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Frequently Asked Questions About The Lemon Law

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Home - California Lemon Law - Frequently Asked Questions

What Are Lemon Laws?

Before lemon laws were put into place, consumers weren’t protected if a new or used car dealer sold them a car that didn’t operate as it should. These individuals were left to struggle to pay for the repairs or trade their vehicle in for a different one. Today, these lemon laws are designed to protect these consumers. If a vehicle qualifies as a lemon based on state or federal laws, the consumer is eligible for compensation from the manufacturer. These lemon laws dictate the number of attempts that must be completed to repair the vehicle, as well as the timeframe in which those repairs must take place. Contact our attorneys today to find out if your car qualifies.

How Does the Lemon Law Work?

When it comes to the lemon law, it is important to understand how it works before you get started on your case. Each state has its own lemon law in place to protect consumers. These laws state that a consumer has a right to compensation from a vehicle manufacturer if the manufacturer fails to repair its vehicle “within a reasonable number of attempts.” The laws are state specific but generally will require that a vehicle be presented for repair three (3) or four (4) times for the same problem within the first twelve (12) to eighteen (18) months of ownership or that the vehicle is out of service due to repairs at least thirty (30) calendar or business days. If your vehicle qualifies, you should hire one of our lemon law attorneys to help you proceed with your case.

Can I get my money back after buying a defective automobile?

Yes, in many instances you can, or you may qualify for other forms of relief, such as money damages or a replacement vehicle. We have heard many stories of auto dealers and manufacturers misleading people into believing that Lemon Laws apply exclusively to new and late-model vehicles. This simply is not accurate. In fact, many state laws provide ample protection when purchasing a used vehicle. Even more significant, if you purchased a used vehicle with a warranty, it is also protected by Federal lemon laws. Contact the attorneys at Krohn & Moss, Ltd. Consumer Law Center® to find out what form of relief that you qualify for under the law.

My car has problems. Can I get the dealer to replace it without hiring an attorney?

You would think so, but sadly the answer to this question in far too many cases, is no. Attempting to resolve a lemon law dispute over the phone or even in-person on your own, can be next to impossible. Mere mention of words like vehicle replacement, refund, lawsuit, attorney and Lemon Law, usually ends up with you making countless calls back and forth, and leaving just as many unanswered messages. Remarkably, one of the most common strategies for those being accused of selling a bad vehicle, is to give the buyer the impression that they’re actually looking into it, with no intentions of ever doing so. Ultimately the goal is to wear you out mentally and emotionally, in the hopes that you scrap or sell the vehicle as-is. One of the reasons to work with a qualified Lemon Law attorney, is that in many cases, agreements are often signed in haste without reading the fine print of the refund agreement. Often times, what is said in a meeting and what is actually contained on paper are two completely different things. At Krohn & Moss, Ltd. Consumer Law Center® we make sure that you actually receive what has been promised as a result of your settlement. And since we seek our attorneys’ fees from the manufacturer, it only makes sense to let us represent you.

Will I need to pay a legal retainer for my Lemon Law case?

No. From a personal perspective, we at Krohn & Moss, Ltd. Consumer Law Center® feel that no consumer should ever be expected to pay a retainer fee when attempting to resolve a dispute under the Lemon Law. Some law firms charge retainer fees, because they don’t have great confidence in your case or in their ability to prevail on your behalf. As we near our twenty (20) year anniversary at Krohn & Moss, Ltd. Consumer Law Center®, it goes without saying that we are vastly experienced and highly successful when it comes to fighting for consumer rights under the Lemon Law. We will never ask a consumer to pay a retainer fee!

What rights do I have against automobile manufacturers and dealers who knowingly sell bad vehicles?

Most consumers are surprised to learn that the Lemon Law is a real thing, and not just a myth born from an old cliché. The simple fact is that the minute your vehicle purchase is complete, you are protected by a wide spectrum of rights; each one designed specifically to prevent the deliberate sale of faulty vehicles. The specific definition of these rights varies on a state-by-state basis and is broad in the scope of the protection they provide. Additionally, federal Breach of Warranty laws provide further protection for you if you don’t qualify for Lemon law protection. At Krohn & Moss, Ltd. Consumer Law Center® our attorneys will work closely with you to determine which specific rights apply to your case and will advise you of such.

What will my responsibilities be during the investigation and legal process?

