Orange County Lemon Law Process

Lemon Law Process

Orange County Lemon Law Process

Orange County Lemon Lawyers Help You Fight Big Automakers

For thousands of Orange County residents, their cars are more than just a tool for commuting. Many of us spend an hour or more a day in our vehicles. We trust them, rely on them, and need them to run reliably. 

No one expects a perfect car, but a reliable and safe car should do more than just get you from point A to point B. If a newly purchased car has a defect or defects, the vehicle becomes a source of stress and uncertainty for the buyer. Driving to work or going out to run errands at a local store can become a daunting task. Stepping into a car with known vehicle defects poses an unreasonably high risk to your use, value and safety of the vehicle. 

California’s defective vehicle laws, also known as “lemon laws,” cover situations where a new or certified pre-owned vehicle is unreliable and can’t be fixed after a reasonable number of attempts. A vehicle like this is determined to be a lemon. When the big multinational automakers sell you a lemon and won’t buy back your vehicle, it is time to call (310) 556-2121. Talk to an experienced Orange County lemon lawyer to help determine the next best steps for your lemon car. 

Orange County Defective Vehicle Statistics

According to the California’s Department of Motor Vehicles, over 2.3 million passenger cars, pickup trucks, minivans, EVs, and SUVs were registered in Orange County in 2019. Over 11,000 new vehicles were registered in Orange County in July 2022 alone.

Each year, California sees about 7.6 million new vehicle registrations. Only 0.45 percent of these, or about 34,000 vehicles, result in a lemon law claim filed in a California court. Yet not everyone who has a valid lemon law claim files in court. Most cases are settled without a lawsuit. 

CALPIRG’s Auto Lemon Index tracks lemon law claims, including data about which manufacturers created each lemon. The study found that between 2018 and 2021, five automakers had the highest rates of lemon law claims per vehicle sold:

How do these numbers compare to other automakers? The company that faced the lowest number of claims was Toyota Motor Sales. Between 2018 and 2021, Toyota received only one lemon law claim per 2,029 vehicles sold. Although Toyota had a low number of claims, it doesn’t mean that you can’t bring forth a Toyota lemon law claim. Speak with one of our attorneys about your lemon vehicle to identify if a buyback option is feasible for your unique situation. 

What Vehicles does California’s lemon law cover? 

California lemon law applies when: 

The repairs to your vehicle are under a manufacturer’s warranty. Original warranties and certified pre-owned (CPO) warranties count as manufacturer’s warranties. 

The vehicle is a passenger vehicle, motor home, or small truck. Lemon laws cover:

  • Cars;
  • Pickup trucks;
  • Vans and minivans;
  • SUVs;
  • EVs;
  • Motor home chassis, chassis cabs, drive trains; and
  • Small-business-owned trucks with a total gross weight of 10,000 pounds or less. 

The total gross weight of a vehicle is the car’s weight on an empty tank. It should not be confused with the total gross vehicle rating, which measures how much the car can carry. 

The vehicle was either purchased at retail or leased. Both a purchase and a lease are covered by lemon law, if purchased or leased in California. There is, however, an exception for people in the military service.

The vehicle was purchased for personal use or certain small businesses. A car bought for personal, home, or family use is covered under lemon law as long as it meets other requirements. 

Many small business vehicle purchases also fall under the lemon law. A small business vehicle is covered by California lemon law if:

  • The business owns five or fewer vehicles total, including the lemon,
  • The lemon vehicle weighs 10,000 pounds or less; and
  • Other conditions, such as the manufacturer’s warranty and retail purchase, also apply. 

Courts will also examine what has happened since a consumer purchased a car to determine whether a vehicle counts as a lemon. Information about a vehicle’s issues, visits to the repair shop, and how long it has been out of service will help a lawyer and the court determine if a vehicle is a lemon or not.

Does my vehicle qualify as a lemon? 

California’s lemon law is the strongest consumer protection statute in the country.  To make a claim for a buyback or replacement under California’s lemon law, the following three conditions must be true:  

  1. The manufacturer’s or CPO warranty covers a car’s issues, problems or defects; 
  2. The defect or defects must substantially impair your use, value or safety of the vehicle; 
  3. The vehicle was not repaired to be free of defects after a reasonable number of repair attempts. 

It is a common misconception that the same defect must be presented for repair multiple times. This is not true. In California, it can be the same defect or different defects that are presented so long as each defect substantially impairs use, value or safety of the vehicle. Think of it this way, if your engine had a defect, then your suspension had a defect, then your exhaust had a defect, then your computer system had a defect, then that vehicle is very likely to be a lemon.

