How Can You Prove a Car Is a Lemon?

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Your new car isn't working like you hoped, but how do you prove that to the car manufacturer? If you are in California, you are in luck because California has some of the strictest consumer protection laws.

The excitement of a new car can quickly turn to disappointment when it appears you have a lemon. In California, your car can be legally considered a lemon when specific conditions are met. If your car meets the criteria, you are entitled to either a replacement or a repair to be made whole. Working with a lemon law attorney to assemble the right proof and bringing it to the attention of
your dealer or manufacturer is often enough to have your lemon taken care of.

What Makes a California Car a Lemon?

A California car is considered a lemon under the Song-Beverly Consumer Warranty Act if, within the first 18 months or 18,000 miles, any of the following happens:

• The manufacturer attempts to repair the same warranty problem four times or more.
• Two or more attempts are made to fix a problem that could otherwise result in serious injury or death.
• Your car is out of service for thirty days or more to repair warranty issues.

In California, both new and used cars that come with a manufacturer's new vehicle warranty are covered by the state's Lemon Law. A car can only be considered a lemon if the problems are not caused by abuse by the owner. If the car is legally a lemon, the manufacturer must take actions to ensure that you are made whole.

Gathering the Proof You Need

Some dealers and manufacturers are more than willing to help a buyer who has gotten stuck with a lemon. However, it is still important to keep good records to demonstrate why you qualify for redress. Your dealership may not have the ability to keep track of all of the details related to your car.

Keep all receipts and service write-ups together. Add detailed notes about the amount of time that the car was in the shop and the exact nature of any issues. If you have missed time at work or school because of car problems or had to pay for cab fare or a rental car, keep notes on these incidents, as well.

What Happens if the Car Is a Lemon?

In most cases, you should start by speaking with a lemon law attorney who can assist you in working with the dealership where you purchased your car. To comply with state law, you should be provided with either a refund or a replacement car. If the dealership either will not or cannot help you, it is time to move on to the manufacturer.

An attorney will start the process by sending a letter to them via certified mail. In the letter, they will ask that the dealership purchase your car back. The address for the manufacturer should be listed in your car's owner's manual. Include the information you have collected about repairs and downtime.

If the manufacturer is not willing to buy the car back when they receive your letter and evidence, the next step would be to find out if the manufacturer has an arbitration program. In many cases, based on the contract you signed when you purchased your vehicle, you are required to go through arbitration first. If it is possible, attend the arbitration in person. After the arbitration panel has heard your evidence, they will make a decision and possibly make you an offer. You have the option of accepting or declining the offer, as arbitration is not binding for the consumer in the state of California.

If the offer they make is not satisfactory, you are not out of options. Your lemon law attorney can help you file suit against the manufacturer. In court, you have more options for submitting evidence that backs up your claim. A skilled lemon law attorney can help get you the best outcome possible for your situation.

If your new car has turned out to be a lemon, careful record-keeping and a willingness to take the manufacturer and dealer to task can help you see that your rights are respected. By collecting the right evidence and making a strong case, you can make sure that you wind up with a car that operates as expected and better suits your needs.

Aaron Fhima has a long record of success taking on large defense firms. Aaron focuses on taking an aggressive approach to representing his clients’ interests, and develops creative case strategies designed to win maximum compensation as quickly as possible.

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Disclaimer: While every effort has been made to ensure the accuracy of this publication, it is not intended to provide legal advice as individual situations will differ and should be discussed with an expert and/or lawyer. For specific technical or legal advice on the information provided and related topics, please contact the author.

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