The process of filing a claim under the Lemon Law is surprisingly easy, though most people assume that it will be complicated. Here is a list of what you will need to provide during the investigation process:

  • The vehicle’s repair history or service log
  • All sales documentation
  • Any warranty or extended coverage paperwork issued
  • Statement about the poor performance of your vehicle

How do I find out if my situation qualifies for a Lemon Law case?

As one of the country’s largest and most experienced Lemon Law firms, Krohn & Moss, Ltd. Consumer Law Center® makes it easy to determine whether or not you have a case against an automobile dealer or manufacturer. Simply fill out our FREE Case Evaluator form to begin the process. One of our qualified lemon law attorneys will review your information free of charge and immediately let you know the next step in getting started.

What happens after I contact the attorneys at Krohn & Moss, Ltd. Consumer Law Center®?

We will first evaluate at no charge to you whether you have a case and what we can do for you. To start the process, we will ask you to provide us with your repair history, i.e. either the actual repair receipts you received or some summary from the dealer. After we review your repair history we will call you and advise you about what laws you qualify for and what relief we believe we can obtain for you. We will also go over with you in detail how we will use federal and/or state laws to seek our attorneys’ fees incurred from the automobile manufacturer or dealer. From there, the pace of your case will depend on a number of variables. We will begin the process of investigating and contacting the appropriate parties, while tending to the filing of any necessary paperwork or court documentation. Keep in mind that each state’s Lemon Law varies and our attorneys will tailor your claim to the specific location and details of your case.

What Is Considered a Lemon?

For a vehicle to be considered a lemon, it must meet certain requirements. While each state is different, there are some general things that hold true across the board. First of all, the vehicle needs to have some type of defect or non-conformity. Under most state laws, the defect must have taken place within a specific period of time or a certain number of miles after the vehicle was purchased or leased. Additionally, most state lemon laws require that the defect or non-conformity could not be fixed after several repair attempts. While state lemon laws for cars usually only apply to new, the Magnuson-Moss Warranty Act, also known as the federal Lemon Law, applies to all cars covered by a warranty, whether the car is new or used. It is important that you speak to an experienced lemon law attorney who may assess your rights.

What are types of defects that are covered by lemon laws?

Most state lemon laws require that for the car owner or lessee to recover, they must prove that the defect or non-conformity substantially impairs the use, value or safety of the vehicle. Every situation is unique and a defect that you might not ordinarily think is substantial, very well might be depending on how it affects you. For instance, even something that is seemingly as minor as the illumination of a light on your dash board might signify a larger problem. Or, something like a brake squeak might be substantial if it affects your use and enjoyment of the vehicle every time you get behind the wheel. It is for this reason that you should speak to an experienced lemon law attorney who may assess your rights and tell you their opinion on what you may recover. Keep in mind, that the federal Lemon Law has no requirement that the defects in the vehicle be substantial. Rather, the federal Act looks to the obligations of the manufacturer to repair your vehicle as detailed in your warranty. Notably, the typical car manufacturer’s warranty promises to repair all defects in materials and workmanship in the vehicle. It does not restrictcoverage to only “substantial” defects. Therefore, even minor defects are covered under the federal Act if the manufacturer,by and through its dealers, was unable to repair the vehicle after being afforded a reasonable opportunity to do so.

What is a reasonable number of repair attempts to repair my car?

Before being able to reap the benefits of the lemon law, you must allow the manufacturer or dealer to make a reasonable number of attempts or you must provide them with a reasonable time to fix the issues before your vehicle may be considered a lemon. Although every state law varies, most states require that the consumer provide the manufacturer or its dealers with at least3 times or 30 days to fix a vehicle defect or non-conformity. In some states, as little as 1 repair attempt may be sufficient to deem a car a lemon if the defect is something that affects the safety of the vehicle.

How We Can Help Your Lemon Law Situation?

It is estimated that more than 150,000 cars annually, or about one percent of all new cars, are considered lemons. Although state and federal lemon laws vary, a lemon is generally considered any vehicle that has repeated defects or non-conformities that cannot be repaired after a reasonable time or a reasonable number of attempts. If you want to take advantage of state and federal lemon laws for car purchases, it’s important to understand what qualifies as a lemon and what steps you need to take to put yourself in the best position to receive maximum possible relief under the law. The attorneys at Krohn & Moss, Ltd. Consumer Law Center® have worked in this area of law since 1995 and can help you assess your claims and counsel you on the best course of action for moving forward. Should you qualify for relief, we will do our best to ensure that you settle your claims for what the law entitles, which may be a refund for your car, a replacement vehicle, or monetary compensation in other instances. We will also not charge you a fee unless you win or settle your case.

