California Lemon Law: What You Need to Know

Immigration law is important and that is all that we cover most of the time. But our immigrant readers, may be facing other legal challenges from time to time. So we rely on our lawyer friends from across the country, to provide guest articles and reports. This week we are proud to feature Attorney Sergei Lemberg’s Lemon Law expertise.

That new car smell is the best. The feeling of driving around in a new ride is sensational. But what happens when the experience sours and your new car starts smelling like a lemon? California’s lemon law gives you the right to take action – and turn your lemon into lemonade. Sergei Lemberg, an attorney specializing in lemon law, offers an overview of our lemon law, and tips to make sure you can take advantage of your California lemon law rights.

According to Sergei, California Lemon Law is one of the most comprehensive in the country, and covers new and leased vehicles bought for personal, family or household use. It also covers business vehicles under 10,000 pounds, providing that owner or business has no more than five vehicles registered in the state). In addition, the chassis, chassis cab, and propulsion parts of a motor home are covered, as are dealer-owned vehicles, demonstrators, and used vehicles sold with a manufacturer’s new car warranty. Motorcycles and used cars have some protections under the Song-Beverly Warranty Act, which is also includes the state’s Lemon Law.

Not every car is eligible for “lemon” status, however. In order to be considered a “lemon,” the defects have to affect the use, safety, or value of the vehicle. In other words, the need for a paint touch-up or a malfunctioning radio won’t cut it. In addition, the defects have to occur during the first 18 months from the date you take delivery of the vehicle or the first 18,000 miles on the odometer – whichever comes first. However, if your vehicle is covered by a longer manufacturer’s warranty, the Lemon Law protects you for the entire warranty period. You also need to have taken the vehicle in for repair four times for the same problem or it has to have been out of service for 30 days for a combination of problems. But, if the defect can cause serious injury, it only needs to be taken in two times for repair.

Sergei notes that, under California Lemon Law, if the manufacturer of your vehicle participates in a state-certified arbitration program, you must request arbitration in order to seek relief (although you can accept or reject the arbitrator’s decision). If the manufacturer doesn’t participate in a state-certified arbitration program, you must still notify the manufacturer of the problem if your owner’s manual states that notification is required.

He’s quick to say, though, that manufacturers have teams of lawyers that do nothing but fight lemon law claims, and that you’ll only be on equal footing if you have a lemon law attorney at your side. The good news is that, if your court claim is successful, the manufacturer has to pay your attorney fees. That being said, with the help of a lawyer, you can get a refund, replacement vehicle, or cash settlement without having to go through the entire lemon law process – and get your attorney’s fees covered in the process.

If you think you have a lemon, start keeping notes. Jot down every communication you have with the dealer or manufacturer, the times and dates that you have a problem with the vehicle, and the days that the vehicle is out of service, either because it’s in the shop or because it’s not in working condition. Remember to keep all of your work orders, other paperwork, and any written correspondence. It’s also important to contact a lemon law attorney after the third repair attempt. He or she can help guide you through the final steps that will legally establish your vehicle as a lemon.