Santa Barbara Lemon Law
Santa Barbara Lemon Law Attorneys
Santa Barbara, California, earned the nickname “The American Riviera” for its Mediterranean climate and beautiful ocean vistas. It’s not surprising, then, that nearly 90,000 Californians call Santa Barbara home, and many more visit each year.
Santa Barbara’s large service sector and its convenient location on U.S. Highway 101 between Los Angeles and San Francisco make it a hub of vehicle traffic and transportation. Every day, Santa Barbara residents and visitors rely on their vehicles to travel in and around Santa Barbara. Businesses also rely on trucks and other vehicles to transport goods and carry out essential business tasks. As the county seat of Santa Barbara County, Santa Barbara also sees much official traffic on weekdays.
Every person who climbs into a vehicle in Santa Barbara relies on that vehicle to transport them safely. A defect can undermine this reliance. California lemon law protects owners and lessees of new vehicles that have such defects. An experienced Santa Barbara lemon law attorney can help you protect your legal rights and seek compensation for a lemon vehicle.
Lemon Vehicle Statistics in Santa Barbara
In 2021, the California Department of Motor Vehicles reported 415,795 total vehicles registered in Santa Barbara County, including motorcycles, large trucks, trailers, and passenger cars. Approximately 282,000 of these registrations were for passenger vehicles, making them the largest share of vehicle registrations that year.
The California DMV tracks both new registrations and renewed registrations. In a study of new vehicle registrations in California from 2018 to 2021, the California Public Interest Research Group and other researchers found that 34,397 lemon law claims were filed in California courts – amounting to 0.45 percent of all new vehicle registrations.
At first glance, these numbers make lemon vehicles look like a very small problem. However, the researchers examined only those lemon law claims that ended up in court. Most lemon law claims are handled without the vehicle owner needing to file a lawsuit. Whether or not your claim goes to court, your highest chances of success come through working with an experienced California lemon lawyer.
What Kind of Problems Do “Lemon” Vehicles Have?
Lemon lawsuit statistics reveal that some automakers are named in lemon law claims more often than others. General Motors, for example, was named in far more claims than Toyota, according to the California Public Interest Research Group.
While some automakers’ names appear more often than others, no part of any vehicle appears more often than any other, however. In 2021, lemon law claims filed in court named a wide range of defective parts and systems. A sample of the defective parts named in these lawsuits includes:
- Batteries and electrical systems
- Brakes, both regular brakes and emergency braking systems
- Clutches, transmission range control modules, and other transmission parts
- Fuel filters and injectors
- Engine stalling
- Seat belts
- Sensors in several vehicle systems, including oxygen sensors, radar collision sensors, and tire pressure sensors
- Structural components like the front engine mount and strut assembly
- Vehicle HVAC systems, including both heating and air conditioning
Other faulty vehicle parts and systems were also listed in lemon lawsuits. While data on lemon claims settled out of court was not available, it is safe to guess that those claims included defects similar to the ones identified in court cases.
Most owners of lemon vehicles don’t experience problems with only one vehicle system or part, according to the California Public Interest Research Group’s Auto Lemon Index. By the time most vehicle owners seek the help of an experienced attorney, several different issues have turned up with their vehicle. Even one system or part problem, however, may qualify a vehicle’s owner for lemon law protection – especially if the problem puts lives at risk.
California’s Lemon Law: The Basics
The original Song-Beverly Act contained various requirements for product manufacturers and sellers if their products were defective. These included the requirement to include warranties, provide adequate repair parts, and “promptly” provide refunds, including attorney’s fees if needed, if manufacturers couldn’t fix the problem after a “reasonable number” of repair attempts.
Throughout the 1970s, vehicle owners had trouble obtaining the compensation the Song-Beverly Act offered. One major controversy was how to count a “reasonable number” of attempts at repair. In testimony before the state legislature, one Ford executive said that thirty repair shop visits were a “reasonable” number of attempts to repair a defective vehicle.
