Imagine this scenario: You purchase a new car, and within a few days, the car begins to give you problems. Out of nowhere, the car stalled on you on your way to work, forcing you to call for a tow. Incredibly frustrated, you address the issue with the car dealership from where you bought the car. The car warranty still covers you, and they agree to fix your vehicle.
Days later, you experience the same issue. Once again, you contact the car dealership and go through the same process all over again.
This keeps happening over and over. You finally realize you may have a lemon on your hands. So, what can you do about it? How can California’s lemon law help you?
California’s Song Beverly Consumer Warranty Act, commonly known as California’s “lemon law,” is designed for this type of scenario. Essentially, the law prescribes that after a repeated reasonable number of attempts to repair a car to conform to the express warranties, a car manufacturer must replace or repurchase the car from the consumer.
There is no specific number as to how many attempts are enough, or reasonable, but it is generally recognized that at least two repair attempts are needed. Silvio v. Ford Motor Co. Cal.App.4th 1205. If the manufacturer is unsuccessful after a reasonable amount of attempts, then the manufacturer must replace or repurchase the car from you.
California’s lemon law applies to new, used, and leased vehicles that are sold at retail under the manufacturer’s original warranty – or manufacturer’s extended warranty, also known as “certified pre-owned” – in the state, for “personal, family, household use.” It also applies to some business vehicles “bought or used for business purpose” that fit certain parameters. It also applies to different vehicle types, such as cars, trucks, SUVs, vans, as well as boats and motorcycles.
While the law applies to both new and used vehicles, it only applies to those vehicles that are sold at retail still under the manufacturer’s original warranty, or a manufacturer’s “extended warranty” and the problem occurred while under that warranty. A manufacturer’s extended warranty is also sometimes known as “certified pre-owned” warranty. If you are past your warranty period, it might be challenging to make a lemon law claim. But if the problem occurred while the car was under warranty, and the warranty ran out, you could still qualify.
The 18 months/18,000 miles is only relevant with regards to the “presumption period.” A presumption period means that it may be easier to prove your claim if the problem occurred within 18 months or 18,000 miles in the odometer of the vehicle, whichever occurs first, from the date the car was delivered to the buyer. For example, one presumption is that if within 18 months or 18,000 miles of the car being delivered to you, your car has been in the shop for a cumulative time of over 30 days or more, your car may be considered a lemon. This part of the California lemon law is also referred to as the “Tanner Consumer Protection Act.”
If you bought your car outside of California, you could not avail yourself of California’s lemon law. However, there is an exception for military service members.
There is a specific exception for service members under the Song Beverly Consumer Warranty Act. Under the act, certain military members can file a claim under California’s lemon law even if they purchased their car in another state.
Military service members may bring a claim under the California lemon law 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.
The law states that a “reasonable” number of attempts must be made by the manufacturer to repair the car, but what counts as “reasonable?” How many attempts are enough?
As mentioned earlier, it is generally recognized that at least two repair attempts are needed. Silvio v. Ford Motor Co. Cal.App.4th 1205. Generally, the more serious the problem, the fewer attempts are required. By “serious problem,” we are referring not to the cost or complexity of a repair, but how likely it is that the problem could “substantially impair the use, value or safety of the vehicle.” Fewer attempts would be required to fix an issue that could cause injury or death.
California’s lemon law may seem straight-forward but one should be careful to navigate these waters carefully. It is not uncommon for a car manufacturer to blame the car’s owner and claim that their negligence led to the car’s problem.
There are several things one can do to try and resolve these disputes, from filing a complaint with regulatory agencies or the Better Business Bureau.
Another way to get help is through a lawyer who handles lemon law cases. An experienced lemon law attorney can first help you figure out if you have a case in your hands. If so, the attorney can handle most aspects of your claim, including negotiations and going to court to fight for your rights if necessary. Lemon law cases can become a very complicated matter. It’s always worthwhile to get a lemon law attorney’s opinion.
Our law offices offer free and confidential consultations, and we are here to assist you. Reach out to us for a free consultation. If we end up taking your case, you will not pay us attorneys’ fees as the California Beverly Consumer Warranty Act provides for attorney’s fees. Also, unlike some lemon law firms, we do not charge “contingency” fees either.
Information on this posting refers or cites to the California Song Beverly Consumer Act, otherwise known as the “California Lemon Law,” and other consumer related law.