Lemon Law Settlement Process in California

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Lemon Law Settlement Process in California

Research from the California Public Interest Research Group (CALPIRG) shows that between 2018 and 2021, only 0.45 percent of new vehicle registrations in California ended in a lemon lawsuit. This number doesn’t account for the number of claims that are settled without a lawsuit being filed. 

Most lemon law claims don’t end with a courtroom verdict. Instead, they’re settled in negotiations between the vehicle owner’s lemon law attorney and an automaker. If you’re dealing with a lemon vehicle, talk to the team at Wirtz Law today to learn more about the details of a settlement process.

Our attorneys bring years of experience and understand the frustrations of dealing with a poorly designed SUV, EV, luxury car, family car, or pickup truck. We have recovered over forty million dollars for our clients across the state and strive to reach an agreement that satisfies our clients. Determining if your vehicle is covered under the California Lemon Law can be tricky. Let us review the details of your lemon law case so that we can help you get back on the road quickly and safely. 

Protecting Your California Lemon Law Claim

California lemon law gives vehicle owners several rights, including the right to bring a claim against an automaker for a “lemon” vehicle. As soon as you suspect something is wrong with your vehicle, you can begin taking steps to protect your lemon law claim and preserve evidence that proves your case. 

Take Your Vehicle to the Dealership for Repairs

When a newly purchased or leased vehicle starts acting up and the dealership doesn’t seem to know what to do, it can be tempting to skip the dealership while you look into other repair options. However, California lemon law requires you to take your vehicle to the manufacturer or a “representative,”一usually a dealership. 

Under California’s lemon law, the dealership must have a “reasonable number of attempts” to fix the problem with the vehicle. Usually this means more than one time. How many attempts are “reasonable” depends on the problem and the process of fixing it. 

Don’t assume that a dealership service representative is correct when they state they have or have not had enough opportunities to try to fix the problem. Talk to an experienced attorney to understand how this rule might apply in your situation. 

Get Copies of Repair Paperwork, Including Repair Orders

Each time you take the car to the dealership, remember to do the following:

  • Describe exactly what’s wrong and what symptoms you’re experiencing. 
  • If this isn’t the first time you’ve brought the car in, tell the service representative you’ve brought the car in before for the same problem. 
  • Review your repair orders to ensure that what you told the service representative is accurately recorded in the paperwork.

Repair orders provide a record of the dates you brought the vehicle in, how you described the problem, whether you told the dealership that the problem was ongoing, and what the dealership tried to do to fix it. This paperwork forms the basis of a claim that the manufacturer has failed to fix your vehicle after a “reasonable number of attempts.” For this reason, it’s important to ensure the paperwork matches what you’ve told the dealership. 

Keep All Your Paperwork Together in a Safe Place

Keep copies of your repair orders together in a safe place. To this file, add other paperwork that is also related to your lemon law claim. Paperwork that you and your attorney may need to negotiate for a lemon law settlement includes:

  • A copy of your vehicle purchase or lease agreement. This document forms the basis of your relationship with the vehicle manufacturer or dealership. It can be used to establish your ownership or lease of the vehicle and other key points.
  • Your dealership repair orders. If you are missing any repair orders, the dealership can provide you with copies. 
  • A copy of your car’s warranty. California lemon law applies to vehicle problems that appear while the vehicle is under warranty or that are addressed while the warranty applies. Even if the warranty has since expired, include this information in your file. You may have a lemon law claim even if your warranty has expired. 
  • Any bills for expenses related to your vehicle’s issues. For instance, if you had to have your vehicle towed to the dealership, put the towing receipt in your file. If you have been paying for a daily Uber or Lyft ride to work because your car is in the shop, print out your rideshare payment history and place the printout in your file. 

When talking to potential California lemon law attorneys, don’t be afraid to ask if there is any other paperwork they suggest you gather. Place these items in your file as well. 

You don’t have to make a demand to the manufacturer before filing a lemon law claim. Talk to an attorney if you want to understand more about when a demand might be useful. If a demand will help your case, your attorney can assist you with making that demand.  