California lawmakers disagreed, however. When the lemon law provisions were passed in 1982, they made it clear that the “reasonable number” of repair attempts was fewer than 30. Today, as few as two attempts may be considered “reasonable.” Later additions to the law preserved vehicle owners’ rights to discuss their experiences publicly and extended the law to cover some small businesses.
Today, California’s lemon law covers the following:
- Vehicles purchased or leased “at retail” in Californiaーusually through a dealership or directly from the manufacturer,
- Vehicles under an original manufacturer’s warranty or certified pre-owned warranty, and
- Nearly all personal vehicles and some small business vehicles.
Small businesses may seek lemon law protection if their vehicle weighs less than 10,000 pounds empty (the “curb weight” or gross vehicle weight) and their business owns five or fewer vehicles total, including the suspected lemon.
In most cases, the vehicle must be bought or leased in California. Active duty military service members, however, can file a lemon law claim in a California court even if they purchased their vehicle in another state. Servicemembers must be stationed in California to take advantage of this provision.
Lemon law does not apply to all vehicle owners, however. Those who buy vehicles used in private sales are typically not covered by lemon law, for instance. If no warranty applies when the problems start, the vehicle may not be covered by lemon law either.
Even if you suspect your vehicle may not be covered by lemon law, talk to an experienced Santa Barbara lemon law attorney. A lawyer can give you information about all your legal options.
Arbitration: Pros and Cons
In an attempt to save money and avoid court cases, many automakers encourage vehicle owners to bring lemon law claims to arbitration rather than to court. Arbitration is without a jury and without any right to an appeal.
In arbitration, a third party called an “arbitrator” hears evidence from both the vehicle owner and the automaker. Both sides can have an attorney present evidence, make arguments, and examine witnesses. The arbitrator makes a decision the parties must follow. Arbitrators typically have experience in the area of law or industry connected to the case, but not always. For instance, many lemon law claim arbitrators have experience in lemon law, the auto industry, or both.
Arbitration is often presented as a cheaper, quicker alternative to court. The cost and time savings come at a price, however. Arbitration statistics show that in lemon law cases, arbitrators find the automaker more often, even when vehicle owners have a valid claim under the lemon law.
Don’t agree to arbitration without speaking to a Santa Barbara lemon lawyer. An experienced attorney can tell you whether arbitration is a good fit for your case. If it’s not, an attorney can help you choose the best approach to your claim.
Can I Afford an Experienced Santa Barbara Lemon Law Attorney?
Many Californians know that the state’s lemon law allows lemon vehicle owners to receive either a replacement vehicle or a refund. Vehicle owners may also be entitled to receive other forms of compensation, including payment of attorney’s fees.
When a lemon law claim is settled or decided in favor of the vehicle owner, the law makes the automaker responsible for paying the attorney’s fees of the vehicle owner. Vehicle owners who succeed in their claims often pay no attorney’s fees out of pocket.
In addition, your attorney may agree to work “on contingency.” A contingency agreement typically states that your lawyer only gets paid if they recover compensation for you.
If you’re concerned about affording an experienced lemon law attorney, take advantage of free lawyer consultations to ask an attorney about how they are paid. You don’t have to agree to hire a lawyer until you are comfortable with the terms of the agreementーincluding, how your lawyer will be paid and what, if anything, it might cost you out of pocket.
Owning a lemon vehicle may feel like a parade of endless headaches. You bought or leased your vehicle because you needed safe, reliable transportation – and what you got was anything but. When your vehicle spends more time in the shop than on the road, you might feel frustrated, angry, betrayed, or hopeless.
If this sounds familiar, you have options. Talk to the Santa Barbara lemon law attorneys at Wirtz Law APC today. We’ll help you understand your legal rights and options, so you can make an informed choice about your next steps. Contact us today to schedule a confidential case evaluation.
Over 97% Success Rate
In Lemon Law Claims
Words can not explain how grateful I am for such a great team. Every single person at Wirtz law was amazing. They gave me nothing but kindness and encouragement during such a stressful time in my life. They were always willing to help in any way. My attorney Jessica was so outgoing and quick with…