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  • Ben Beck

Does the California Lemon Law Really Protect Consumers?

Imagine buying your dream car, only to have it plagued by problems the dealership can't seem to be able to fix! This is where the California Lemon Law steps in. Enacted to protect consumers, this law applies to new and certain used vehicles with serious defects that significantly impact their use, value or safety.

Despite the clear benefits of the California Lemon Law, some consumers remain hesitant about filing a claim. Common concerns include the complexity of the legal process and potential legal costs or perhaps they have heard stories of challenges in getting a fair resolution.

It has been over 40 years since California passed its lemon law and it is widely reputed to be the most comprehensive in the United States, offering robust consumer protections.

What is the lemon law presumption and does the California Lemon Law really protect consumers?

In this blog, we will discuss some common misconceptions about the lemon law in California and highlight recent victories against manufacturers to reassure consumers of the legitimacy of their lemon law claim and boost their confidence in legal protection.

Understanding the California Lemon Law

The California Lemon Law, also known as the Song-Beverly Consumer Warranty Act, is designed to protect consumers who purchase or lease a new or used vehicle that fails to meet quality and performance standards. Its primary purpose is to ensure that manufacturers or authorized dealers repair defective vehicles within a reasonable number of attempts or, if unable to do so, they provide consumers with a replacement vehicle or a refund. This law is crucial in safeguarding consumer rights and holding manufacturers accountable for the products they sell.

What is Implied Warranty?

Under the Song-Beverly Consumer Warranty Act, California manufacturers are required to ensure that their products are in good working order at the time of sale and that they fulfil all the claims made on their packaging and labels. This law mandates an implied warranty of merchantability, meaning the product must perform as expected for its typical use, providing consumers with essential protection against defective or falsely advertised goods.

Key Criteria for a Vehicle to Qualify Under the Lemon Law

The California Lemon Law establishes clear criteria to determine if your vehicle qualifies as a lemon.

Here's a breakdown of the key factors:

  • Defect Severity: The defect must be 'substantial,' meaning it significantly impairs the vehicle's use, value or safety. This includes critical issues such as engine and transmission problems, brake failures, electrical system malfunctions and other significant defects that affect the vehicle's operability and reliability. Minor and cosmetic issues wouldn't qualify.

  • Age and Mileage Limitations: The vehicle must typically be covered by the manufacturer's original warranty, which usually applies to new and certain used vehicles. Additionally, the law often applies to vehicles that have significant defects arising within the first 18 months or 18,000 miles of use, whichever comes first.

  • Number of Repair Attempts Required: The law stipulates that a vehicle must have undergone a 'reasonable number' of repair attempts at an authorized repair facility to address the defect. Generally, this means that the lemon law presumption applies if within the first 18,000 miles or 18 months:

  • At least two repair attempts for defects that could cause death or serious bodily injury.

  • At least four repair attempts for less severe defects.

  • The vehicle has been out of service for repair for a cumulative total of 30 days or more.

👉 It is important to note that there are certain actions taken by the vehicle owner, or specific circumstances, that can void these protections, leaving consumers unexpectedly vulnerable and without recourse. You can learn more about these here.

How the Lemon Law Protects Consumers

The California Lemon Law ensures that manufacturers are held accountable for the quality of their products. If your situation meets these criteria, and the lemon law applies, it empowers you to seek the following key remedies:

✅ Full Refund or Replacement Vehicle

One of the primary protections under the lemon law is the entitlement to a full refund or a replacement vehicle if the vehicle cannot be repaired after a reasonable number of attempts. The full refund includes the vehicle's purchase price, registration fees, sales tax and any incidental costs incurred due to the defect, such as towing and rental car fees less a mileage offset. Alternatively, the consumer can opt for a replacement vehicle of the same make and model, or a similar one if the original model is no longer available.

Coverage of Legal Fees

The lemon law also stipulates that if a consumer wins their case, the manufacturer must cover all legal fees. This provision is crucial as it removes the financial burden from the consumer, making it easier for them to pursue their claim without worrying about the cost of legal representation.

Compensation for Additional Damages

In some cases, consumers may be entitled to additional damages beyond the refund or replacement. This can include compensation for any loss of value to the vehicle or other consequential damages resulting from the defect. Civil penalties may also be imposed on the manufacturer if it is found that they willfully violated the law.

Have you got a defective motor vehicle and wondering if you have a lemon law case under California Law? Contact The Beck Law Office for a free consultation.

The specific outcome you pursue will depend on your preferences and the details of your situation. Consulting with an experienced lemon law lawyer can help you determine the best course of action.

Common Misconceptions About the Lemon Law

There are several misconceptions about the California Lemon Law, which can deter some consumers from taking advantage of its protections when they have a defective vehicle on their hands. One such prevalent myth is that the law only applies to brand-new cars. In reality, it also covers leased vehicles and certain used vehicles still under the manufacturer's original warranty. Another common misconception is that the process is overly complicated and not worth the effort. While the process can be detailed, it is designed to be navigable with proper legal assistance, ensuring consumers receive the protection they deserve.

