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Who Pays for Repairs of a Lemon?

A “lemon” is a car, van, truck, SUV or other vehicle that keeps breaking down or continues to have problems. If your vehicle turns out to be a lemon, requiring repeated and increasingly frustrating trips to have it repaired, you will want to know who is responsible for paying for the costs involved. Fortunately, California has strong lemon laws, so if your vehicle is covered, in most situations you should not have to pay anything, and you may even get reimbursed for related costs you may have incurred, such as towing or rental cars.

California’s lemon law covers the following new and used vehicles that come with the manufacturer’s new vehicle warranty:

  • Cars, pickup trucks, vans, and SUVs
  • The chassis, chassis cab, and drive train of a motor home
  • Dealer-owned vehicles and demonstrators
  • Many vehicles purchased or leased primarily for business use
  • Certified Pre-Owned Vehicles.

Under California’s lemon law, the Song-Beverly Consumer Warranty Act, if you purchase a defective vehicle, you are legally entitled to a remedy at the manufacturer’s expense. The law states that if your vehicle that is under warranty has a serious defect that can’t be fixed, even after several attempts, you may be eligible to not only get your repairs paid for, but to either get your money back or have your vehicle replaced with another. However, car dealers and manufacturers are out for profit and often deny initial lemon law claims or claim that your vehicle is not covered, and you must be able to prove that your vehicle qualifies as a lemon under the law.

When a vehicle is defective and hasn’t been able to be properly repaired, it is important to investigate and find out the best way to get the manufacturer or dealer to live up to its obligations, file a claim properly, produce evidence that your car is a lemon, negotiate for a fair settlement, and build your case if issues cannot be satisfactorily resolved. If you get billed for repairs that should be covered, there are legal protections available, and an experienced California lemon law attorney can help you file a claim and fight to get the benefits the law provides.

How Many Repairs Before a Car is Considered a Lemon in California?

California’s lemon law can empower consumers and keep them from being taken advantage of, but the text of the statute is not always clear. To be eligible for a lemon law claim, your vehicle must still be under the original dealer warranty. If you own a used vehicle that is a lemon, it would have to be covered under one of three specific warranties to have a successful claim. They include a (1) Transferred New Car Warranty, (2) Certified Pre-Owned (CPO) Warranty, or (3) Lemon Law Buyback Warranty.

Only certain defects are covered under the lemon law. California law stipulates that “nonconformities” must be present, and these are defined as any defect or malfunction that is covered by the manufacturer’s original warranty. Nonconformities are problems that compromise the use, value or safety of the vehicle and are not just cosmetic. Vehicles that are lemons may have mechanical or electrical problems.

In addition, complaints must remain unresolved after a reasonable number of repair attempts by an authorized dealer.

What is a Reasonable Number of Attempts?

California’s lemon law requires that if the manufacturer or authorized dealer can’t repair a serious warranty defect in your vehicle after a “reasonable” number of attempts, the manufacturer must either replace the vehicle or refund its purchase price, according to your preference.

There is no set number that the law states is reasonable, but California has a Lemon Law Presumption that contains guidelines for determining when a “reasonable” number of repair attempts have been made:

  • The manufacturer or dealer hasn’t fixed the same problem after four or more attempts within the first 18,000 miles of use or 18 months of ownership or
  • Your vehicle’s problems could cause death or serious bodily injury if it is driven, and the

manufacturer or dealer has made at least two unsuccessful repair attempts.

The number of attempts required to be considered enough for a lemon law claim varies according to the circumstances of the case, one attempt to fix the problem is  only sufficient if the auto manufacturer cannot or refuses to fix the car. Courts have also ruled that a repair attempt occurs each time the customer brings the vehicle into the dealership for that purpose, whether or not the dealership actually tries to make the repair.

In some situations, your attorney may be able to negotiate a cash settlement, called a “cash and keep,” to compensate you for the defect, and you keep your vehicle. You may also receive:

  • A refund of the purchase price
  • A replacement vehicle
  • The return of any down-payments or trade-ins
  • The reimbursement of the customer’s monthly payments
  • The reimbursement of the customer’s towing and rental expenses.

Get Help from a Skilled Lemon Law Lawyer

If you feel your car is covered under the lemon law and you are having difficulty getting your repairs paid for, the experienced lemon law attorneys at Neale & Fhima can help. We know how the big auto manufacturers operate and how to deal with them to enforce the lemon law rights of our clients. When you have us on your side, we can file a claim against the manufacturer or dealer, determine what you should be entitled to, gather and preserve evidence, negotiate for a fair settlement, including a refund or replacement and possible additional civil penalties for damages, and build your case and take it to court and advocate for you if necessary.

Senior partners Matt Neale and Aaron Fhima are personally involved in every single claim. We get results, and you can read testimonials from our satisfied clients to prove it. We have offices in Dana Point, Los Angeles, San Francisco, and San Diego, CA.

We have a 99% success record in lemon law cases, so call us today at 949-661-1007 for a free initial consultation about your case.

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.

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