Under the California lemon law, if you have leased or purchased a defective vehicle that is under the original manufacturer warranty then you could be allowed to have your vehicle replaced or repurchased if certain conditions are met. In order to assert your rights, you do need to have an understanding of the steps involved in filing a claim. Neale & Fhima lemon law attorneys can help you with the process.
Have the Dealership Do Repairs on Your Vehicle
In order to have a successful claim, you need to be taking your vehicle to a representative of the manufacturer in order to have it repaired. Many times, this means you need to take it to the dealership. The dealership has a reasonable number of attempts in order to repair your vehicle under warranty. If you are taking your vehicle to an independent repair shop then unauthorized work could be done and this could void your warranty. If the warranty is voided then it prevents you from filing a successful claim.
Make Sure You Get the Dealership Repair Orders
Every time you take your vehicle to the dealership, be sure to reiterate the specific issue you are having. Let the service representative know you are at the dealership again to have the same issue fixed. This allows you to have a paper trail to help support the claim, which is one of the most important pieces of evidence. Make sure the concerns are written down accurately and keep copies of the repair orders. Before you sign the repair order, make sure it reflects each of your concerns. If you don’t get the repair orders, you will need to get copies from the dealership. Try to keep your records in real-time since dealerships can go out of business and it can be harder to get copies of the repair orders if you don’t keep them originally. Getting your documentation can allow you to be your best advocate.
You Need to Give a Reasonable Number of Attempts
The number of reasonable repair attempts is going to be different under certain circumstances depending on the defect, mileage, amount of time that has passed, and whether the dealership found the problem with the vehicle. There is no specific number that is needed in order to constitute a reasonable number. However, two visits are usually needed and three or four will likely be enough. This number can be subjective, so it’s best to work with an attorney.
Have All Your Relevant Documents
Before you file the claim, you want to make sure you gather the right documentation. This includes copies of your lease or purchase agreement and the dealership repair orders.
You Don’t Need a Current Warranty
The lemon law in California applies to vehicles repaired under the warranty. You may still have a case even if your warranty has expired if you brought the vehicle in for repairs when the warranty was still current. An expired warranty doesn’t prevent you from filing a claim.
Work with an Experienced Lemon Law Attorney
Before you get too far in your claim, it’s best to discuss your case with a lawyer. Filing a complaint requires some legal expertise. Major vehicle manufacturers will hire experienced defense firms to represent them against lemon law claims. A lawyer can help you handle the legal aspects of the claim and help you make decisions along the way, including litigation defense, negotiations for settlement, and overseeing the vehicle’s surrender if your car is repurchased.
File Your Claim as Soon as You Can
After you have taken your vehicle in for a reasonable number of attempts, you want to make sure that you file your claim sooner rather than later. The sooner you file your claim, the better chances you have of getting a positive result. The statute of limitations for California lemon law is four years so you need to file a claim within this time frame or you won’t get any compensation.
You Don’t Need a Demand Letter
A demand letter can sometimes help your case, but you don’t need this to file a claim. You or your attorney aren’t required to send a demand letter to the vehicle manufacturer before you file a claim. Typically, a manufacturer won’t take your case seriously unless there is a formal complaint filed in court.
Litigate or Negotiate a Settlement
When you get the first offer from the manufacturer, your lawyer will work to negotiate a settlement. If successful, and you are happy with the offer, then the case is settled. Many lemon law cases settle. However, your lawyer may need to be prepared to litigate if the manufacturer is not offering a fair settlement.
Arbitration Isn’t Required
Vehicle owners aren’t required to arbitrate cases before filing a formal complaint. Manufacturers will often encourage customers to arbitrate the case through their arbitration program. They do this so that many customers assume they don’t have a good case and give up if they lose. The arbitrators work for the manufacturer so they will often go against the consumer, even if there is a strong case. If you do go through with arbitration and lose, don’t be discouraged. You still may have a valid claim and a lemon law attorney can help you.
Go to Trial
If a manufacturer refuses to settle then the case will likely go to trial. Even though a majority of lemon law cases do settle, you should still have a lawyer prepared in order to try the case if the manufacturer doesn’t make a reasonable offer. The trial can be a complex process and, in order to make sure your rights are fully protected, you want to have an experienced lawyer on your side.