Is my car a lemon?

Before making their decision to pursue the California Lemon Law through an attorney, many consumers will try to research the law themselves, to see if they even possibly qualify for the remedies afforded by the Song-Beverly Act. Upon reading the express language of the Song-Beverly and Tanner Consumer Protection Act (California’s Lemon Law), the phrases, “4 times within a year or 18,000 miles” will always initially jump out as the perceived requirements to qualify. Consequently, many people who have not had the same problem four times within a year or 18,000 miles may become dissuaded to pursue a claim under the Lemon Law even though they may certainly qualify. Don’t let this language fool you.

The California Lemon Law provides that a consumer may be entitled to a refund or replacement of their vehicle if the manufacturer, through its authorized dealers, are unable or unwilling to repair the vehicle within a reasonable number of attempts. The Lemon Law presumes that a reasonable number of attempts have occurred if the subject vehicle has been subject to repair 4 times for the same non-conformity within a year or 18,000 miles, whichever occurs first. But remember; this is only a presumption. A consumer may certainly qualify for lemon law remedies if they do not meet this presumption. In fact, many of our former and current clients have vehicles that qualify for the refund/replacement remedy that do not meet the presumption. Moreover, several consumers have vehicles that qualify for the repurchase/replacement remedy even when their problems occurred after a year or 18,000 miles.

Are only new cars protected by the California lemon law?

Another misconception that many consumers have regarding the California Lemon Law is that theory that only a vehicle purchased new qualifies. Many people who purchase used vehicles and have significant problems with those vehicles, do not pursue their legal remedies. However, what many people do not know is that the Lemon Law defines a new vehicle as a vehicle that was purchased within the terms of the manufacturer’s bumper to bumper warranty. For example: If you purchased a Chevrolet Silverado with 27,000 miles on it, it could still qualifies as a new vehicle for the purposes of the lemon law as the bumper to bumper warranty expires at 36,000 miles. As long as you purchased a vehicle and had multiple concerns, at least one of which occurred before the expiration of the bumper to bumper warranty, you could certainly qualify for the refund/replacement remedy.

What counts as a repair attempt?

A final misconception that many consumers have about the lemon law is what constitutes a repair attempt. Again, since the Lemon Law does not kick in until a vehicle was not been repaired within a reasonable number of attempts, many consumers are mislead to believe that they do not qualify because of the lack of repair attempts to their vehicle. For example, a consumer may bring his or her vehicle to an authorized dealer 4 times for a steering concern, but only 1 time, an actual repair was made due to the fact that the dealer could not duplicate the consumer’s concern the other 3 times he or she brought the vehicle in. Again, the California Lemon Law protects the consumer in this regard by defining a repair attempt as any time a consumer presents a vehicle for repair, no matter what was done to the vehicle or not. Consequently, if a consumer brings a vehicle in for repair 4 times for the same problem, it counts a 4 repair attempts no matter what was actually done to the vehicle.

Should I contact a lemon law lawyer?

Don’t let the express language of the California Lemon law dissuade you from pursuing your legal rights. If you think you have a lemon, consult and attorney to find out for certain. A phone call or email could make the difference in enforcing your refund/replacement rights..

When does a vehicle qualify under the California Lemon Law?

The California Lemon Law applies to all new, used or “demo” vehicles that have been taken to an authorized dealership for repair four or more times for the same concern or two or more times for the same concern that is likely to cause death or serious bodily harm or the vehicle has been at the dealership for repair for 30 or more calendar days. These repairs or days out of service must occur within the first 18 months or 18,000 miles of ownership, whichever occurs first.

How many times do I need to take my car back to the dealer before I have a California Lemon Law claim?

You must present the vehicle for repair to an authorized repair facility: Four or more times for the same issue; Two or more times for the same issue if the issue is likely to cause death or serious bodily injury if the vehicle is driven; OR The vehicle has to be at the dealership for repair for a cumulative total of 30 or more calendar days. For more detail on this subject, speak with an attorney about your car’s issues.

Does the California Lemon Law apply to used vehicles or leased vehicles?

The California Lemon Law applies to used vehicles that are sold with a manufacturer’s new vehicle warranty and to leased vehicles.

Does the California Lemon Law apply to anything other than vehicles?

