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What types of products are protected by California’s Lemon Law?

California Lemon Law, also known as the Song-Beverly Consumer Warranty Act, applies to all consumer products sold in California and covered by a warranty. The product must be purchased or used primarily for personal, family or household purposes. Your household appliances, cars, boats, motorcycles, motorhomes, trailers, fifth wheels, toy haulers and many other products are protected by California Lemon Laws.

Does my vehicle qualify under the California Lemon Law?

If you returned your vehicle to a repair facility a reasonable number of times for the same defect and the repair facility could not or would not repair your car, you may be the owner of a Lemon. If so, you may have rights under the California Lemon Laws. Because the term reasonable number of repair attempts is vague, we can look at your repair orders and evaluate whether or not your car qualifies under California Lemon Laws. The analysis considers the nature of the defect, if the manufacturer is aware that your defect is happening in other models, and possibly conversations with our experts.

What is a defect under California Lemon Laws?

California Lemon Law defines defect as a substantial impairment to the use, value or safety of a car. It is pretty difficult to convince a jury that wind noise is substantial under California Lemon Law. However, air leaks and certainly water leaks may be substantial impairments to the use, value or safety of your car. Radio static may not be substantial, but radio failures may be. Engine clunks, oil consumption, shift flares, instrument cluster failures, sensor failures, suspension failures, break failures, air bag failures, hard shifts, stalling, difficult starts, inability to maintain an alignment may all qualify as substantial impairments. This list is not complete but serves as examples. Our attorneys can assist in this analysis.

What if my car has been at the dealership for extended periods of time?

California Lemon Law requires that the manufacturer repair your vehicle within 30 days unless you give them written permission to take longer. If the dealership maintains possession of your car for longer than 30 days, it is an automatic repurchase by the manufacturer. If you car has been at a repair facility for a total accumulated 30 days, it is persuasive evidence that your car is a lemon.

Does the California Lemon Law protect my car if the defects did not occur within 18 months or 18,000 miles?

Absolutely. This is a myth loudly promoted by manufacturers. If your warranty manual states that your defects must occur within 18 months or 18,000 miles in its California Lemon Law section, do not believe it. It is an untrue representation. As long as your defects occur under warranty, you are protected. If your defects continue to occur once the warranty has expired, you are still protected. You have four years to file a lawsuit from the date you knew or should have known your car was a lemon. For example, if the repair facility told you on June 10, 2012, that it could not or would not make further repairs to your car, you must file a lawsuit before June 10, 2016. If you have returned the car for repairs for the same defect several times and you have determined that you will not return it again because your car is a lemon, you have four years to file a lawsuit. The sooner you contact a lawyer, the better because the evidence is fresher.

Does the California Lemon Law apply to used vehicles?

Absolutely. If you purchased a used vehicle which was still under the original warranty, was a Certified Pre-Owned vehicle or which was protected by a service contract you purchased, California Lemon Laws protect it. Under very specific conditions, a car sold “as is” may be protected under California Lemon Laws.

Am I protected by the California Lemon Laws if I bought my car in another state?

I am so glad you asked this question. The answer is no with one very important exception. If you are active duty military, you have been transferred to California and you have returned your car to a California repair facility at least one time, you are protected by California Lemon Laws.

With the help of Senator Corbett and after I attended several hearings in Sacramento, we were able to extend California’s Lemon Law protection to active duty military. It is one of the most rewarding professional experiences of my career.

If my car is a lemon under the California Lemon Laws, what are my rights?

You are entitled to a repurchase or a replacement vehicle. If your car is repurchased, the manufacturer will return all of your monthly payments, your down payment and will payoff your loan. Of course, you return the car to the manufacturer.

What is a mileage offset?

We will address this question because manufacturers often misrepresent the offset to owners of lemon vehicles. The California Lemon Law has a formula which must be used to calculate the usage offset when the manufacturer agrees to repurchase your car. It is based on the mileage of your FIRST repair visit for the defect which qualifies the car as a lemon. If your car exhibits engine stalling and you returned your car for this defect, look at the very first repair order which reflects your engine stalling complaint. In the upper portion of the repair order, the service writer entered the mileage on your odometer on the day you took the car to the repair facility. It may be indicated by the letters “MI.” (mileage in) That is the correct mileage to use in the formula. Manufacturers would like for owners to believe it is the current mileage on the odometer that is used in the formula. Call us and we will be glad to do the calculation on your behalf.

What will I have to pay to litigate a California Lemon Law case?

Hyde & Swigart will handle your case on a contingency basis. You pay no upfront costs or fees. When we settle or prevail at trial, the manufacturer pays the attorneys’ fees and costs.

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