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Understanding the California lemon law

When a vehicle reaches a certain age or travels a certain number of miles, its owner can expect to experience issues and begin paying for repairs that go beyond a new battery. A careful consumer will wait until those repairs begin to cost more than the average new car payment before trading up. After buying a new car, most California consumers expect to avoid many of the problems they may have had with their old vehicle. When this does not happen, the consumer may have purchased a lemon.

A new car is a lemon if, soon after purchasing, the vehicle's owner has made numerous unsuccessful attempts to obtain repairs for a major defect that is covered by the car's warranty. Each state has its own limits for the amount of time that may pass after purchase and the number of times it considers reasonable for the manufacturer to attempt to repair the problem.  Typically, it is between two and four repair attempts, depending on how dangerous the defect may be.

The car's owner holds the responsibility for seeking a remedy through the lemon law. This means contacting the car's manufacturer and providing an explanation of the problem and evidence of the efforts to fix it. Ideally, the manufacturer will honor the stipulations in the lemon law, which require car makers to refund or replace a lemon vehicle. If the manufacturer fails to comply or offers a less satisfying remedy, the car owner has the option of seeking legal redress.

In many cases, the vehicle owner must attempt arbitration to settle the dispute with the manufacturer. The owner has the right to appeal any decision of an arbitrator, but the manufacturer must agree if the owner accepts the ruling. If the owner rejects the results of arbitration, he or she may wish to pursue other options to obtain satisfaction. Having an attorney from the early stages of a California lemon law complaint can improve the chances of reaching one's goals.

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