California Lemon Law: Frequently Asked Questions

1.) How long can this process take? 

Our founding belief is that our clients have suffered long enough at the dealership’s and manufacturer’s hands. They don’t deserve anything less than the best, most professional service we can provide. This is what separates us from so many of our competitors – you get an experienced California attorney working on your case every day, not a “legal assistant” or an out-of-state, lemon-law mill. You no longer need to be involved with car dealers or auto manufacturers and suffer the frustration and anxiety of dealing with these problems.

Some cases can be settled in as little as 30 days, or even less.  A more likely time estimate for settlement with the manufacturer is within 30-90 days. There are no guarantees, however, especially in this economy.  Our firm’s mission is to move the manufacturer to quickly resolve your case.  We do this with pointed and aggressive litigation.  The Hanson Law Firm gives your lemon law case unparalleled individual service.

2.) Who pays the attorney fees? 

The lemon law is a “fee shifting,” consumer-protection statute, and it is designed to make it possible for average consumers to stand up and protect themselves. The manufacturer pays the legal fees you incur to enforce your rights. The California Legislature realized that giving consumers the right to enforce the warranty would be meaningless without also giving them the ability. The lemon law shifts the burden of paying the fees from you the consumer to the manufacturer. It makes it possible for the average person to enforce their warranty rights.

3.) Am I required to go through Arbitration before pursuing a lemon law claim?
No. The California lemon law does not require the consumer to arbitrate with the vehicle manufacturer in order to pursue a lemon law claim.

4.) Why not arbitration? Arbitration can be like a football game where the referees are owned by one side – and it’s not your side. Auto manufacturer arbitration is run by the manufacturers, for the manufacturers. They typically pay a nominally independent company to administer the program. That company is dependent on the auto company for its existence. Some of the companies were created by the automobile industry solely for this purpose. The anti-consumer bias is built in. Every dime they receive comes from the industry.  In 2009 a major arbitration provider was caught by the Minnesota Attorney General engaging in just this kind of unfair business practice.

Most people think they are getting into a process that will be fast and fair. It will certainly be fast. It is questionable how fair it will be.

Here are some good reasons why not to go through arbitration: (1), in California you don’t have to. The companies don’t tell you that when you call. Check with a lawyer in your state. Some states require arbitration before pursuing your case. (2), the arbitrators are selected by the companies. The companies don’t tell you that when you call. (3), if the arbitrators receive any training in the lemon law, it comes from the companies. (4), if the arbitrator decides the case against you, and you pursue your case in court, the company will introduce the decision of the arbitrator in evidence against you. You will never get a chance to ask the arbitrator why he or she decided against you. You will never get a chance to ask why there was no independent, third -party mechanical inspection. They will never permit you to take the deposition of the arbitrator to find out if he or she is even qualified to be an arbitrator. They don’t tell you that on the phone when you call. (5), you will face industry professionals who have done dozens, in some cases hundreds of arbitrations. These “professionals” are there to win. They will not advise you of your rights. They will not assist you with the law. You will have no legal representation in the process.

5.) Am I required to notify the vehicle manufacturer and give them a opportunity to repair a problem before pursuing a Lemon Law claim?
No. So long as the manufacturer’s authorized warranty repair facility has had a reasonable number of opportunities to repair a warranty problem, the manufacturer need not be given direct notice or an opportunity to repair the problem.

6.) Does the Lemon Law apply to vehicles that are older than one or two years?
Yes. As long as the vehicle is having warranty problems, the lemon law potentially can apply no matter hold old the vehicle is. The lemon law may also apply to a vehicle even if the original new vehicle warranty has expired so long as the vehicle is still having problems complained about on repair orders during the original warranty period.

7.) Does the Lemon Law apply to vehicles with more than 18,000 miles, or 18 months of use?
Yes. As long as the vehicle is having warranty problems, the lemon law may apply no matter what the mileage is on the vehicle.

8.) Is a vehicle registered to a business on lease or purchase covered by the lemon law?
Maybe. Thanks to Senate Bill 1718, passed in 2001, the lemon law protection extends to vehicles with a manufacturer’s weight rating of less than 10,000 pounds that are bought or used primarily for business, as long as that business has less than 5 motor-driven vehicles registered to it.

9.) Is there a specific number of repair attempts that must be tried to have a lemon law claim?
No. There must be a reasonable number of repair attempts. The definition of what constitutes a reasonable number of repair attempts under the lemon law will vary given the vehicles particular problem or problems. In general, if a problem has had least four separate repair attempts at the manufacturer’s authorized repair facility, or has spent more than 30 days cumulatively in the shop, that will be considered a reasonable number.

10.) Are there situations where only two repair attempts are considered reasonable?
Yes. Where the defect is likely to result in serious injury or death, two repair attempts is enough. If you have such a problem, please call us immediately. We don’t want you to have to drive a dangerous vehicle back for repairs, and will try to find a safe way to resolve the issue.