Barnes and Farrell, California Lemon Law Attorneys

Californians are Lucky to Have the California Lemon Law

We Californians are fortunate for a lot of things. For example, we have great weather, great scenery, Disneyland, Yosemite, redwood and sequoia trees, an abundance of outdoor activities, just to name a few. We also are blessed to have the California Lemon Law.

The California Lemon Law is arguably the most effective lemon law in all of the 50 United States. Unlike most states, the California law does not place strict time limits in which a vehicle may be considered a lemon. A California Lemon case may be based upon warranty repairs regardless of when these repairs occurred or regardless of how many miles on the vehicle. The only limitation is that a California case must be brought within four years from the date of the warranty breach.

In contrast, Arizona’s Lemon Law (Arizona Revised Statutes §§ 44-1261 to 1267) requires that a case must be based upon the vehicle’s repair history during the warranty period or within the first 24 months or 24,000 miles, whichever is shorter. Although Arizona’s lemon law does provide the consumer some protection, it is no consolation for those unfortunate people whose vehicles begin to exhibit problems after 24 months or 24,000 miles. This is especially so given that most automobile manufacturers provide at least 36 month, 36,000 mile warranties.

But Californians need to be aware that auto manufacturers are constantly lobbying the California Legislature to place strict limits on Californian’s Lemon Law rights. Should the manufacturers succeed in this effort, all Californians will suffer the loss of a substantial right and protection.

The Best Way to Protect Your Rights Under the California Lemon Law

The beauty of proving a California Lemon Law case is that the lemon vehicle’s repair history is usually documented. A repair order is provided to the customer when the vehicle is dropped off at the repair facility. A repair invoice is provided to the customer when the repairs are completed and the vehicle is picked up. Because repair orders and repair invoices will usually be the strongest evidence in a case, it is important the information on these documents is accurate. Accurate documentation is the best way to prove a lemon case and to protect one’s California Lemon Law rights.

The repair order should provide a written explanation of the customer’s complaint with the vehicle. In addition, the repair order should indicate the date the vehicle was delivered for repair and the vehicle’s current mileage. It is important to carefully read the complaint that is indicated on the repair order to verify the complaint has been accurately written down. If not, have the service advisor re-write the complaint. An accurate description of the complaint helps the service technician to properly diagnose and fix the problem. If the complaint is not fixed, an accurate description provides strong evidence in a potential future case.

The repair invoice should be carefully read when the vehicle is picked up after the repairs are completed. The repair invoice should describe the complaint with the vehicle as well as the repair that was actually performed to fix the complaint. In addition, any replacement parts that were installed on the vehicle should be indicated on the repair invoice. The current mileage and the date the vehicle was picked up should be indicated on the repair invoice as well. If any of these items are inaccurate, ask the service advisor to re-do the repair invoice so it is accurate.

As manufacturers and service facilities have become more knowledgeable concerning the California Lemon Law, they may be reluctant to accurately record a customer’s complaint on the repair order or invoice. This is especially so if a vehicle is being delivered for repeat repairs. Service writers may change the wording of a complaint so it does not appear to be the same complaint the vehicle was previously delivered for repair of. As such, the more a vehicle is delivered for repairs, the more scrutiny one should use in reviewing the repair orders and repair invoices for accuracy.

The bottom line – make sure repair orders and invoices are complete and accurate. These documents may ultimately provide the best evidence in a California Lemon Law case.

I Have a Lemon, So Why Won’t the Manufacturer Just Buy My Car Back?

When I first started practicing law and began doing California Lemon Law cases, I didn’t understand why the manufacturers would not just buy back these obvious lemons prior to me getting involved. But after having been a Lemon Law attorney for longer than I wish to admit, I think I have figured it out. The auto manufacturers have realized that by not complying with the law, they save a lot of money. But how could that be?

Auto manufacturers understand the following. Many people do not know there is a Lemon Law. (This lack of knowledge is changing because of the internet and the fact the California Lemon Law has been around for quite a long time.) Many of those who do know about the law do not believe the law protects them. Many of those who believe they may have a Lemon Law claim do not believe they can afford an attorney to represent them. (They may also not wish to speak with an attorney. After all, we attorneys do have such stellar reputations.) Many people, rather than deal with a potential Lemon case, just get rid of the problem car on their own. Other people pursue a Lemon claim on their own, are stonewalled, and just give up. Then there are the ones that are left – those who seek out an attorney to represent them under the California Lemon Law. So, as you can see, and as the manufacturers know, most potential Lemon cases are weeded out all by themselves.

Now, in all fairness, I must point out that manufacturers occasionally do voluntarily repurchase or replace vehicles pursuant to the California Lemon Law. Moreover, most manufacturers do provide the consumer with a lemon law guide which briefly describes various state lemon laws and the federal lemon law. Additionally, most manufacturers utilize arbitration programs that arbitrate warranty disputes at no cost to the consumer.

Maybe if I were in the shoes of the manufacturers I would treat California Lemon Law cases the same way they do. Manufacturers are in the business to make money. And let’s face it, if the manufacturers always complied with the law, they would run me, and all other Lemon Law attorneys, out of business. That would not be good for me, but it sure would be good for California consumers.