Seven simple steps to take if you suspect you may have bought or leased a lemon
- Unless the defect in your car involves a serious safety defect, like brakes that don’t work or a car that stalls while driving on the freeway, you need to have 3 to 4 repair attempts to qualify for the California lemon law. If you have a serious safety defect, you can pursue your lemon law claim with as little as one repair attempt.
- Always keep all work orders or repair orders you get back from the dealership when you take the car in for warranty work. Always make sure that the service writers at the dealership write down on the work order your exact description of the problem. Sometimes, to avoid lemon law claims, service writers will change the wording of your description of the defect to make it sound like a different defect than one you have previously reported to the dealership.
- If possible, document the defect when it happens. If it’s a light on the dash display, take a picture of it. If it’s a growling noise from the transmission, see if you can capture the sound and how it affects the performance of your vehicle on your cellphone camera. If it’s a problem with the steering wheel, have someone sit in the back seat and take a video of the steering wheel not working properly.
- If the car’s defect is hard to document with a cellphone camera or a tape recorder, get a friend or co-worker who would make a nice appearance in front of a jury, and have them ride with you so that they can experience the defect. If the case goes into litigation, having that person as a witness can be invaluable.
- Many manufacturers’ warranties require that you write to them before bringing a lemon law claim. Most lemon law firms, including my own, will write and send this letter for you, but if you decide to do it yourself, keep the letter professional, attach copies of any work orders you have for the car and send it certified mail. The address to which to send it will be on one of the first pages of your warranty booklet.
- Arbitration: many manufacturers, upon receiving notice of the car’s defects, will try to steer you into an arbitration program. Your participation in the arbitration program is voluntary. I normally do not recommend the arbitrations because the results can be admissible in a trial, and if the arbitrator rules against you, this can influence the jury against you. I recommend instead coming directly into our office to see if we can get your case settled on a pre-litigation basis, without filing a lawsuit. Normally we are more effective than the arbitration procedure and more convenient for you, as we do the work.
- Keep track of any phone calls you have with the dealer or with the manufacturer. Normally it is illegal to tape record phone calls in California without the other party’s consent, so you cannot record the phone calls, but you can take notes immediately after your conversation. If the dealer or the manufacturer leaves a voicemail message, save it.
After you have gathered all of this information and done these steps, make an appointment with our firm for a free case review. You can call us at any time if you have questions, at (888) 344-4280, or email us.