Understanding Your Lemon Law Claim Options

When you work with a California lemon lawyer, your attorney will typically begin by asking questions and reviewing your documentation. This step of the process helps the attorney understand the circumstances of your case, spot any missing information, and anticipate legal issues or counter-arguments from the automaker.

Next, your attorney will work to negotiate a settlement with the auto manufacturer. Most lemon law claims are settled during the negotiation process. 

Your lawyer will communicate any settlement offers to you. Your lawyer may also provide insight on whether they believe the settlement offer provides the compensation you deserve under California law. However, your lawyer cannot decide whether or not to accept a settlement offer for you. You alone have the power to decide whether you will accept or reject an automaker’s offer. 

Lemon Law Settlements and Arbitration

To avoid lengthy settlement negotiations or the potential for a courtroom trial, some automakers push vehicle owners to submit their claims to arbitration. Some manufacturers, like Tesla, include arbitration clauses in their purchase agreements – forcing buyers to agree to arbitration unless the buyer takes extra steps to opt-out. 

California lemon law, however, doesn’t require vehicle owners to take their claims to arbitration unless the terms of a purchase agreement require it. For most vehicle owners, the option to go to arbitration is available, but it is not required. For automakers like Tesla, you must opt out of arbitration within 30 days of your purchase if you want to keep your right to a jury trial and right to an appeal.

Automakers tend to favor arbitration because arbitration decisions are statistically weighed in favor of automakers. Automakers will often present arbitration as a less costly and time-consuming way to reach a settlement. Yet the savings of time and money in the arbitration process can come at a steep cost for the vehicle owner if arbitration fails to compensate the vehicle owner for the full extent of their losses. 

If you have questions about arbitration, talk to an experienced California lemon law attorney before making a decision. If you’ve already begun or concluded the arbitration process, don’t give up hope. An attorney may be able to help you appeal an unfair arbitration decision. 

Do I Need the Best Lemon Law Attorney to Help Me Negotiate a Settlement?

In settlement negotiations, the driving force behind the negotiation is both sides’ knowledge that if they don’t settle, you and your attorney can file a lawsuit in court. If settlement negotiations fail, you can bring the case to a judge and jury for a decision. 

Because the potential of a courtroom trial is always behind settlement negotiations, working with an attorney who specializes in California lemon law from the beginning of the settlement process is a wise strategy. Your attorney can enter settlement negotiations with an eye toward an eventual trial. Even if no trial occurs, your attorney will prepare you for the possibility of protecting your legal rights and building a strong case along the way. 

California lemon law doesn’t require you to have an attorney when you negotiate with automakers. In practice, however, vehicle owners who are represented by experienced lawyers find the process less stressful and more successful than those who attempt to negotiate alone. 

A trial is a complex process governed by specific, detailed rules. It is extremely difficult to watch out for your own legal rights and trial strategies while also trying to negotiate a fair deal for yourself and your family. At Wirtz Law, our experienced attorneys bring forward their best strategies to not only represent your interests but also focus on building a strong case for negotiation talks and possible trial. 

Under California lemon law, automakers are required to pay a vehicle owner’s attorney’s fees and costs if the vehicle owner succeeds. The law allows you to work with an experienced lawyer without worrying about out-of-pocket costs. Your attorney will fight to have their fees and costs included in your settlement total, and you can refuse to accept a settlement offer that doesn’t cover your attorney’s fees. 

Contact an Experienced California Lemon Law Attorney Today

If you have a lemon on your hands, daily life can be an exercise in frustration. But you’re not alone. If you are fed up, have had enough, and think your car is a lemon, call us at (858) 259-5009 for a free evaluation. If your vehicle is determined as a lemon, we will take your case at no charge on a contingency fee basis. Wirtz Law APC provides one of the best California Lemon Law attorney services across California. We serve clients located in Southern California, Northern California, Central California, and Eastern California.

Talk to the experienced California lemon law settlement lawyers at Wirtz Law today. We’ll help you understand your legal options, so you can make your best informed choice on your path to protecting your rights and securing compensation. Contact us today to schedule a free, confidential consultation if you’d like to learn more.

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