California Lemon Law Presumption

Mechanic working on a vehicle

When you make the decision to invest in a car, you don't expect that it will have to be brought into the repair shop while it's still brand new. Unfortunately, lemon cars are regularly sold to unknowing consumers. If you discovered that your recently purchased new or pre-owned vehicle has a defect that can't be repaired, you should be aware of your legal rights — and the California Lemon Law presumption, which can make it even easier to bring a lemon law case.

What is a Presumption in Law?

A presumption of law means that a court can "presume" that certain facts are true and accurate based on the available evidence. The court will accept a presumption unless the defending party can rebut it. In other words, a presumption of law can be disproven if sufficient doubt or evidence is raised to dispute the claim.

Presumptions can be applied to many different areas of law and in various legal situations. Most people are familiar with the Constitutional presumption that a person accused of a crime is innocent until proven guilty. However, there is also a California Lemon Law presumption that determines a car is a lemon without further proof if certain criteria are met. In the case of a defective vehicle, the authorized dealership or manufacturer bears the burden of rebutting the lemon law presumption.

What is the Lemon Law Presumption in California?

The Tanner Consumer Protection Act provision of the Song-Beverly Consumer Warranty Act — also known as California's lemon law — sets forth specific guidelines in order for a vehicle to qualify as a lemon. The law was enacted in 1970 to protect consumers who purchased a car with a substantial defect affecting its safety or value while still under the original manufacturer's warranty.

However, the law also presumes that a car is a lemon if a nonconformity which cannot be repaired arose within 18 months of the vehicle's delivery or before 18,000 miles on the odometer has been reached. If either of these conditions are satisfied, no further evidence is needed to establish that the dealership sold you a lemon.

In cases where the vehicle's defect could cause injury or fatality to the driver, their passengers, or others on the road, only two attempts at repairs must be made. Otherwise, if the problem does not pose a danger, four repair attempts are generally sufficient. If the defect continues and cannot be repaired by the dealership or manufacturer, the owner may be entitled to invoke the lemon law. The California Lemon Law presumption may also be applicable if the vehicle is in the repair shop for a combined total of thirty days or more.

The lemon law presumption applies to new and used vehicles purchased in the state, as well as leased cars. Importantly, the defect must be the result of a manufacturing or design defect — not driver abuse of the vehicle — in order to assert your rights under the lemon law.

What Kinds of Defects Can Give Rise to a Lemon Law Presumption?

Problems with vehicles can arise due to a number of defects such as faulty design or mistakes made during the manufacturing process. Issues can also stem from poor-quality materials that were used to make parts in the car. Additionally, any make or model of vehicle can be a lemon — regardless of the cost of the car or the manufacturer's reputation.

There are a wide range of problems that fall under the lemon law presumption in California if the time or mileage requirements are met. Some common vehicle nonconformities that consumers bring lemon law cases for can include:

If the issue with your car makes it dangerous to drive, it's crucial to bring it to the authorized dealership for repairs as soon as possible. Not only can driving a defective vehicle increase the risk of accident, but failure to make repairs while the vehicle is still under warranty can result in your incurring significant out-of-pocket expenses once the warranty has expired.

Can A Car Still Qualify as a Lemon if it Doesn't Meet the Presumption Criteria?

It's important not to confuse the California lemon law presumption with the broader protection offered by the lemon law. Even if your vehicle doesn’t qualify under the lemon law presumption, you might still be eligible for a refund, replacement, or buyback if you found out about the problem while the car was still under warranty.

The burden of proof is on the dealer or manufacturer to show they did not sell you a lemon if you meet the requirements for the lemon law presumption. However, a consumer can still prevail in a lemon law case if the presumption does not apply by proving that the defect arose at any time during the warranty period — and the problem could not be fixed after a reasonable number of attempts at repairs were made.

It's essential to document all the repair attempts. Receipts from the repair shop and detailed notes concerning your communications with the dealership or manufacturer may serve as important evidence in your lemon law case. In addition, regardless of whether your vehicle is presumed a lemon, you must commence your lemon law case within four years from the date you discovered the defect.

Contact a Southern California Lemon Law Attorney

If you purchased a defective vehicle, you may be entitled to a remedy under the lemon law. However, lemon law claims can be complex and it's vital to have the guidance of a skilled lemon law attorney who can advise you of your legal rights and remedies. Whether the outcome is reached by negotiation or litigation, the attorneys at the Ledbetter Law Firm fight for their clients' rights to obtain the refund or replacement vehicle they deserve under the California Lemon Law.

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.