Sonoma Lemon Law
Sonoma Lemon Law Attorneys
Generally, “lemon vehicles” is a term used to describe vehicles with significant defects or malfunctions that make them unsafe to drive or that have their value and use substantially impaired. Federal and state laws might offer consumers protection when they end up with a lemon; however, California maintains its own standards for those pursuing a lemon law claim. In addition to the sheer frustration that owning a lemon can have on a person, these cars can pose serious safety risks. According to a significant National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) study, vehicle defects are one of the country’s top three critical reasons for car accidents.
Individuals straddled with a lemon vehicle should contact the Sonoma lemon law attorneys at Wirtz Law, APC. The lemon law claims lawyers at our firm have recovered over $45 million on behalf of our clients throughout California. The attorneys on our team have a comprehensive understanding of the complex federal and state statutes that govern lemon law claims in California. If your vehicle has recurring problems, contact our office at 858-259-5009 to schedule a free consultation to discuss your rights and remedies.
California Lemon Laws
The Song-Beverly Consumer Warranty Act (Warranty Act) and Tanner Consumer Protection Act (Tanner Act) are California’s landmark “Lemon Laws.” These statutes provide protection and legal recourse to those who purchase seriously defective vehicles. The state’s lemon laws are some of the strongest consumer protection laws in the nation. While these laws do not cover every instance of purchasing a “problem car,” the rules create critical rights and remedies for qualifying consumers.
Does California’s Lemon Law Apply to My Vehicle?
California’s Warranty Act applies to new and used vehicles with the manufacturer’s new vehicle warranty. Qualifying vehicles under California’s lemon law include the following:
- Cars, pickups, EVs, trucks, and the chassis, chassis cab, and drivetrain of motorhomes. While the Warranty Act covers vans and SUVs, the law does not cover after-market parts, such as conversions;
- Dealer-owned demonstrators and vehicles; and
- Vehicles purchased or leased for a person, family, or household purposes; and
- Many vehicles are purchased or leased for business use.
However, barring a few exceptions, California’s lemon law does not apply to the following:
- Off-road vehicles not registered under the California Vehicle Code; or
- Vehicles that have been abused.
The Warranty Act protects consumers during the entire period the vehicle’s factory warranty is active. However, in some cases, the protection period may be longer. Sonoma car owners who suspect they have purchased or leased a lemon should consult an experienced attorney to determine whether California’s lemon law applies to their vehicle.
Dangers of Lemon Vehicles
Lemon vehicles can pose serious safety threats to users, passengers, pedestrians, and anyone near the car. NHTSA projections estimated that nearly 32,000 people died in traffic accidents in the first nine months of the year. Traffic accidents are the leading cause of debilitating injuries in the country.
In light of this growing public health concern, the NHTSA takes vehicle safety seriously and requires manufacturers to recall vehicles that do not meet federal safety standards or have safety-related defects. Under the National Traffic and Motor Vehicle Safety Act, the NHTSA has recalled over 390 million vehicles, in addition to 46 million tires, 66 million motor vehicle parts, and 42 million car seats. While recalls do not necessarily mean that a car qualifies as a lemon, it does increase the likelihood that the vehicle meets California’s lemon law requirements.
Examples of Problems that Make a Car a Lemon
Any “substantial defect” can make a vehicle qualify as a lemon. Moreover, the United States Code for Motor Vehicle Safety defines motor vehicle defects as any defect in the following:
- Components, or
- Material of a vehicle.
Some examples of safety-related defects include the following:
- Steering components that suddenly break;
- Problems with fuel system components;
- Accelator defects;
- Wheels that crack or break;
- Engine cooling fan issues; and
- Wiring system problems.
Some defects might not reach the level of turning the car into a lemon. Some non-substantial defects might include problems with the following:
- Air conditioners,
- Nonstructural rust, and
- Excessive fuel or oil consumption.
However, an attorney can help consumers determine whether their vehicle’s issues affect its value or safety and reach the level of making it a lemon.
What Are the Remedies Under California Lemon Law?
Under California’s lemon law, manufacturers or authorized dealers that cannot remedy a serious warranty defect after a “reasonable number of attempts” must offer the consumer one of the following options:
- Replacement of the vehicle, or
- Refund of the vehicle’s purchase price.
