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California Lemon Law - Frequently Asked Questions

This Frequently Asked Questions page is for general information only, and just because a question and answer seems to answer your question, every situation is different.  As a general rule, if you have a good reason to think your car is a lemon, then it probably is and you should seek the advice of an attorney practicing in this area - even if a question and answer presented here would seem to indicate you do not have a lemon.

Q:     Why should I hire an Attorney?  

A:  Most people do not know what their rights are under the California Lemon Law.  The manufacturers know this - and will try to take advantage of that if you are not represented.  Protect your rights, get everything you are entitled to and, most importantly, do not give up anything to the manufacturer that it is not entitled to under the law.  You don't need to suffer with a car that does not work properly.  And you do not need to spend your time and energy to enforce your rights.  If we take you on a lemon law client, you can typically expect results in 30-60 days and all fees are advanced by the attorney - no out-of-pocket costs to you!  Everything can be done via email, mail and courier.  You do not need to come to Santa Rosa if you live out of the area.   Save yourself the time, trouble, and uncertainty by hiring a professional to assist you.

Q:     What is a "lemon?"

A:      Technically, a lemon is a legal classification of a vehicle (or other consumer item) that has been repurchased by the manufacturer because of a court order or a settlement arising from a lawsuit alleging a breach of warranty for nonconforming goods.  Until your vehicle has been classified as a "lemon" under the law, it's just an "alleged lemon."  Under the law, your vehicle is "presumed" a lemon if you bought it new and had to take it back to the dealership 4 or more times for the same problem within the first 18 months or 18,000 miles.  There are other factors, like "safety concerns," that may affect this general rule.

Q:      The manufacturer of my vehicle has offered to replace or repurchase my vehicle already - can I have an attorney review their offer?

A:        Yes.  Lemon Law Attorney John Hendrickson will review the offer made to you by the manufacturer at no cost to you.  Even if you you are represented by an experienced Lemon Law Attorney, the manufacturer will occasionally try to get more than they are entitled to - at your expense. Do not sign a settlement agreement without having an experienced lemon law attorney review it.

Q:      What if I bought my vehicle used?

A:      You are still covered under California Law.  So long as factory warranty is remaining on the vehicle, you are entitled to make use of the warranty.  If warranty transfer is required, you must properly transfer.  As with any legal question, even a "definite" answer has exceptions.  If you bought a "certified used" vehicle or purchased your vehicle with a service contract, then you may have other rights.

Q:      What if I leased my vehicle and it is a lemon?

A:      You are still covered under California Law, and entitled to essentially the same rights and relief as a purchaser of a vehicle. 

Q:      What kinds of vehicles are covered under the Lemon Law?

A:      Typically passenger cars and light trucks bought for the purpose of personal and household/family use. This, however, may be expanded to include motor homes and park trailers.

Q:    Are  towable trailers covered under the vehicle Lemon Law?

A:    They are usually not considered "vehicles," but they usually come with express warranties.  They may be covered under California warranty laws, especially if you are a California resident and purchased the trailer in California.  

Q:      I had a lot of problems with my car while it was still under warranty.  It's now out of warranty (or close to being out of warranty), and I'm still having trouble.  Can I still make a claim?

A:      In most situations, yes.  Even if you car is out of the manufacturer's warranty, you may still have a claim.

Q:      The dealer said I bought the car "as-is" from them, and I need to talk to the manufacturer and/or service contract company.  Do I have recourse against the dealership?

A:      Usually, yes.  If the dealership sold you the car with a service contract, then the vehicle typically is NOT "as-is."  The dealership warranted the vehicle with "implied" warranties as a matter of law.  Also, if the vehicle was covered under the manufacturer's warranty, there is typically recourse against the selling dealer.

Q:      How long does it take to make a lemon law claim?

A:        This depends on the manufacturer, however you can typically be through a "standard" lemon law claim in 30-60 days, depending on the nature of your claim and the strength of your supporting documentation.  Hendrickson Law Group, PC strives to give the manufacturer as much information as possible up front so there is a quick resolution to your case.