The California Lemon Law applies to all new, used or “demo” vehicles, including motorcycles that are driven on public roadways, boats and motor homes, consumer goods, including home appliances, computers, televisions and spas.

What fees will I have to pay to hire the Krohn & Moss, Ltd. Consumer Law Center®?

The manufacturer has to pay the reasonable attorneys’ fees and costs incurred by our firm. In the extremely unlikely event we lose, you pay nothing for our fees or costs.

What the California Lemon Law Does Not Cover?

The California Lemon Law does not cover commercial vehicles with a gross vehicle weight over 10,000 pounds where the business has more than five motor vehicles registered in the State of California, any portion of a motor home designed, used or maintained primarily for human habitation or motorcycles that are operated or used exclusively off the highways.

How much money should I receive in a California lemon law buyback?

A buyback under the California Lemon Law includes the return of any down payment or trade-in value, all payments made plus the payoff of any loan on the vehicle.  There is a deduction for usage taken from the mileage at the first repair for the issue that the manufacturer buys the vehicle back.  Further possible deductions include a deduction for any negative equity rolled into the loan, non-manufacturer service contracts and after-market items.

What if I bought my automobile outside of California?

The California Lemon Law applies only to vehicles purchased in the State of California; however, if you purchased your vehicle outside the State of California you may qualify for a case under the federal lemon law, known as the Magnuson-Moss Warranty Act.

How long do I have to file a lawsuit under the lemon law?

You have four years from the date of the breach of warranty to file a lawsuit under the Song-Beverly Act (California Lemon Law).  In other words, you have four years from the date that the manufacturer failed to repair your car, truck, SUV, motorcycle, or other consumer product.

Do I Need To Hire A Lawyer To Get The Manufacturer To Repurchase Or Replace My Vehicle?

Although a consumer can file his or her own claim directly against the automobile manufacturer, we believe that our experience and expertise in this area will ensure that you receive the greatest compensation to which you are entitled.

Since 1995, Krohn & Moss, Ltd. Consumer Law Center® has successfully helped over 45,000 consumers nationwide to settle their lemon law disputes against automobile manufacturers, including nearly 10,000 lemon law cases in California alone. Less than 3 percent of these cases ever went to trial. We also have an A+ rating with the Better Business Bureau. Further, since the lemon law provides that the automobile manufacturer must pay for your attorneys’ fees and costs, we will seek payment for our fees from them. This way, you can receive compensation for your “lemon” vehicle at no cost to you!

Do I Have To Pay Anything To Have Your Firm Represent Me?

The California Lemon Law contains a fee-shifting provision for the payment of attorneys’ fees and costs by the manufacturer, so that you, the consumer, do not have to pay anything to have one of our experienced and knowledgeable attorneys represent you in a claim against the automobile manufacturer.

What Documents Do I Need To See If I Have A Valid Lemon Law Claim?

Your repair records are the most important documents needed to determine if you have a Lemon Law claim. When you take your vehicle to the dealership for repair, it is extremely important that you ask the dealership for a receipt, called a “repair order.” You should read the repair order and make sure that it is accurate before leaving the dealership. Sometimes, dealerships will omit details of concerns you raised. Therefore, it is important that you ask the dealership to accurately record your complaint on the repair record, including the date that you drop off your vehicle and the date that you pick up the vehicle. Never leave the dealership without a copy of the repair order and make sure that you keep your repair records so that you will have this valuable evidence to help prove that your vehicle is a “lemon.”

How Long Does It Generally Take To Get Compensated?

The length of time to reach a settlement in a California Lemon Law case depends on many factors including the nature of the problems you have experienced and whether a lawsuit needs to be filed. While most cases will settle prior to a trial, the length of time to get to trial varies from County to County and even from Judge to Judge. No matter how long a case takes to be resolved, you control whether your lemon law case will settle. Quite simply, settlement is always your decision. A lawyer may recommend a settlement and counsel you on your rights, but a lawyer may never decide when to accept an offer of settlement. Only you – the consumer – have the right to say when enough is enough from a compensation standpoint. We strive to recover the maximum amount of compensation for our clients as quickly as possible and we have extensive experience working with all automobile manufacturers and their attorneys. With this experience, we are usually able to resolve California Lemon Law cases quicker and many of our clients’ cases get resolved without ever having to file a lawsuit in Court.

How do I contact Krohn & Moss Consumer Law Center?

You can contact our California office at 800-875-3666 or 323-988-2400 for a free consultation or you may contact us online for a free case review.

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