What to Expect When Filing a Lemon Law Claim

If your new car spends a lot of time at the dealership for repairs, it may be a lemon. California's Lemon Law requires either proof that there is a repeated repair of the same problem or that the car has been in the shop for repairs an unusually large number of times. Here are a few helpful tips if you choose to seek relief through the California Lemon Law

When you drop off your car, describe every problem in detail, including when the problem occurs and any associated sounds or smells. If it is a chronic problem, describe it in the same manner every time you take it in. This is essential if you want relief through the lemon law. Then:

  • Make sure the dealer's documentation is complete. Ask the service adviser to include all of the details of the car's problems in the work/repair order. And make certain of this BEFORE you sign the work order.
  • When you pick up the car, make sure the documentation you receive describes the work performed, including any parts that were replaced. This is also helpful when the car goes out of warranty if the same part fails again. Then you have verification the part was defective and you should get the second repair for free.
  • Finally, be sure the dealer's paperwork includes the dates that your car was in the shop for repairs.

While the car may have the same repeated problem, a dealer may perform different repairs to try and fix it. The vehicle can still qualify as a lemon as long as the problem remains the same.

In any lemon law case, it's essential to ensure the dealer's paperwork shows the length of time the car was out of service. This is important if your "ride" has many problems that the dealer may fix successfully – but not completely, over time. Then your car should qualify under California's lemon law because of the number of days it's in the shop.

Making a Lemon Law Claim

You can choose between demanding a refund or a replacement car. But regardless of which you choose, you can only be charged a minimal fee for the miles you drove before the first repair that qualified you for lemon law coverage. If you want a refund, it includes sales tax, registration and other fees at the time of purchase, plus incidental fees caused by the lemon car, such as towing or rental car charges.

Read more about conditions regarding replacement, and others governing California's Lemon Law in general, by following this link.

If you choose to file your own Lemon Law Claim, you will find that it requires a lot of paperwork and time. So it might be a good idea to consider retaining a seasoned California Lemon Law attorney, who knows the ropes, to assist in your claim.

Gather Your Papers

Thorough documentation of your issue is critical to your success. In addition to the evidence we've discussed above, other paperwork important to your claim includes:

  • Your initial purchase or lease agreement
  • Warranty information, including extended warranty agreements if you purchased them
  • ALL bills, invoices or receipts for repair work.

If you're handling your claim solo, and you can record or transcribe conversations or correspondence you've had with the manufacturer or dealer, include those too.

Submit Your Claim to the Manufacturer

It generally takes four to six weeks after submitting your claim to learn of the manufacturer's decision. It will either:

  • Approve the claim and offer you a repurchase or refund per California's lemon laws or
  • Deny the claim, by stating that the vehicle does not meet California's definition of a "lemon" or that the vehicle is no longer under warranty.

Proceed To Arbitration or Litigation, If Needed

If you still are representing yourself, the manufacturer will encourage arbitration to resolve your claim. There are certain advantages to arbitration, but you are not obliged to use that remedy. You are free to file a lawsuit in civil court, and a lemon law attorney will be critical to receiving a favorable settlement.