Why Some Consumers Hesitate to Raise a Claim?

Despite the comprehensive protections offered by the California Lemon Law, some consumers hesitate to raise a claim due to various reasons:

  • Fear of Legal Complications: Many consumers are intimidated by the prospect of legal action. They worry about the potential complexity, time commitment, and costs associated with pursuing a claim. However, most experienced Lemon Law attorneys work on a contingency fee basis, meaning they only get paid if the consumer wins the case. This significantly reduces the financial risk for consumers.

  • Misunderstanding of the Law's Provisions: There is a significant amount of misunderstanding regarding what the Lemon Law covers and the criteria for a valid claim. Some consumers believe that minor issues or problems that were eventually fixed cannot be claimed under the Lemon Law. However, the law covers any defect that substantially impairs the vehicle's use, value or safety of the vehicle, and it mandates a reasonable number of repair attempts, not necessarily a complete resolution on the first attempt.

  • Perceived Lack of Success Stories: Another reason for hesitation is the perceived lack of success stories. Many consumers are unaware of the numerous high-profile and everyday cases where the Lemon Law has successfully provided relief. At The Beck Law Office, we are proud of our strong track record of delivering exceptional legal results for our clients and consistently upholding their rights and interests.

In Lemon Law you are generally entitled to a replacement vehicle of comparable value or a full refund, minus a reasonable allowance for the mileage driven before the first repair attempt.

These misconceptions and fears can be mitigated with better awareness and understanding of the law's provisions. The California Lemon Law's comprehensive nature and robust consumer protections make it one of the most effective legal tools for vehicle owners in the United States.

Recent Shifts in California Lemon Law Enhance Consumer Rights

A landmark ruling by the California Supreme Court on March 4, 2024, has marked a significant shift in the state's lemon law landscape. The decision in the Niedermeier v. FCA US LLC case has provided crucial clarifications regarding consumer rights to compensation when a defective vehicle is traded or sold.

Highlights of the Supreme Court Ruling:

  • No Deduction for Trade-In Value: The court decided that restitution should not be reduced by any amount received from trading in or selling a defective vehicle.

  • Clear Definition of Restitution: Restitution is now strictly defined as 'the actual price paid or payable,' excluding any trade-in offsets.

  • Enhanced Consumer Protection: This ruling prevents manufacturers from exploiting delays in resolution, ensuring consumers receive full 'restitution'. This means putting the buyer back in the same financial position they were in before buying the car.

This decision reinforces the Song-Beverly Consumer Warranty Act’s intent to provide thorough and just consumer support. Eliminating potential deductions for trade-in values strengthens protections against defective merchandise and emphasizes manufacturer accountability.

Implications of the Ruling:

  • Encourages Rigorous Quality Control: This change expects manufacturers to adopt more stringent quality control measures.

  • Boosts Consumer Confidence: The ruling will hopefully boost consumer confidence in pursuing valid claims under the California Lemon Law, assuring them that they will receive full compensation without the fear of deductions for trade-ins.

Have you got a defective new or used car in California? The lemon law is designed to protect consumers of new and used vehicles. Check the original manufacturers warranty or express warranty provided to you by the seller.

Other recent victories against manufacturers such as the Thor Motor Coach and cases involving defective electric vehicles and hybrid systems highlight how the law has been successfully enforced to protect consumers' rights. These examples, and hundreds of others, underscore the law's ability to deliver justice and compensation to those affected by defective vehicles, reinforcing the importance of pursuing valid claims under the California Lemon Law.

Choose The Beck Law Office To Represent You

At The Beck Law Office, we are proud of our strong track record of successfully advocating for our clients and achieving favorable outcomes in a wide range of legal matters, including complex lemon law cases, consumer protection claims and various civil litigation disputes. Our dedication to providing personalized, effective legal representation has earned us a reputation for excellence and client satisfaction in the Los Angeles and Riverside areas of California.

We bring the following to every California lemon law case:

  • Focused Expertise: Our team specializes exclusively in California Lemon Law, bringing a wealth of experience and a proven track record of success in cases throughout Los Angeles and surrounding areas.

  • Personalized Attention: We understand that every case is unique. We take the time to listen to your concerns, thoroughly evaluate your situation and develop a personalized strategy to maximize your recovery.

  • Relentless Advocacy: We are assertive advocates for our clients. We will not hesitate to go to court to ensure you receive a fair resolution, regardless of the manufacturer involved.

  • No Win No Fees: We understand the financial burden a defective vehicle can create. This is why we operate on a contingency basis, which means you won't pay a dime unless we win your case.

Contact Us Today

Whether you are located in Los Angeles County, Orange County, Ventura County, San Bernardino, Riverside, or elsewhere in Southern California, The Beck Law Office is conveniently positioned to serve you.

Contact us today for a free consultation and let us help you navigate the California Lemon Law process with confidence.


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