How to file a lemon law claim in California

If you bought a lemon and are looking for a legal remedy, you may have many questions. The first question is probably how to file a lemon law claim in California. Here are 10 steps to take:

1. Hire an experienced California lemon law lawyer to represent you.

2. Check to see if there’s a manufacturer’s recall. If so, a dealership might repair your vehicle for free. If not, you probably need to file a lemon law claim. (Service contracts and extended warranties do not count.)

3. Review the manufacturer’s new-car warranty to determine if it’s still in effect and if the defective parts are covered.

4. If yours is a used vehicle, check to see if you have (a) a transferred new car warranty, (b) a certified pre-owned vehicle warranty, or (c) a lemon law buyback warranty.

5. If you purchased your vehicle in a private sale or “as is,” you likely won’t be able to pursue a lemon law claim.

6. Take your vehicle to an authorized dealership to have it repaired.

7. Save all work orders, receipts, and spare parts from each repair appointment so you can prove you attempted to get the defect fixed.

8. Ask your attorney to send a letter to the manufacturer to start a lemon law complaint.

9. Insist that your attorney negotiate aggressively on your behalf.

10. Select your remedy – a lemon law buyback or a replacement vehicle.

This is a step-by-step map of how to file a lemon law claim in California. However, each case is unique, and the lemon law statute is complex, so it’s important to hire a knowledgeable lemon law attorney who has a track record of winning.

Neale & Fhima has a 99% success rate in lemon law cases.

Why Choose Neale & Fhima?

When choosing a California lemon law lawyer, find one who treats you like a person rather than a file number. At Neale & Fhima, our legal team is outstanding, and we treat every client with respect and understanding. Attorney Aaron Fhima is a fearless negotiator who is smart and committed to his clients. He has been handling lemon law cases for years, and he knows the complexities and nuances of the state statute. California’s lemon law is a fantastic example of how the state legislature empowers consumers, yet when it comes to clarity, the text of the law leaves much to be desired. Our lemon lawyers understands the quirks of the statute, and we put that knowledge to work for you. Our satisfied clients refer their friends, family, and work colleagues to us, which says a lot about the quality of our legal services.

How We Can Help

As you explore how to file a lemon law claim in California, you’ll quickly discover that having a skilled lawyer by your side makes all the difference. At Neale & Fhima, we will:

1. Explain your legal rights and your options for a remedy

2. Handle all communications with the dealership and manufacturer

3. Help you gather evidence that supports your claim, including documentation of your repeated attempts to have the defect fixed

4. Build a powerful claim based on California statutes and case law

5. Negotiate directly with the manufacturer to achieve a favorable outcome.

Call Neale & Fhima today at 949-661-1007 to find out more about how we can help. The initial consultation is free, so what have you got to lose? What you’ll gain is knowledge about how to file a lemon law claim in California.

Talk To an Attorney

How does a car qualify for lemon law in California?

Under the Song-Beverly Consumer Warranty Act, otherwise known as the California lemon law, there are three important thresholds you must meet to launch a successful legal claim. These are at the heart of understanding how to file a lemon law claim in California. They include:

1. You must possess one of several types of required warranties.

2. You must demonstrate that the vehicle has a “substantial nonconformity” (defect) that compromise the USE, VALUE or SAFETY of your car, truck, SUV, boat, RV, or motorcycle. For example, compromised USE could include the inability to use your vehicle for commuting; compromised VALUE could include lowering the resale price of your vehicle; and compromised SAFETY could include increasing the risk of injury in a car accident.

3. You must file your lemon law claim within 4 years of the date you knew or should have known that the defect exists (statute of limitations). However, don’t despair if your vehicle is more than 4 years old. Neale & Fhima has “lemoned” cars as much as 10 years old.

4. You must prove that you made a reasonable number of attempts to get the vehicle repaired by an authorized agent. Repair attempts may pertain to defective brakes, steering, exhaust system, transmission, or other mechanical and electrical systems.