How many tries are a “reasonable” number?  The law in California holds that a reasonable number of repair attempts to the vehicle can be as little as two times. An automaker must be given more than one attempt to repair the vehicle to keep it free from defects in workmanship and materials during the warranty. The automakers do not get an unlimited number of repairs to keep the vehicle free of defects just because they gave you a warranty. The California lemon law trumps the warranty when there are too many repair attempts. California consumers do not need to be stuck with continuous and endless repair attempts on a lemon vehicle.  

Alternatively, if the car has been in the shop for over 30 days for repairs during the warranty, it may qualify as a lemon with only one repair. The 30-day period doesn’t have to take place all at once. For example, suppose a person bought a car on March 1. The car was in the shop for five days in March, six days in April, nine days in May, and eleven days in June, for a total of 31 days. This total counts toward the Lemon Law Presumption. 

When California Lemon Laws Don’t Apply

California’s lemon laws cover millions of vehicle sales each year. Yet the law doesn’t apply to every car in the state or vehicle problem. 

California lemon law does not apply if: 

You have only an extended warranty or no warranty at all. An extended warranty is also known as an extended service contract. It’s an agreement between you and the dealership, but it doesn’t include the manufacturer’s original terms. Therefore, it does not count as a warranty for lemon law purposes. 

The problem is with an aftermarket addition to your vehicle. Conversion kits for vans or tuning chips, or other modifications that are added after the car is bought, may not be covered by the lemon law against the automaker. Instead, your lemon law claim may be against the maker of the aftermarket parts.  

A consumer purchased a car through a private party. Many used cars are bought from friends, family, neighbors, or local listings. However, these purchases are not covered by California lemon law. A consumer may ask the seller to compensate them for the vehicle’s problems, but the seller is not required to help them. 

The vehicle is not registered under the California vehicle code. Unregistered vehicles, including offroad cars, aren’t covered by the lemon law. Simply registering the vehicle may resolve this issue.

The vehicle has taken more than an ordinary pounding. The lemon law may cover a car that has problems under regular use. However, a vehicle that experiences problems after unexpected use or abuse won’t be protected by the lemon law. Similarly, failure to maintain your vehicle, or misusing it may also prevent you from successfully making a lemon law claim.

Not sure whether your vehicle is covered by lemon law? Talk to an attorney in Orange County who handles lemon law cases. During a consultation, the lawyer can help you understand how the lemon law applies – or doesn’t – to your situation. 

What To Do If You Bought A Lemon

If you suspect your vehicle is a lemon, talk to an Orange County lemon lawyer immediately. You have limited time to bring a lemon law claim under California law. It’s essential to act quickly to preserve your rights – and to get a vehicle you can trust. 

Several steps to support a lemon law claim include:

Collect all of your paperwork in one place. Paperwork that can help support your lemon law claim includes:

  • Your original purchase agreement and the warranty;
  • Your vehicle’s owner manual;
  • Your Sales brochure; 
  • Paperwork from each time you took the car in to be fixed; and 
  • Receipts for any other expenses you had because of the problem, such as the need to rent a vehicle or buy a bus pass because your car was in the shop. 

Don’t agree to arbitration without talking to a lawyer first. Many automakers encourage arbitration for lemon claims. Arbitration is a way to settle disputes that is less formal than a courtroom trial. While arbitration is appropriate for some cases, it is not the best choice for lemon law claims. Arbitration statistics show that vehicle owners tend to lose in arbitration even if they have a valid lemon law claim.

In particular, if you have ordered a new Tesla, or purchased a new Tesla, you will need to affirmatively opt out of the arbitration provision. To do this, read your order agreement or your purchase agreement and follow the direction to send written notice to the address listed in your agreements for opting out.  If you do not opt out, you may not be able to bring your lemon law claim in court and you will waive your right to a jury trial and appeal and even your right to bring a class action, if applicable.

Think about whether you want a refund or a replacement. You may choose which one you prefer. An automaker cannot force you into one or the other. A successful lemon law claim can also pursue compensation for incidental and consequential damage, civil penalties (or additional damages up to two times your actual damages), and attorney’s fees, costs, and expenses. 

Where can I find a Lemon Law Attorney near me?

Are you frustrated with a defective vehicle? Don’t wait. Contact the experienced Orange County lemon law attorneys at Wirtz Law APC today at (310) 556-2121. If your vehicle is a lemon, we will take your case at no charge to you on a contingency fee basis. Wirtz Law APC provides one of the best Lemon Law attorney services everywhere in California, including Southern California, Central California, Eastern California, and Northern California.

If your car or truck is experiencing substantial or repeated problems, you need an experienced attorney to handle your case. At Wirtz Law APC, our firm focuses on helping California consumers get the compensation they deserve after purchasing a lemon. Our attorneys have a well-deserved reputation as motor vehicle consumer advocates. If you suspect that your vehicle qualifies as a lemon under California law, contact us today to schedule your free case evaluation and learn more about your legal options.

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