Typically, the refund value for lemons is dependent upon the following factors:
- Down payment,
- Monthly payments,
- Financing, and
- Any remaining loan balance.
Additional damages are also available, including incidental and consequential damages, such as towing, rentals, insurance, DMV registrations, and out of pocket expenses. And, when an automaker willfully fails to follow the California lemon law, you may also be entitled to civil penalties up to two times your actual damages.
An attorney can help Sonoma lemon car owners pursue their rights under California’s lemon law.
What is a “Reasonable Number of Repair” Attempts
Car manufacturers and dealers often try and defend against lemon law lawsuits by claiming that the consumer has not provided them with a “reasonable” number of repair opportunities. While there is no set number, the law provides that at least two times is enough.
In all lemon law cases, the consumer has the right to choose a refund or replacement.
Federal Lemon Laws
California maintains some of the most consumer-friendly lemon laws in the nation; however, federal laws may offer additional coverage. The Magnuson-Moss Warranty Act authorizes the Federal Trade Commission to establish disclosure standards for written warranties and creates consumer remedies for breach of warranty or service contract agreements.
Litigation vs. Arbitration of California Lemon Law Claim
California consumers typically have the right to pursue their lemon law claims through arbitration or litigation. While some auto manufacturers may pressure consumers into arbitrating their lemon law claims and waiving their constitutional right to a jury trial and appeal, California does not require lemon claimants to arbitrate them. Consumers should speak with an attorney to learn the benefits and drawbacks of either option.
Arbitrating Lemon Law Claims
Arbitration is an informal legal process that California consumers may utilize to resolve their lemon law case. Manufacturers often offer arbitration as a dispute resolution method. However, it is essential to note that there is a high likelihood of bias because the manufacturer is the party paying for the service. Further, arbitration may or may not be binding, and a decision in favor of the manufacturer may be used in future legal proceedings. Thus, while on its face, arbitration may seem less expensive and quicker, an adverse outcome can have significant financial consequences for the consumer.
Litigating Lemon Law Lawsuits
Generally, litigation begins when the consumer files a complaint against the manufacturer. The complaint lists the defects and reasons that make the claim eligible under California’s lemon law. An attorney can assist with filing the complaint and responding to any answers. During the trial, the parties may exchange information during discovery, take depositions, and argue motions. The parties may reach an agreement through settlement negotiations during any part of the case and before trial. However, in the rare case that the parties do not settle their claims, the dispute will go to trial and a judge or jury will render a verdict.
Rate of California Lemon Law Lawsuits
The CALPIRG Education Fund, the Consumers for Auto Reliability and Safety (CARS) Foundation, and Frontier Group released a report finding over 34,000 state lemon lawsuits in California between 2018 and 2021.
Some key points from the report include the following:
- Auto companies vary in how often they are subject to California lemon law claims for selling defective vehicles. General Motors (GM) faced the most lemon lawsuits and Toyota the least.
- GM experienced a lemon law claim for every 78 vehicles the company sold in California. GM vehicle owners were about 26 times more likely to file a lemon lawsuit than those who purchased Toyotas.
The report notes that although California’s lemon law has been in effect for 40 years, many consumers do not know their rights after purchasing a defective vehicle.
Did You Recently Realize You Purchased a Lemon?
If you purchased a new car or a used car that was under the manufacturer’s original warranty, and you’ve experienced continued problems with the vehicle, you may have a lemon on your hands. If so, the dedicated Sonoma lemon law attorneys at Wirtz Law, APC can help. At Wirtz Law, we have obtained compensation for our clients in over 97 percent of the cases we’ve handled. Over the years, this means we’ve helped recover more than $45 million on behalf of our clients. To learn more, and to schedule a free consultation with a Sonoma Lemon Law attorney at Wirtz Law, APC, call 858-259-5009 today. You can also reach us through our secure online contact form and one of our attorneys will be in touch with you shortly.
Over 97% Success Rate
In Lemon Law Claims
Jessica and Rich were great! They made the trial process very clear and understandable. I felt very supported throughout the process. Thanks!