Frequently Asked Questions
1How do I know whether I have a lemon?
The law states that you may have a lemon if your vehicle has a “non-conformity” (a problem) that “substantially impairs the use, value, or safety” of the vehicle, and where the vehicle has not been corrected to conform to the express warranties after a “reasonable number of attempts.” CA Civil Code 1793.2. You may have a lemon even after two repair attempts, though this is not the norm. You may also have a lemon, if the vehicle falls under the statutory "presumptive" period. Please see the tab "Presumption Period" for more information.
2Can I use the lemon law if my car is out of warranty?
This depends on whether the vehicle repairs that are claimed to make the vehicle a lemon were made while the vehicle was under the manufacturer’s original warranty. See also question #12, "Does the lemon law apply only to new vehicles?"
3If I hire you as my attorney, would you charge any attorney fees for my lemon law case?
No, you do not pay us attorney fees for a lemon law matter. The Song Beverly Consumer Warranty Act provides for attorney fees and "costs and expenses" to be paid by the car manufacturer if we prevail. You do not pay us a "contingency" fee either for a lemon law actual damages matter. The manufacturer pays us attorneys' fees. Please see our "Fees" tab under "Our Policies" for more information regarding our fees.
4If the car manufacturer extends a settlement offer, will you inform me?
Absolutely. I will promptly discuss the offer with you personally. No offer for settlement of your case will be accepted without your approval and consent.
5Do I have to go to your office to start the process?
No, you can begin the process by email or fax. Depending on specific circumstances, it is possible the entire process can be completed remotely. In fact most cases could probably be conducted remotely.
6How long will my case take from beginning to end?
This depends on your specific situation. The process can take as little as 90 days, to a few months. The majority of cases are settled pre-litigation, which means they are never filed in court.
7Will my case end up in court?
Although the majority of cases are resolved before being filed in court (pre-litigation), there is a chance a case may end up in court. However, only a small percentage of cases end up in court, and only a handful of cases would end up going to trial.
8What paperwork do you need to start my case?
We will need your purchase or lease contract along with all the work repair orders, your vehicle's registration, any pictures or video evidencing the vehicle's problem, and any written communication you have had with the manufacturer or dealership. Communication would include emails, text messages, and other types of correspondence. We will also need your car loan balance if you are financing your car.
9If the manufacturer buys back my vehicle, what do I actually get?
The law provides that the manufacturer returns, among other things, all payments you have made, including interest, any down payment you made toward buying or leasing the vehicle, taxes, registration fees, remaining loan balance, or discharge on remaining lease obligations, minus a “mile offset.” Depending on specific circumstances, you may be able also to get back part or all service contract fees paid.
10Is a “buy back” the only offer the vehicle manufacturer makes? I have heard of other offers like "cash and keep" and "replacement."
No. Although a buyback is the most widely used option offered by the vehicle manufacturer to the consumer, the other option that is sometimes offered is to replace the vehicle for another substantially similar vehicle. Replacing a car is rarely used because of logistics issues. The third option, if applicable in specific circumstances, and which has become more prevalent, is when the vehicle manufacturer offers the consumer to keep the vehicle while receiving monetary compensation; this is known as “cash and keep,” where the manufacturer gives the consumer a check, and the consumer keeps the car.
11What is a civil penalty?
A civil penalty, as its names states, is a penalty assessed to the car manufacturer in an amount of damages beyond the consumer’s “actual damages.” The purpose of the penalty is to “punish” the car manufacturer for its conduct. The penalty under the Song Beverly Consumer Warranty Act can be “up to two times the amount of actual damages.” CA Civil Code Section 1794. Keep in mind that the civil penalty under the Song Beverly Consumer Warranty Act is fact specific and is for a jury to determine. Please see our blog section regarding civil penalties for more detailed information.
12Is there a time limit to bring a lemon law claim?
In California, generally, for a lemon law claim a consumer would need to bring a claim 4 years from the date the consumer knew or should have known the product was defective.
13Does the lemon law apply only to new vehicles?
No. The law also applies to used vehicles bought from a dealership that are still under the manufacturer’s original warranty. In certain circumstances, the law would also apply to some extended warranties like “certified pre-owned” or “manufacturer’s extended warranty.”
14Does the lemon law apply to leased vehicles?
Yes, a car leased under a “leased contract” is also covered under the law.
15Does the lemon law only cover vehicles like cars, trucks, vans?
No. The law also applies to motorcycles, boats, and recreational vehicles such as RVs, among other vehicles and products.
16What is California's military lemon law?
California military lemon law is a term commonly used for an exception for military service members to file a claim under the Song Beverly Consumer Warranty Act. Under the Act, consumers may only bring claims for vehicles (and other products under the Act) that are bought in California. Military service members, however, may bring a claim under the Act regarding their motor vehicle even if they bought their vehicle outside of California "if the service member was stationed in or was a resident of California at the time he or she purchased the motor vehicle, or at the time he or she filed an action under the Act." CA Civil Code 1795.8.
17What happens to my vehicle after the manufacturer repurchases it?
For a buyback, you would have to return the vehicle to the manufacturer. The car is usually surrendered at the dealership where you bought or leased your vehicle. The manufacturer will complete an inspection at the time of surrender to make sure the car is in a reasonable condition. Most inspectors would provide you with the inspection report on the spot. Some manufacturers would issue a check at the car inspection, but most would issue a check a few days later.
18I live in California but I am far from Orange County, can you help me?
Although I am located in Southern California, in Orange County, I can help you with your case anywhere in California as in many circumstances the entire process can be completed remotely. Hiring an attorney is a serious decision. There are various considerations you need to take into account in hiring an attorney. One of the considerations you should take into account is how far or close the attorney is from you if this matters to you.
19If I hire you as my attorney, can you guarantee the outcome of my case?
No. No attorney can guarantee the outcome of a case. Every case is different.
20Where can I find the text of the California lemon law?
You can find the text of the law in California's Civil Code.