Q:      Am I going to be involved in a lawsuit?

A:        In most cases, no.  If you purchased the vehicle new, you have not added accessories, you have experienced repairs that impair the use and enjoyment of the vehicle, and all of the documentation is in order, then your case can usually be solved without resorting to litigation.  Most people fall into this category - they bought a vehicle for transportation and it is not working out.  If you purchased your vehicle upfitted, such as with a flatbed, utility body, contractor body, or van box, then you are more likely to have to litigate.

Q:        What does it cost me to hire a lemon law attorney?

A:        Usually nothing.  If you need a lawyer to help you with your vehicle warranty, the manufacturer typically pays all attorney's fees and costs, as they are obliged to do under the law.  Please consult an attorney for more information regarding services to be performed and the costs associated with those services.

Q:        What if my problem seems trivial?

A:        This is a common question from people who are not looking for a lemon law attorney, but asked at a social function.  Typically, someone will meet a lemon law attorney and say something like, "You know - I bought a car new and the roof as always leaked.  The dealer has tried to fix it a number of times, but they just can't seem to get it right so I was thinking of just trading it in."  Or someone will ask about the radio not functioning properly, the trunk now working, etc.  If you've given the dealership/manufacturer the opportunity to fix the problem and it is still present, then you might have a good claim.  Do not trade in a car that you are unhappy with because of a defect and lose money.  You might be able to make a claim against the manufacturer and get your money back.

Q:        What if I added accessories to my vehicle?

A:        Accessories can be troublesome. If you added "manufacturer brand" accessories (such as Toyota Racing Development accessories to a Toyota, or MOPAR accessories to a Jeep) at the time you purchased the vehicle, then they are typically covered and reimbursable because they have they carry the manufacturer's warranty.  If you lifted, lowered, swapped rims, removed the radio, or altered the vehicle in a way that makes it exceedingly difficult (or impossible) to put the vehicle back to stock, then your vehicle may not qualify for repurchase or replacement.  

Q:        What are the possible results of a lemon law claim?

A:        The law provides for two specific remedies, either:  (a) repurchase of the vehicle, or (b) substitution of a new vehicle.  Either way you are entitled to attorney's fees and costs if the matter goes to trial. Just because those are the options afforded under the law, that does not mean those are the only options available.  You should contact an experienced lemon law attorney to discuss your particular situation and determine what your best course of action might be.

Q:        What if my question was not answered here?

A:        Call (707) 540-6199, send an email to info@NorCalLemon.com or fill out the form below.

Disclaimer:  Every legal situation is different.  Even if your question seems to be answered above, under your circumstances the answer might be different.  This FAQ is provided to answer some common questions for issues arising for the typical consumer, and the answers are based on California law.  Do not assume these answers apply to you.  You should consult an attorney if you have a legal issue, particularly if it concerns a vehicle warranty.   

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Copyright 2010-2015.  This is attorney advertising, and to the extent the State Bar of California requires one attorney to be responsible for this message, that attorney is John Hendrickson, SBN 257298.  These pages are informational only, and any submission of documents or information does not create an attorney-client relationship.  NorCalLemon.com is designed for owners and leasees of vehicles that have numerous warranty problems or those owners that have disputes with the dealer they purchased the veicle from.  Vehicle warranty claims and remedies, including repurchase, buy-back, or a new vehicle can be complex legal issues.  Please inquire for additional information.  Every situation is unique and results will vary from one case to the next.  No guarantees of success are given or implied.  Any information regarding possible results is given in general terms that may not apply to your situation.  In order for your information to be kept confidential, please call before sending sensitive documents.  No Attorney-Client relationship is created until a written Professional Services Agreement is executed and accepted by all parties.  This information is not intended to substitute for legal advice or a legal opinion, as every situation is different.  If you feel you could benefit from legal services, you should contact a qualified, licensed attorney.