arbitration process, it would be beneficial for you to consult with a lemon law attorney. In
7 those instances when you have already gone through the arbitration process and lost, a lemon law lawyer may still be able to assist you in pursuing a lemon law claim. On the other hand, if you have prevailed in the arbitration process a lemon law attorney can evaluate your award to assure that you receive everything entitled to you under the California Lemon Law. At California Lemon Law Center will evaluate your arbitration denial or award at no cost to you. Evaluating a Potential Lemon Law Claim At the Califoria Lemon Law Center, most evaluations are done within one hour upon receipt of all required documents. You may choose to have California Lemon Law Center represent you once it is determine your vehicle qualifies for potential relief under the California lemon law. All cases are accepted on contingency fee basis. This means no upfront fees or costs. You will not incur any out of pocket attorneys fees. California Lemon Law Center will advance all the fees and costs to pursue your case. This means you pay only for the services when a settlement or a judgement is reached, thus enabling you to proceed with your case without the financial risk of paying for an attorney. If you don t recover, neither do we. Some firms require the client to pay an up-front, non-refundable retainer; some law firms' retainer agreements provide for a minimum fee that the firm must be assured of recovering from the manufacturer, and if not received, then the client must pay the difference. California Lemon Law Center is different. The fees are paid only upon successful completion of your case. The attorneys'
8 fees are than paid in part by the manufacturer and in lesser part by our client. In most cases the client does not pay anything. Disclaimer for Guidebook: The information provided in this guidebook has been prepared as advertising material and is for general information purposes only. The information in this guidebook should not be construed as legal advice nor does the information imply any guarantee as to the results of future litigation. You should not act or rely upon this guidebook without seeking formal professional counsel specific about your case. The California Lemon Law Center, Inc. s offer to provide a free case evaluation is not intended to create an attorney-client relationship between The California Lemon Law Center, Inc. and you. No Attorney-Client relationship is formed unless specifically agreed to in writing. DO NOT act upon this information without first consulting an attorney. This guidebook is provided "as is" without warranty of any kind, either express or implied, including, but not limited to, the implied warranties of merchantability and fitness for a particular purpose. The content of this guidebook contains general information and may not reflect current legal developments, verdicts or settlements. The California Lemon Law Center expressly disclaims all liability in respect to actions taken or not taken based on any or all the contents of this guidebook. The exten the State Bar rules require a single attorney to be designated as responsible for this guidebbok, the California Lemon Law Center, desigates Lucy Kasparian. 2007