How Long Does a Lemon Law Case Take?

lemon law

If you've come to the conclusion that your faulty car might be a lemon, you're probably wondering, "how long does a lemon law case take?" After all, dealing with a lemon vehicle may already have taken up a significant amount of your time. From multiple trips to the repair shop, to time spent on the phone with the dealership, and days lost from work, your lemon car probably already caused considerable inconvenience and frustration.

There's no specific answer as to how long California lemon cases take. There can be any number of variables that affect the duration of a case, including whether the lemon claim can be settled or has to go through litigation. Generally, the stronger your lemon case, the faster it will likely be concluded.

What Makes a Car a Lemon in California?

California's Lemon Law provides a legal remedy for consumers who have purchased a new or used vehicle within the state that doesn't conform to the manufacturer's warranty. In order for a car to rise to the level of a lemon in California, it must have a substantial defect that impairs its value or safety. While the lemon law specifically covers defects that arose at any time during the warranty period, California law also presumes a car is a lemon if the problem occurred within the first 18 months after delivery or 18,000 miles driven.

Before invoking the state lemon law, you must have made a reasonable number of attempts to repair the defect. Typically, four trips to the repair shop is considered sufficient to demonstrate that your car is a lemon. In cases that involve a defect that could cause serious injury or fatality, only two repair attempts are necessary. If your vehicle remained in the repair shop for thirty days or more, you may also have grounds to assert your rights under the lemon law.

Commencing Your Case Before the Statute of Limitations Expires

For starters, how long your lemon case goes on for will depend upon how soon you commence it. California lemon law cases can be filed at any time within four years from the date you discovered the defect that made your car a lemon. Even though you might have a few years to assert your lemon law claim, it's best to do it sooner rather than later — once you commence the case, you're one step closer to getting the refund or replacement you're entitled to receive from the manufacturer. Filing your case early can also eliminate the risk of missing the statute of limitations — which could forever bar you from bringing your lemon claim.

Resolving Your Lemon Law Case in Litigation

Some lemon cases are relatively straightforward and can be resolved quickly through settlement negotiations. If your car has a substantial safety defect and it's clear that you will prevail on your claim, a manufacturer may settle faster than they would in a weaker case.

Your case could conclude sooner if you're willing to settle for the amount of the buyback. However, in many instances, consumers are entitled to receive monetary recovery for additional damages they incurred due to purchasing a vehicle with a defect, including compensation for:

  • Towing costs
  • Rental car reimbursement
  • Reasonable out-of-pocket repairs
  • Civil penalties for willful violations of the lemon law

One aspect of litigation that can take a considerable amount of time is the discovery process. Discovery gives both the consumer and the manufacturer an opportunity to exchange information and evidence related to the case, conduct depositions, and argue necessary motions in court. The length of time the discovery phase of litigation can take typically depends upon how many legal and factual issues there are in the case.

If a lemon law case doesn't settle after both parties have had the opportunity to do discovery, it will proceed to trial. However, only a small percentage of lemon cases go to trial.

Attempting to Resolve Your Lemon Law Case in Arbitration

Another factor that may affect how long your lemon case takes is whether you've elected to pursue arbitration in an attempt to resolve your lemon law claim. Arbitration is a voluntary process that provides an informal way to resolve your lemon case with the manufacturer. If you win, the manufacturer is required to perform the actions specified in the arbitrator's decision within 30 days.

While arbitration can potentially resolve your case within about forty days or less, the process can come with significant drawbacks for a consumer, depending on the facts of their case. For instance, unlike litigation, arbitration doesn't allow for extensive discovery, which can help prove your claim. Additionally, if you decide to pursue litigation following arbitration, the case will end up taking longer.

Contact a Southern California Lemon Law Attorney

If you've purchased a new or used vehicle in California with a substantial defect, you may be entitled to relief under the lemon law. To get started with resolving your case as quickly as possible, it's critical to contact a lemon law attorney as soon as you discover the nonconformity, who can advise you of your legal rights and remedies. The attorneys at the Ledbetter Law Firm vigorously negotiate and litigate claims on behalf of their clients to ensure they're getting the maximum compensation they're entitled under the California lemon law for their lemon vehicles.

The Ledbetter Law Firm helps people in Southern California who have experienced lemon law issues with their vehicles obtain a vehicle replacement or the refund that they deserve. With offices conveniently located in San Diego and Torrance, California, telephone and video conferencing options are also available. Call (619) 374-0252 to schedule a consultation with a California Lemon Law attorney today.