Keep all repair documentation, receipts, and work orders from each one of your repair attempts. State law does not define the number of attempts required with precision, but there are guidelines that help determine if you qualify for a lemon law claim. These include:

If the mechanical problem… The dealer is allowed…
Affects vehicle’s use/value/safety At least 4 repair attempts
Affects vehicle’s use/value/safety & poses risk of injury or death At least 2 repair attempts
Affects vehicle’s use/value/safety & vehicle in repair shop more than 30 days No additional repair attempts


Depending on the complexity of the case, a lemon law buyback or replacement can be resolved in as little as 30 days. If your case is more complicated, it can take 90 to 180 days or more to reach a resolution. The general rule of thumb is that simple cases typically resolve quickly, while more complex cases can take more time. A skilled lemon law attorney can give you a better time estimate after reviewing the particulars in your case.

If you have additional questions about “how does a car qualify for lemon law in California?”, the best thing to do is call a skilled attorney at Neale & Fhima to discuss your specific concerns.

Circumstances That Void the Lemon Law

There are some circumstances that will void your lemon law claim. Look closely at the following to make sure none of these describe the defect you’re attempting to remedy:

  • Flaws caused by a vehicle collision
  • Flaws caused by hail, ice, and other bad weather
  • Defects caused by owner neglect and abuse
  • After-market parts and modifications added after purchase
  • Minor defects like small scratches, barely visible dents, or frayed upholstery.

Choose Your Legal Remedy

Once you successfully prove your lemon law claim, you can choose the legal remedy that works best for your situation. You are legally entitled to a refund (buyback), or the vehicle can be replaced at the manufacturer’s cost. In a buyback, the manufacturer recovers the defective vehicle and refunds your money, including the down payment, taxes, fees, and monthly car payments made to date. Your refund will be the total purchase price less a pro-rated amount to account for your usage (the mileage you drove while you owned the vehicle).

Another legal remedy you can pursue is the “replacement” option in which the manufacturer is required to replace your defective vehicle with the same or similar model. In some circumstances, our lemon lawyer may be able to negotiate a third option — “cash and keep” — in which you keep the defective vehicle, and the manufacturer will pay you a sum of money to compensate for the defect.

When do you need a lawyer to file a lemon law claim?

We often get asked “when do you need a lawyer to file a lemon law claim?” Our answer is “every time.” Granted, you have the right to pursue a lemon law claim by yourself. But the truth is, consumers represented by lawyers have a much higher rate of success in lemon law claims. That’s because the law is complicated, and skilled lemon law attorneys have an edge because they have a lot of practice in proving these claims. Also, manufacturers are tough and try to defeat these claims. When you have an attorney, you have someone fighting for you.

A handful of manufacturers control the auto market in the U.S. We repeatedly go up against the same companies. Some of the largest include GM, Ford, Toyota, Honda, Subaru, and several luxury automakers. Our skill and experience allow us to anticipate how manufacturers will respond to claims involving specific models and mechanical defects. We will share these insights with you from Day One, so you are never uncertain about what to expect.

Also, keep in mind that we work on contingency, which means our legal fees and case expenses are paid by the manufacturer in successful lemon law claims. So attorney fees should be a reason to stop you from hiring a lawyer.

So why not get started now? You can begin by calling Neale & Fhima at 949-661-1007 for a consultation about your case. The phone call is free, and you’re under no obligation. Why not learn more about how to file a lemon law claim in California.

Get Your Free Consultation

Attorney Aaron Fhima

Attorney Aaron Fhima is a trial attorney who has secured numerous settlements and verdicts against large corporations and some of the largest auto manufacturers in the world. Representing consumers and injury victims throughout the state of California, Aaron’s practice areas include personal injury, and lemon law litigation. Aaron has a long record of success taking on large defense firms; and he doesn’t hesitate to take cases to trial when necessary to enforce his clients’ rights.